Articles on this Page
- 12/07/18--01:31: _Japan 2018 day 7: s...
- 12/07/18--06:44: _Tokyo 2018 day 7: m...
- 12/07/18--07:52: _Tokyo 2018 day 7: d...
- 12/07/18--23:48: _Tokyo 2018 day 8: t...
- 12/08/18--07:52: _After service bongw...
- 12/09/18--07:42: _A very American eve...
- 12/11/18--06:39: _14 hands and 17 stars
- 12/11/18--22:46: _Lunch with brokers:...
- 12/12/18--07:38: _Snake and other win...
- 12/12/18--22:23: _I Ding you ah!
- 12/13/18--07:42: _The autumn forest
- 12/14/18--07:19: _La laa, la laa, la ...
- 12/17/18--07:25: _The best of Bordeau...
- 12/18/18--06:37: _Swissitalian dinner...
- 12/19/18--22:56: _Nothing but the pig
- 12/22/18--06:35: _Pierre Hermé's fest...
- 12/22/18--22:59: _Eating with chefs: ...
- 12/25/18--07:31: _Down to the wire
- 12/28/18--23:16: _General Chang's chi...
- 12/29/18--07:47: _The cloud dragon
- 12/31/18--07:16: _The best dishes I h...
- 01/01/19--06:32: _Golden new year
- 01/01/19--22:47: _Old favorites in Ta...
- 01/07/19--23:44: _Unexpected cherry-p...
- 01/11/19--07:03: _The first of many i...
- 12/07/18--01:31: Japan 2018 day 7: sticker shock
- 12/07/18--06:44: Tokyo 2018 day 7: more sizzling beef
- 12/07/18--07:52: Tokyo 2018 day 7: drunken onion, episode 5
- 12/07/18--23:48: Tokyo 2018 day 8: the last katsu
- 12/08/18--07:52: After service bongwater
- 12/09/18--07:42: A very American evening
- 12/11/18--06:39: 14 hands and 17 stars
- 12/11/18--22:46: Lunch with brokers: stuffed to the brim
- 12/12/18--07:38: Snake and other winter warmers
- 12/12/18--22:23: I Ding you ah!
- 12/13/18--07:42: The autumn forest
- 12/14/18--07:19: La laa, la laa, la la la la laaa laaa
- 12/17/18--07:25: The best of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Napa
- 12/18/18--06:37: Swissitalian dinner, episode 2
- 12/19/18--22:56: Nothing but the pig
- 12/22/18--06:35: Pierre Hermé's festive 2018
- 12/22/18--22:59: Eating with chefs: suckling pig over turkey
- 12/25/18--07:31: Down to the wire
- 12/28/18--23:16: General Chang's chicken
- 12/29/18--07:47: The cloud dragon
- 12/31/18--07:16: The best dishes I had in 2018
- 01/01/19--06:32: Golden new year
- 01/01/19--22:47: Old favorites in Taipei
- 01/07/19--23:44: Unexpected cherry-popping
- 01/11/19--07:03: The first of many in 2019
I had no lunch plans today. Or so I thought. Hello Kitty was off visiting her old friend, and My Birdbrain Cousin was off doing her own thang... so I was left to my own devices. I was planning on strolling over to grab my favorite ramen later, and still lying around in the hotel bed, when The Dining Austrian ping me.
It was 11:10 a.m. or so. Would I be able to join him for lunch at 12:00 p.m.? I thought about it... and as I hadn't actually cleaned up, I figured I may be about 10 minutes late to lunch. As it turns out, due to unforeseen circumstances, my friend was going to be about 40 minutes late himself. This, of course, would be a cardinal sin at Japanese restaurants... and today we would be reinforcing the stereotypes of rude gaijins who show up late. Thankfully we have a third person, who would be on time... As I would find out later, the restaurant's website specifically reminds foreign guests that they should be on time.
I showed up at Kimoto (紀茂登) between 15 to 20 minutes late, apologized to Kimoto-san for my tardiness, and sat in front of the 8-seat counter with 9 place settings for this meal. I was trying to be respectful and kept my Sony A9 in my bag at my feet, and made sure to keep my phone on my lap so as not to scratch the beautiful (and incredibly expensive) Japanese cypress counter. Well, as I found out later by reading the restaurant's website, they specifically ask people not to bring their SLRs... Strike two. So it appears that I am that annoying gaijin, after all... But hey, at least my A9 was silent and didn't make any noise disturbing other customers.
As I had arrived late, Kimoto-san has already started service. The welcome drink of cold-brewed Oolong tea (水だし烏龍茶) had already been put aside for me, and we were now on the first course.
Interesting that there were three little propagule (零余子) on top of the rice, which probably came from either Japanese yam (山の芋) or Chinese yam (長芋). I had never seen them before, but they certainly had a texture that was similar to yam or potato.
I really do love the お椀 course in kaiseki meals, as it always showcase very delicate and pure flavors, and almost always features the beautiful fragrance of yuzu (柚子).
Simmered snow crab meat with tomalley - I'm not sure that a more awesome dish could be made from crab. The shell of the snow crab - with all its tomalley - was placed on the charcoal grill so that a mix of tomalley, crab meat, and what I suspect was dashi could be simmered.
Blowfish porridge (ふぐの雑炊) - very lovely and comforting towards the end of the meal.
At this point, Kimoto-san suddenly pulled out a bottle of 1980 Yquem, popped the cork, took a sip, then stuck the bottle back into the fridge. The three of us decided that we would have a glass, so we each enjoyed a small glass of the nectar.
Chestnut kinton (栗金団) - very warm and tasty with bits of sweet chestnut inside.
It was time to move on, so we asked for the bill. It's not unusual for a restaurant in Japan to hand you a piece of paper with just a single number written on it, and today at number was JPY 225,000. For the three of us.
I stared at that number for a few seconds as the sticker shock hit me. OK, so I didn't ask The Dining Austrian how much lunch was going to cost, and I was in such a rush to get here that I didn't do any homework. The others realized that the price included alcohol - most of which I did not touch - so I was in effect subsidizing them. But even taking out the alcohol portion, lunch today probably cost on the order of JPY 60,000 or so - which was the most I have ever paid for a meal in Japan... by a very wide margin.
Granted, I'm a total amateur and this was my first experience at a top end kaiseki restaurant - whose level came in above even ones with three Michelin stars like Kanda (かんだ), Yukimura (幸村), and Ishikawa (石かわ). I have not yet had the pleasure of dining in kaiseki temples like Kyoaji (京味) or Matsukawa (松川), or Kitcho (吉兆)honten in Arashiyama (嵐山)... so I guess my past experience - none of which involved winter dining with the seasonal delicacies I had today - placed my expectations for a bill roughly half the size.
To be fair, the ingredients we got today were top-notch and featured a lot of seasonal specialties. There were four courses featuring Japanese snow crabs, and two featuring blowfish - including expensive fish cum. So purely from an ingredient level, I figured it was entirely reasonable to be charging these prices. I just didn't know the meal was gonna be so luxe... and ever so thankful that the restaurant takes credit cards.
But in the end, I was very happy with lunch. This was undoubtedly the best meal I had on the trip, and with the price I paid... also the most memorable.
To be very honest, I knew almost nothing about Edvard Munch other than his iconic work The Scream - and one of the four extant versions is here at the exhibition. It was interesting to find out how his career progressed, and how drastically his style changed once he received some help for his mental issues.
The highlight of the afternoon for me was undoubtedly my purchases of goodies featuring Pikachu posing as the protagonist in The Scream...
After kicking off the evening with some great sake, we moved to Sumibiyakiniku Nakahara (炭火焼肉なかはら) for dinner. Hello Kitty had wanted some beef on this trip, and we were trying to choose between yakiniku (焼肉) and steak. Since we chose to have teppanyaki (鉄板焼) in Toya, we decided to have yakiniku in Tokyo. Seeing that Nakahara-san is part of a foodie group I belong to and his restaurant is beloved by members of that group, I figured I owed it to myself to check it out.
The Man in White T-shirt found out that we were going to dine here, and offered to contact Nakahara-san on our behalf so that we could be seated at the counter in front of the boss. Unfortunately we ended up with a late addition to our group to make it a party of 5, and there were only 4 seats at the counter, so we didn't have the boss cooking for us after all. 残念...
We chose the most expensive menu option, which was the Special Course that includes the "legendary tongue", 7 cuts of meat including "hormone (ホルモン)", and 1/4 of a steak cutlet sandwich.
The full-length version in 4K is here.
The front was cut as thin slices, and the underside came with sinews.
Sirloin (サーロイン) - very, very meaty in the mouth, and marinated in a sweet tare (たれ).
Hangar steak (ハラミ) - a little chewy, but very juicy and full of meaty flavors... as expected.
Tri-tip (友三角) - fatty, with a nice and bouncy texture. Also in sweet tare (たれ).
Eye of knuckle (シンシン) - a reasonably thick cut for this, and leaner than expected. Very nice meat flavors.
Colon (シマチョウ) - taken with ponzu (ポン酢) and grated radish (おろし). Very bouncy and fatty.
Beef cutlet sandwich (牛カツサンド) - this has become de rigeur at places serving yakiniku or steak. Yes, it was pretty damn good... which begs of question of why we only get 1/4 of the sandwich...
It was time for carbs at the end of the meal, and we were offered a choice of gyudon (牛丼) or cold noodles... or both. Naturally I chose both.
Pistachio ice cream - the staff decided that we should have a little bit of tequila with our ice cream, and poured some on top...
This was a damn good meal. A lot of different and interesting cuts of beef, and I wish that we could have had Nakahara-san cook them for us personally. Next time, I guess...
P.S. I found out later in the evening that my good friend from Taiwan had already eaten a full dinner at a restaurant with Michelin stars BEFORE joining us for this beef fest... Now THAT is impressive!
One of my obligatory stops on any trip to Tokyo is Tamanegiya (酒たまねぎや). Ever since my first visit in 2010, this has become my go-to place for sake. It's not for everyone... it helps to be able to converse in Japanese with Master, and one really needs to have an appreciation of good sake. Oh, and keep in mind that Master is a right-wing nationalist, who has admittedly toned things down a little in recent years - at least judging from the decor within the bar.
So while I have - against the wishes of some people who want to keep this a secret - disclosed the name of the venue on this here blog in the past, I have also cautioned my friends against coming here thinking that they will automatically have a great time drinking great sake. After all, we did have the incident a couple of years ago where two assholes from Hong Kong - who were supposedly well-versed in Japanese culture - came and pissed off Master so much that he posted about their behavior on Facebook. We definitely don't need fuckwits like them ruining it for the rest of us.
All of our dinners in Tokyo on this trip start late, so I was originally afraid that I wouldn't have time to come over after dinner for my usual round of drinks. But I made an effort to come tonight before dinner, since the two venues aren't far away from each other.
When the three of us walked through the front door after 6:30 p.m., Master was alone. Apparently he was only expecting a few regulars who had booked for a little later, so surprisingly he was expecting a slow Friday evening. That was just fine with me.
Bijofu Junmai Daiginjo Yumebakari Time (美丈夫 純米大吟醸 夢許 Time), 29BY - seimaibuai of 30%. A koshu (古酒) aged for 3 years. Nose showed a little cotton candy, peach, tropical fruit. Very elegant. Initially smooth and light on the palate but ended dry.
Master was kind enough to pour us a tasting portion of the non-aged Yumebakari so that we could taste the two side-by-side.
Bijofu Junmai Daiginjo Yumebakari (美丈夫 純米大吟醸 夢許), 30BY - seimaibuai of 30%. Really lovely nose with banana and floral notes. Nice and smooth, with slightly fermented notes. Sweet on the attack then showed a hint of spiciness.
Yeah, Yumebakari Time was definitely the more elegant of the two.
Hatsukame Show Special (初亀 鑑評会出品酒), 29BY - floral nose. Good depth of flavors, which showed more of a dry mid-palate but not spicy. One of 34 bottles made.
After stuffing ourselves with awesome yakiniku (焼肉), we went back to Tamanegiya for the second time tonight. DaRC and Ro Ro were already seated at the bar, and the place was packed. I just had to do my traditional vertical tasting of Isojiman Nakatori... And once again Master was kind enough to open fresh bottles of all 4 vintages.
Miinokotobuki Junmai Daiginjo Kannokura (三井の寿 純米大吟醸 寒乃蔵), 30BY - seimaibuai of 40%. Light and sweet on the nose. Really ripe banana notes and starchy sweetness. Pretty sweet on the attack, a bit dry in the middle.
Another wonderful evening spent here... and grateful that Master stayed open past his regular hours to accommodate us. He also sent us away with a bottle each of the Bijofu unfiltered sparkling that the brewery custom made for him... which is always fun to drink.
It's our last day in Japan, and there are a few loose ends we needed to tie up. As soon as it opened, I popped over to my favorite sake shop so that Hello Kitty could buy the bottle of sake that she absolutely loved last night. Of course, I was also happy to pickup a pretty rare but not-so-expensive bottle of aged sake from a brewery I love...
...which left us with a very big problem. I kinda went crazy in the last few days, and we now have 12 bottles of sake to take home. Fearing that we wouldn't be able to fit everything in our 3 suitcases, we hurriedly hopped over to the shopping mall under Tokyo Station to buy ourselves a new piece of luggage.
We rushed back to check out of our hotel, and called one of those new taxis with lots of room to fit our luggage. We would need to repack so that the weight is more evenly distributed across our 4 suitcases...
We must have looked like refugees or shopaholics, because we had soooo much luggage! My Birdbrain Cousin had 50kg with her, while Hello Kitty and I somehow ended up with 80kg between us. Thankfully one of us had status on the airline, and the staff was very helpful in finding a solution for us to avoid paying excess baggage fees...
Having gotten rid of our heavy luggage, it was time to grab some lunch. I had done some research on where we could eat inside the International Terminal at Haneda International Airport, but unfortunately the branch of Tsuru Tontan (つるとんたん) had a long line of people waiting for seats, and we didn't have the luxury of time... so we simply went a couple of shops down and sat down at Katsusen (和豚 かつ仙).
Having filled our bellies, we headed for our gate and bid Tokyo farewell. I won't wait nearly as long to take my next trip, and I am eagerly looking forward to that one special meal at a temple of sushi next spring...
A few months ago while strategizing about the menu for my wine dinner at Caprice, sommelier Victor Petiot very kindly offered to share with us a very special bottle
of bongwater - the very first vintage made of the wine. He subsequently had the bottle transported from France, and we have been looking for a suitable date to pop the cork ever since.
So what better time to do it than right after I return from a week-long eating (and drinking) trip to Japan? I literally just dropped off our luggage - along with a ton of sake - and headed back to Central.
Pastry chef Vivien Sonzogni also served up a wonderful hazelnut soufflé, with a quenelle of vanilla ice cream on the side.
But the focus tonight was squarely on the wines, and Hairy Legs, Victor, and I all contributed bottles.
1999 Ganevat Les Vignes de mon Père - beautiful nose. Definite oxidation here and maturity, with pain grillé, marmalade, a bit of straw, and some sweetness on the nose. Kinda like a dry Sherry or a Boal. Definitely acidity on the palate here. What a privilege to be able to taste the very first vintage of this wine!
This was a fun evening... and I can't believe that I didn't even get a break from eating and drinking after a week in Japan! But hey... I can't really complain too much, can I?
I've been back from my eating trip to Japan for less than 24 hours, and I'm already on my second wine tasting. Tonight Lord Rayas was hosting his MNSC dinner for the gang, and we convened in the Grill Room of the Hong Kong Country Club for a relatively casual meal.
Lord Rayas surprised us tonight by pulling out wines that are atypical for MNSC tastings - meaning that they were mostly not French, and some of these wines haven't been seen in our tastings for more than a decade... or ever.
First flight: opened for 45 minutes before decanting for 1 hour and 15 minutes prior to serving.
Second flight: popped and poured.
Third flight: decanted 3½ hours prior to serving.
What an amazing selection of wines! I love me some Napa cabs, and these were definitely some of the best from the Valley. Many, many thanks to Lord Rayas for his generosity.
I was invited to attend the gala dinner held tonight following the announcement of the Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau 2019, which took place at the Grand Hyatt Macau. I arrived rather late to the cocktail reception, as I was waiting in vain in my hotel room for housekeeping to deliver me an iron. I finally gave up and wore my wrinkled shirt under my tux jacket, but thankfully nobody noticed...
These gala dinners have always been big productions, and it appears that this year the hosts have taken things up a notch, as the production seemed more sophisticated than last year. The biggest problem remains the lighting, as the multi-color stage lights change both in intensity as well as hue. That makes for tough photography since I stick to "natural lighting"... and have chosen to take the small point-and-shoot camera instead of my trust Sony A9.
This time we have dishes presented by 6 chefs - 5 of whom now with 3 Michelin stars at their flagship establishments - as well as the amazing Pierre Hermé. I can no longer refer to him as "The Fat One" the same way a certain friend used to, because he's clearly gone on a diet and slimmed down significantly.
By the way, I wish the organizer would stop using Marcus Kwok as the event's MC. He's really hopeless at pronouncing the names of the headlining chefs, what with "Ah-lane Ducasse", "Ah-lang Ducasse", and "Pierre Ermm"... These chefs are world famous, and they deserve enough respect not to have their names mangled by some wannabe celebrity who couldn't even be bothered to learn the proper pronunciations. He's getting paid to do this gig, forchrissake!
As was the case in previous years, a video showcasing the inspiration behind each dish is shown prior to the dish being served. This year they've also picked a specific piece of music to be played while the servers come out and lay down the plates.
The music being blasted while the dish was being presented was "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat. I absolutely love this song, but I was kinda surprised by the choice, and wondered whether there was any significance to this song...
G.H. Mumm Grand Cordon - a little toasty.
at the first gala dinner.
The venue blasted a version of Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" that I didn't recognize. They probably figured they would play something from a Japanese composer to go with a dish served by a Japanese chef...
But what the hell do I know about Cantonese food? My good friend KC sitting next to me had a completely different take on this dish... and rated it a lot lower than I did.
Oh, and I didn't recognize the music they played while serving the dish... and didn't think of finding out with the use of Shazaam.
They played "Nwia" by Valentin Stip while serving the dish, and it sounded like a series of water droplets.
They played "Relève" by Avia while serving the dish.
"Notion" by Tash Saltana was the music chosen to accompany the service.
Truffle, by Pierre Hermé - the master at work. Cracking open the truffle-like chocolate shell reveals a combination of hazelnut cream, hazelnut paste, whipped cream with hazelnut, hazelnut syrup-soaked sponge cake. Served with shaved black truffle. Just perfect.
It was perhaps fitting that they chose "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by the Eurythmics to accompany the service. I was also amazed at the length to which the service was choreographed. There was a "director" standing near my table, and based on his signals - which were timed to coincide with specific points as the music played - the servers moved into position, paused, and laid down the plates. That was damn impressive!
I was ever so grateful that we didn't have to put up with some asshole who thinks he can cook and calls himself Chef Nic. I wondered if Alain Ducasse cancelled his appearance tonight just so he wouldn't have to watch that shitshow again...
Overall this was a pretty decent dinner. As I have said in previous years, it's really, really tough to cook for a few hundred people, and it challenges the chefs to come up with something that would still be at ideal serving condition by the time it reaches the diner. It's easy to see which chefs have given a lot of thought to their dishes. And kudos to the culinary team for their execution.
Many thanks to the powers that be for the kind invitation, and for providing me with a bed to sleep in so I wouldn't have to rush back home after the dinner.
While many others went off to Wing Lei Palace (永利宮) for an after-party catered by Chef Tam Kwok-fung (譚國峰) and his team, I decided that eating more food tonight wasn't a good idea. So I ended up hanging out with Hairy Legs and the team from Caprice, who were celebrating regaining the third star. They were clearly very, very happy, and it was good to spend some time with them.
It's year end, so that means my friendly neighborhood prime brokers are taking turns to treat me to lunch. I've barely gotten back to Hong Kong after a late night in Macau, and I needed to be sociable and continue binging on food. I wasn't surprised when they chose Mott 32 as the venue...
I let our hosts do the ordering, and it seemed that they were pretty hungry... because we ended up with a ton of food!
Signature smoked black cod (煙燻黑鱈魚) - very tender and tasty, indeed. But the large amount of smoke was injected inside the plastic cloche minutes before serving, so the smokiness was only superficial.
The eight of us were absolutely stuffed, but I was very grateful to have this opportunity to catch up. It's only my third time here, and I was brought here by my prime brokers twice... so clearly this place is popular with the business lunch crowd. Glad to have had some decent food, but considering the feast I was about to have for dinner, I probably should have cut down on my intake at lunch.
I've been waiting for this dinner for a long, long time. My favorite private kitchen relocated a few months ago, and somehow I haven't managed to return for more than half a year. As the weather has turned cold and the snakes have fattened up for the winter, it was high time that I came back. So I rounded up the usual suspects for a feast. It's been so long since I was last here that I didn't even bother changing anything on the menu that the chef proposed...
the version from Chef Lee Yuk-lam (李煜霖). The knifework is so fine, and the flavors here pack a punch without being too salty or heavy. I told myself before dinner that I was only going to have one bowl... but that didn't happen.
Steamed wild sole (清蒸海方利) - one always gets a piece from the back as well as a piece from the wing. The execution was on point tonight.
Naturally, we brought a few bottles to dinner, but ended up being pretty civilized in terms of consumption.
Very, very happy to be back here tonight after a long absence. I really do need to come back more often!
Another day, another lunch treated by a friendly neighborhood prime broker. I was kinda surprised when they chose Ding's Club (鼎・會館), but intrigued as I've largely stayed away from the hype surrounding restaurants featuring Steve Lee Ka Ting (李家鼎). After all, I didn't grow up watching him on TV, and while I'm happy that he's found a second career, I was in no rush to check out whether he can really cook...
As there were only 4 of us, we tried to take things easy. Emphasis on the word "tried".
Not exactly what I had in mind when I asked for a light lunch... but I gotta admit that the food wasn't bad at all. It's not fine dining, but I thought most of the dishes were pretty well-executed and the flavors were good. Maybe Ding can cook, after all...
I've been a terrible friend. I have only paid a single visit this year to my friend Uwe Opocensky's eponymous restaurant this year, and he's been very patient... waiting for me to visit. I did manage to catch up with him a few weeks ago over dinner, and I figured it was time to make a visit to Uwe before year end. So I roped in The Great One and, to my surprise, the Kat decided that he wanted to come along.
Then consommé is poured into the cup, the bag dissolves, and we are left with a very mushroom-y tea. A great way to start our meal by warming the stomach.
During this season, Uwe always hangs a tree upside down from the ceiling, but tonight there was an extra tree that gets wheeled around to each table...
The duck was nearly perfect, and came served with a kumquat along with some artistic expressions... made with chocolate and cep powder.
I've always loved the vanilla ice cream with smoked caramel, and even better with rum raisins on top.
Apple strudel - a proper strudel made using a recipe from Uwe's mother. Nowadays, though, I will always remember Colonel Hans Landa telling Emmanuelle Mimieux "Attendez la crème!". And so I did...
We started with some Champagne, and moved on to two reds we brought along.
Ulysse Collin Les Maillons, dégorgée mars 2018 - lovely nose of red fruits, full of ripeness. Nice depth on the palate.
We had a very good time. Food here is always honestly delicious, without much razzle dazzle. So happy to have come back just before Christmas.
A few days ago a receive a message from a dear friend, asking me whether I would be available for dinner tonight. She and her husband had booked their places at the winter dinner hosted by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, but she has since decided to run off to a concert instead. Would I be so kind as to keep her hubby company?
I had just returned from an 8-day binge fest in Japan a mere 6 days ago, where I've gorged on two big meals each day. I've dined out 5 out of the 6 nights since my return. I really didn't need to have another night out. But I knew that my friends were being kind in extending this invitation, so I decided to take my friend's place at the dinner table.
I arrived at the Hong Kong Country Club a few minutes after the official start of the dinner, and hovered next to the seating chart by the door while speeches were delivered on the stage. It took me a while to find my table, and I was rather surprised to be seated at the Romanée-Conti table... I would quickly discover that Alexandre Abel - the current winemaker at Domaine Ponsot - and Chef Simon Rogan were among those seated at my table.
I've never had the original version during my visits to Maison Troisgros, so this would have to do. The doneness on the salmon was pretty nice. And I loved the light cream sauce with that acidity from sorrel.
Besides the usual, seemingly neverending rounds of "La laa, la laa...", we were entertained by a group of singers throughout the evening.
This was a fun evening, and it was good to run into friends who are Chevaliers. Many thanks to my friend for giving me the chance to have a sex change for the evening and pretend to be her...
It was Dr Poon's turn to host his MNSC dinner, and we convened at the
I Hate the Handover Hong Kong Club. Unfortunately he chose to put us in the Jackson Room, so I was forbidden to take my bag or my camera up with me. We were also forbidden to use the phone above the dining table, so there would be no pictures today...
I started with some homemade tagliolini, Bordier butter, chicken jus, and Grana Padano. This came with some white truffle shavings on top. Nice.
We also shared two different cuts of beef. The USDA natural fed, hormone-free ribeye was beautifully fatty, with lovely charring on the outside.
The Kagoshima striploin was definitely more chewy on the edges with the tendon.
The Dungeness crab cakes came with a flower-shaped ratatouille on top, along with some piquillos. It was delicious but the flavors were a little simple, as there wasn't much inside other than the crab meat, and not much spices were used.
Our host was his usual generous self, and we were treated to some real treasures tonight.
First flight: opened for 1 hour prior to serving.
Second flight: opened 2 hours prior to serving.
1993 Screaming Eagle - rich and open, sweeter on the nose, with oaky notes and a hint of rubber and eucalyptus. Sweet and ripe. A bit sharp and alcoholic, and some acidity on the palate. 98 points.
Two years ago, the four of us had a blast bringing fancy wines to a cheap-and-cheerful chain restaurant - taking a piss (as the Brits would say) and enjoying a shit-talking, gossip session. We decided to do that again tonight, and the quartet descended on Spaghetti House once again. We had hoped to attract a fifth member to our gathering, but alas, even my promise of a bottle of Montrachet failed to entice the snooty Fergie...
I was the first to arrive, and found ourselves a corner table away from the rest of the crowd. We were going to be loud, and the expletives emanating from our table was most fucking certainly not gonna get a G-rating.
Of course we brought a few bottles tonight, and seeing as Fergie wasn't coming, I took the Monty off the table and brought something else that was interesting - including some bongwater. Of course, I was trumped by g4gary in the interesting department...
But of course, one really needs to see the gold flakes floating in the bottle to appreciate how amazingly bling this is...
Looking forward to our next session together!
The Man in White T-shirt pinged me, and asked whether I was available for lunch today. A chef friend is back in town and wanted to go have that pig at Seventh Son (家全七福). Truth be told, I really didn't want to have another meal out, especially since I was already scheduled to come back here in 3 days' time... to have the same suckling pig. But I also know that I wouldn't have a chance to catch up with our friend if I didn't show up today, so I reluctantly joined for lunch...
Once I arrived at the restaurant, I realized that there were only 4 of us...
Our chef friend loves bongwater, so it was no surprised that he brought along a bottle to share with us...
I was ever so grateful that we didn't order anything else, because there were enough calories taken in today...
It's the festive season again, which means Pierre Hermé was once again offering seasonal macarons. I try to buy these every year, as some of these can be really special.
A foodie friend is swinging through Hong Kong three years after we first met, and we decided to meet for lunch at Seventh Son (家全七福). This was, of course, my second visit to the restaurant in 4 days, and I was ever so thankful that it wasn't gonna be 5 of us trying to finish off another suckling pig. With many of my regular "rice feet" being away due to the holiday season, I was pleasantly surprised when we became a table of 10 - with three chefs among us.
And this was what we got. The rest of the pig - which are normally hand-shredded and then served as-is - was chopped up and stir-fried with ginger, spring onions, and a little soy sauce. Not bad, I guess...
This being a Sunday lunch just before Christmas, it seemed like a good time to pop open a few bottles. Knowing that Mrs. White T-shirt was joining us, I brought along a special bottle.
Krug Grande Cuvée, ID 117003 - nice toasty nose with notes of honey.
We had a good time, and hopefully new friendships were forged over the lunch table.
It's Christmas, and that means Pineapple is hosting his MNSC tasting as per the tradition from the last few years. We were once again back at the
I Hate the HandoverHong Kong Club, but thankfully in a private room so that phones and cameras are allowed. Seeing that it's the holiday season, the kids have been invited to dinner for the first time along with the better halves.
As has been the case in the past, the fight for last place in the rankings went all the way till the end. And this year, it didn't come down to just two people... There were actually four of us this year within contention, and any one of us could slip up and end up with the dog bowl...
Our host kept things simple, and the menu looked pretty much like it had been during the last few iterations.
Once again, our host was being extra generous with the wines... and it turned out to be a fantastic lineup with a number of gems.
First pair: opened more than 1 hour prior to serving.
Third pair: opened 2½ hours prior to serving.
Ardbeg 24 Years Sherry Butt, bottled in 2000 - very peaty as expected from Ardbeg.
At the end of the evening, it was still pretty close... but I was happy not to take up the post of convenor for next year.
I'm back in Taiwan for a few days over year-end, and figured I would show Hello Kitty and Mama Kitty a few sights while we're here. One of the places that has been in the back of my mind has been Marshall Zen Garden (少帥禪園) - which was opened a few years ago by an acquaintance on Facebook. Located at the former residence of Marshal Chang Hsueh-liang (張學良, apparently later also known as Peter Chang!) where he was under house arrest for more than 50 years, the complex includes a restaurant, a tea house, as well as facilities for onsen (溫泉). As it's situated on the hillside, I figured the setting would be pretty nice while offering some fresh, clean air and views of the city.
The weather hasn't been great since we arrived in Taipei, and there was the drizzle this morning. After checking in at the gate of the complex, we carefully climbed down some fairly steep steps to the building housing the restaurant.
While the others chose the Young Marshal Course (少帥私房套餐), I went a little more premium and got the Elite General Course (大帥府傳套餐) - named in honor of the Marshal's father Chang Tso-lin (張作霖).
The first course was the longevity trio (長壽三寶), featuring 3 little bite-sized appetizers.
Pan-fried lobster with pineapple puree served with grilled pineapple (少帥最愛蝦：霸王豪宴蝦) - unfortunately the lobster was overcooked.
The food here was OK, but coming here is more about the setting and the view. And surprisingly the skies cleared up for a couple of hours while we were here, and we even had to shield ourselves from the glare of the sun after lunch when we strolled around the grounds.
A good friend was getting together with a few friends in Taipei, and very kindly invited us to join him at Shoun RyuGin (祥雲龍吟) for dinner tonight. I've been a big fan of the Nihonryori RyuGin (日本料理 龍吟) franchise, but have never gotten around to visiting this particular location, so I was really looking forward to this.
We were seated inside the large private room, which kinda shielded the rest of the restaurant from the noise coming from our table. That would be a good thing...
I had offered to bring along a bottle of Champagne, but our host had arranged a wine pairing from the restaurant, so I was curious to see what the sommelier had in mind.
Then came a trio of sashimi (お造り):
Kokuryu Daiginjo Ryu (黒龍 大吟醸 龍), 30BY - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 40%. Nice flavors of fermented rice.
Sohomare Kimotoshikomi Junmai Ginjo (惣誉 生酛仕込 純米吟醸), 30BY - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 55%. Nose showing some fermented rice flavors, with banana notes. Drier on the palate but with good depth.
This sake was specifically paired with the butter fish because of the natural lactic acid present in the brewing process, which would match the acidity of the pickled cabbage.
Juyondai Black Label, 29BY - seimaibuai (精米歩合) is not disclosed for this bottling. Nose was somewhat fermented, with some fermented rice notes. Pretty sweet on the palate with a long finish.
Vincent Fleith Crémant d'Alsace Brut Nature - flinty with stone fruits on the nose.
Sesame (芝麻) - a combination of lotus root powder, milk, and sesame was deep-fried. While the exterior was crispy, the custard center had a texture that was approaching jelly. Served with a sauce made of sesame and caramel, which I found bitter and not pleasant.
This was certainly a very interesting meal. I love that Chef Hieda Ryohei (稗田良平) insists on using local ingredients as much as possible - since Taiwan is a great source whether one is looking on land on in the ocean. What also intrigued me was that the flavors here weren't necessarily that Japanese.
Many thanks to my friend for the generous treat.
2018 was particularly good to me from a culinary perspective. I made a long-overdue return to Europe and hit a few places I had been meaning to visit, and I also managed to scratch a few itches in Japan. I'm grateful to all the chefs who, no doubt, have spent countless hours creating amazing dishes for us to enjoy.
As in previous years, this is simply listed by chronological order. These were the dishes which brought out the strongest emotional response from me.
La Saint-Jacques: la noix poêlée, lait de noix de coco épicé et condiment de coriandre from Robuchon au Dôme, Macau - these were some of the largest scallops I had ever seen, and came from a Japanese supplier I happen to know. The Southeast Asian flavors of curry, coriander, and coconut were very intriguing.
La fine tarte: friande aux oignons confits et lard fumé paysan from Robuchon au Dôme, Macau - I finally managed to take down the iconic truffle tarte from Robuchon! And because Chef Julien Tongourian was loathe to cut a tarte in two for us to share, we ended up with a whole tarte each. What an awesome combination together with onion confit and lardons!
Suckling pig filled with pila (金陵乳豬飯) from Jade Dragon (譽瓏軒), Macau - Chef Tam Kwok Fung had turned the original dish from the Kimberley Restaurant (君怡閣) into these bite-sized maki(巻き), and in that process made it PERFECT. This one topped all others that I have tasted so far.
Imperial scholar's five-snake soup (太史五蛇羹) from Softbank Private Kitchen (軟庫飯堂), Hong Kong - this classic dish will always be part of my annual list, and on this particular occasion it was extra special as the chef added 50-year-old dried mandarin peels in honor of a master chef at the table. I doubt I will ever have another bowl that is as good as this one.
Rainbow pig's stomach (五彩豬肚) from the House 102 (壹零貳小館) pop-up at The Chairman (大班樓), Hong Kong - the effort behind this dish was pretty amazing, as the chefs read a description of the dish from an out-of-print book, and had to come up with a recipe by themselves. The "pâté en vessie chinois" was truly remarkable, and tasty, too!
Deep-fried crispy crab cake (金錢蟹盒) from Sing Gor Private Kitchen (勝哥私房菜), Macau - it's so rare to find this nowadays, but here we've got "ravioli" made by stuffing crab meat and other goodies between two round sheets of pork lard... so this was basically deep-fried lard! How is that not awesome??
Stir-fried frog's legs with kailan (玉簪田雞) from Sing Gor Private Kitchen (勝哥私房菜), Macau - another amazing old school dish. The meat from the frog's legs were taken off the bone, then tied around kailan steams like ribbons. The execution was perfect so that both the veg and the protein were served at the correct doneness.
Horse mackerel (鯵) from Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう), Hong Kong - horse mackerel has always been one of my preferred neta (ネタ) on sushi, but the way it is aged at Sushi Saito makes it the best version I've ever had... and I was lucky to have had it a few times during the year.
Noir de Bigorre pork chop from Neighborhood, Hong Kong - the beautiful hunk of fatty pork was chopped up and served with rice pilaf mixed together with boudin basque, morels, and a creamy sauce. Simply out of this world!
Crispy young pigeon (紅燒脆皮妙齡鴿) from Stellar House (星月居), Hong Kong - I still think this is the best Cantonese-style pigeon in Hong Kong. The meat from the young pigeon somehow had that milky flavor, and was just sooooo succulent. I would go back for this more often if I didn't have to deal with the way this restaurant forces you to order...
Candlenut's classic chendol cream, pandan jelly, gula melaka from Candlenut, Singapore - simply one of my favorite desserts in the world, and this version of the classic chendol is, in my mind, perfection - thanks to the fluffy coconut custard and gula melaka.
Wild-caught New Zealand littleneck clams (Austrovenus stutchburyi)), flambéed in white wine, drizzled with fish sauce and fried shallot grapeseed oil from The Naked Finn, Singapore - this might seem like something really simple at first glance, but that fried shallot grapeseed oil was just fucking amazing! We ended up ordering another serving because none of us was happy with what we got.
Noharayaki (野原焼) at Yakiniku Jumbo (焼肉 ジャンボ), Hong Kong - Hello Kitty called this "cow on a cloud", and that about sums it up. Beautifully done thin slice of sirloin is rolled up and served on a fluffy bed of. whipped egg white and yolk. Little wonder this is the signature dish at Yakiniku Jumbo.
Aori cuttlefish: ribbons confit in kombu infused extra virgin olive oil with sweet peas, wakame and shallots, buttermilk emulsion, plankton dust and torroro kombu from Amber, Hong Kong - the texture of the bigfin reef squid was just so bouncy and beautiful, while the other ingredients managed to deliver sweetness, umami, acidity, and creaminess. Pretty amazing.
Charcoal grilled smoked pigeon breast (小鳩の炭火焼き) from Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), Hong Kong - I was stunned by how beautiful this Racan pigeon was... It's been a while since I last tasted a pigeon breast this perfect.
Hokkaido scallops contisée with black truffle cooked in a crispy beignet, celery roots purée, shaved hazelnuts, Pouilly Fuissé fins fumet at Écriture, Hong Kong - inside the crunchy beignet were bouncy slices of scallops, with black truffles between the slices and seaweed wrapped around them. Nice combination of sweetness and umami.
Sweet corn puffed mousse with aburi botan shrimp from Ta Vie 旅, Hong Kong - one of my favorite dishes from one of my favorite restaurants. That amazing combination of sweetness from the corn mousse as well as raw kernels worked magic with the sweetness of raw shrimp and the umami of shrimp gelée, plus fragrant olive oil. Every bite was beautiful.
Classic: sweetbreads, langoustine in ceviche, butter with herbs and lime from L'Air du Temps, Éghezée, Belgium - the sweetbreads were a revelation. It was soft and fluffy inside, but the exterior had a glaze that made me think I was eating Korean fried chicken. Even Hello Kitty - who normally passes on organs - thought this was amazing.
Tomato, African marigold from Hertog Jan, Zedelgem, Belgium - I finally tasted the tomatoes from the gardens of one of my favorite chefs, and the flavors were just amazing. They grow more than 100 cultivars of tomatoes, and a different combination goes on the plate every day.
Noble pâté-croûte: Bigorre's black pork, duck and goose foie gras from the south west of France from Restaurant Bozar, Brussels - Karen Torosyan's "world champion"pâté en croûte was every bit as amazing as I had expected. I only wish they gave me a thicker slice!
Curcubit from Mirazur, Menton, France - this bowl of melons and cucumbers was incredibly refreshing, and just perfect for the scorching summer heat in the south of France.
Tête de turbot grillé aïoli from Au Passage, Paris - I couldn't believe that for 10 Euros, I got an entire head of turbot! Very simply grilled, sprinkled with salt, and served with some aïoli on the side.
Bombay duck with loofah (絲瓜九肚魚) from Wing Lei Palace (永利宮), Macau - I had my first taste of bombay duck more than 20 years ago when I first moved to Hong Kong, and I don't remember ever having it as anything other than deep-fried. For this meal Chef Tam Kwok Fung cooked them in a milky broth, and the texture of the fish was almost like sticks of jello with bones. Simply amazing and a complete revelation.
Steamed marble goby with chili and quinoa (椒香藜麥筍殼魚) from The Bridge 廊桥, at the pop-up dinner at Wynn Palace, Macau - spicy food is rarely in my diet, and I tend to avoid Sichuan cuisine like the plague due to the prevalence of over-the-top mala (麻辣) flavors. This dish was eye-opening. The tender and succulent fish came with a beurre blanc sauce flavored with chilis. Even without eating any of the erjingtiao (二荊條) chilis on top, this dish was fucking spicy. But I loved every bite of it.
Cold soumen with abalone and siroebi shrimp (煮鮑と白エビの素麺) from Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), Hong Kong - a beautiful dish of perfectly cooked abalone, scored to soften the texture even further, on top of refreshing cold somen with glass shrimp. I'd be happy to have a few portions of this any day.
Oriental sole meunière from Neighborhood, Hong Kong - thes was only the second time I've ever come across the oriental sole (七日鮮). Such a rare treat! And perfectly cooked meunière by The Man in White T-shirt.
Braised pork rice (滷肉飯) from My灶, Taipei - such an awesome version of the Taiwanese staple using only pork skin and belly fat, which in my opinion is the only way to go. None of that minced meat bullshit...
Rubia Galega / Jerusalem artichoke / moromi miso from HAKU, Hong Kong - there was no way I could leave this off the list. This was specially made at my request, as a joke, following the exploits of Salt Bae. Rubia Galega is always a good idea, and when it's covered in bling... it's just unbeatable.
Today's classic; gargouillou of young vegetables, seeds and herbs, touch of reine des près oil from Michel Bras Toya Japon, Toya, Japan - after years of eating other chefs' copies and interpretations of this iconic dish, I finally had the chance to taste the "original"... or at least an "authentic copy" in Japan. Simply stunning.
Aligot from Michel Bras Toya Japon, Toya, Japan - not many places in the world outside France bother to serve up aligot, and I was overcome with joy and felt a little emotional when this became part of my lunch.
Female snow crab (せいこ蟹) from Ginza Kojyu (銀座 小十), Tokyo - I had the good fortune of having a few versions of this seasonal delicacy in the space of 2 weeks, and this was my favorite.
Mackerel bozushi (鯖の棒鮨)from Ginza Kojyu (銀座 小十), Tokyo - this piece of bozushi (棒鮨) was so big and thick that it was just soooo satisfying to bite into... especially given the crunchy texture of the mackerel.
To share: guinea fowl from Florilège, Tokyo - guinea fowl can often be boring, or worse, overcooked. This one was cooked perfectly, with a soft and fluffy texture without being mushy. And the glutinous rice cooked in miso made it even more interesting.
Simmered snow crab meat with tomalley (蟹身 蟹味噌) from Kimoto (紀茂登), Tokyo - it's hard to imagine a better crab dish than the combination of crab tomalley, crab meat, and dashi simmered together. Absolutely delicious.
The final count is 35 dishes - which I had whittled down from an initial list of about 45. 2018 has been an exceptional year for me in terms of dining out, but I'm going to try to cut down on the number out large meals in 2019. Growing Boy needs to shrink a little...
It's the start of a new year, and just like last year, I went on an excursion away from the concrete jungle. The difference, though, was that I'm spending it in Taiwan... and it's a very wet day.
We started the day by visiting the New Taipei City Government Gold Museum (新北市立黃金博物館) out in Jinguashi (金瓜石). This area used to be a place where people mined for gold, so there is a whole complex of buildings showing different aspects of the industry - including dormitories where the miners used to live. We walked through the grounds of the Jinguashi Crown Prince Chalet (太子賓館), where Emperor Hirohito (裕仁天皇) stayed in 1922 before his ascension to the chrysanthemum throne.
The main attraction here, of course, was the Gold Building (黃金館). This building has an exhibit on the history of the industry, and includes a section on the Allied WWII POWs who were forced to work in the mines by the Japanese. But the pièce de résistance would be that huge block of solid gold weighing in at 220.3kg, and visitors lined up to take their pictures with this baby.
We needed to get some lunch, so we moved to the touristy Jiufen Old Street (九份老街) looking for an old favorite of mine. Unfortunately, it seems that the shop selling giant pork balls (貢丸) has changed hands, so eventually I gave up the search and had an unremarkable lunch at a place I didn't care to remember.
The Parental Units decided we should take Mama Kitty to Suntay Teppanyaki (三太養生鐵板燒) for dinner. I haven't been back here for more than 10 years, but there was a time when I enjoyed the "healthy" take on teppanyaki (鉄板焼) served here. The cooking here is very simple, without much seasoning, as it emphasizes showcasing the natural flavors of the ingredients.
We didn't need a lot of food, so the Parental Units chose the usual, smallest set (一太套餐).
Next was an egg soft-cooked in an onion cocotte, then topped with a scallop seared on the side, and served with a few drops of Maggi sauce. Too bad the scallop was overcooked.
Top grade beef sirloin rolls (頂級沙朗牛肉卷) - there were three slices of sirloin, and each was rolled with a different stuffing:
Semi-dried tomato with Thai basil (風乾蕃茄和九層塔)
Kumquat with marinated chili (金桔和剝皮辣椒) - the chili was reasonably spicy, but thankfully the sweetness from the kumquat helped to neutralize it a little.
Flying fish roe, peeled chili, and perilla leaves (飛魚卵 剝皮辣椒和紫蘇) - the fish roe was still pretty crunchy.
This being New Year's Day and all, and since we had a quiet night last night, we brought along a nice bottle of Champagne.
Jacques Selosse V.O., dégorgée le 15 Octobre2009 - pretty mature now, of course nose was oxidized, showing marmalade and minerality.
It's the last day of our trip, and I promised to take Mama Kitty for some more breakfast as long as she was game. So the two of us dragged our butts out of bed before sunrise and left the apartment shortly after 6 a.m... as I was set on getting in line at Fu Hang Dou Jiang (阜杭豆漿) by 6:30 a.m. or so.
I was thankful that we only had to wait about 20 minutes or so... and Mama Kitty tried out a couple of items she normally doesn't get in Hong Kong. It's certainly hearty and filling for breakfast!
After napping for a few more hours, I had to get up and take the rest of the gang out for lunch. I had heard a lot of talk about Wu Bai Chicken House (伍佰雞屋) but never had enough motivation to check it out. But I decided that today would be that day, as I had an ulterior motive in mind...
There were only 3 of us, and we had to work with some dietary restrictions, so we didn't get to try out many of their famous dishes.
We needed to take a walk after stuffing ourselves, so I wandered to the adjacent lane and... lo and behold, if it wasn't Eastern Ice Store (東區粉圓)!
Haokoufu and the Hungry Girl in Taipei were swinging through town for a few days, and they invited me to join them for lunch at The Chairman (大班樓). I've been here a few times over the years, but this would be the first meal where Danny actually sat down with us.
A chef friend dropped by to say hello to the visitors, and Danny kindly invited him to join us - although we had run through most of the menu by this time.
Haokoufu very kindly brought a bottle of a small production sparkling wine from Taiwan - with a limited run of just around 1,000 bottles. Unfortunately I fear it was wasted on a philistine palate like mine...
Weight Stone Gris de Noirs Cuvée Classique N° 15, dégorgée en Octobre 2018 - nose smells like... Kyoho or other table grapes. Some acidity here on the palate.
I was pretty stuffed at the end of the meal, but very, very happy. Many thanks to Danny for this unexpected treat! You shouldn't have...
We are doing a long-awaited catch-up with Diva at Neighborhood, and someone was craving for some ro ro. Spanish ro ro, in fact... so we obviously have come to the right place as Rubia Galega is one of the staples on the menu.
I absolutely loved the strong flavors coming from cattle this old. WHY, YES! I DO like it when my beef tastes like cheese. Blue cheese, to be exactly. And let's add some bone marrow and caviar on top, while we're at it! Oh man... Will you just look at that strip of yellow fat down the side??
2014 Ganevat Les Grands Teppes Vieilles Vignes - minerals and enough ripeness on the nose. Damn! That acidity on the palate! It's not lean or steely, though... still round and ripe. A little flinty.
A very happy meal for all. As usual this is the restaurant I visit most each year, but I "only" came 9 times in 2018. Let's see how many meals it will be in 2019!