Monday, April 29, 2013

Hitting the Right Tone - The New Ta Pantry

We got a table reservation at the model-turned-chef Esther Sham's new Ta Pantry restaurant a week ahead of its official opening in late April. I didn't have a chance to try her food at the original location on Wanchai's Star Street before it was closed, but based on what I heard from friends and fellow food bloggers, I am quite eager to see and taste what her creative fusion menu has to offer.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

As close as it gets - Catalunya Hong Kong

A couple evenings ago I was at Catalunya with a group of fellow food lovers who called themselves the Amateur Gourmet. Catalunya is a new restaurant only opened in late March/early April, but has already become quite a talk of the town - being hailed as the candidate for new restaurant of the year by every local lifestyle magazines in circulation and all that - with the culinary team apparently coming from the kitchen of (the former) El Bulli. This is their second outpost in Asia - the other one being in Singapore on an "island" near One Fullerton with a full view of the Marina Bay Sands. Anyway, just as you thought its Hong Kong branch would be located in Central or at least a prime spot downtown, it's actually in a quiet neighborhood known as Morrison Hill somewhere in between Wanchai and Causeway Bay. It could be hard to find if you are not familiar with the area.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A suiting finale meal - Ginza Harutaka

With only a short 2-day stayover in Tokyo after swinging by a few other places in central Honshu the days before, we were careful in picking the restaurants we would like to try and make arrangement well in advance to avoid any dissappointment. We didn't necessarily go for the ones with the most stars or the highest ratings, but wanted to look for new places that were consistantly good and recommended by some of our foodie friends. (you can read some of the other meals we had in Tokyo here and here)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tai O Staycation

Even I myself felt we had too much of vacation time in March and April - not that I am complaining. After the Easter long weekend, we headed off to Tai O on Lantau for an overnight "staycation" in this quiet fishing village on quite literally the western end of Hong Kong.

I made room reservation at the Tai O Heritage Hotel a few months back (it's really hard to book and must book well in advance), which I totally forgot until they called to confirm the booking in early March. Since by then it has passed the cancellation deadline, I figure we might as well take another break even we just had our weeklong vacation to the land of the rising sun. Anyway, the hotel, which opened in 2012, used to be the old Tai O police station built in 1902 and have been in use until a few years ago. Since then the building, now recognized as a heritage site, was completely renovated and converted into a boutique hotel as part of the government preservation effort, with 9 guest rooms plus a restaurant. They tried to preserve the original structure as much as possible, and any additional construction (for example, the elevators) was actually removable so the overall architecture was not altered - that included the restaurant, which was built above the original building with the sun-roof providing lighting from natural source during day time. We had dessert after dinner and then breakfast the next day at this lovely restaurant and we enjoyed it much.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

(Vegetarian) Cooking at Home (Part 2): Garden Salad with Balsamic Gastrique

This is the second part of the vegetarian cooking series. Well basically I was asked by a local magazine to share the recipes for several vegetarian dishes, and I came up with a 4-course meal with salad, secondi (pasta), main and dessert which can be made in a regular home kitchen with easy-to-find ingredients. It was done over one Saturday afternoon at home and they featured the recipes over a few issues later on. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thoughts for Boston

Boston always has a pretty special place in my heart - I never quite considered the city to be my home but I did spend a fair amount of time there, on and off for almost one year between 2000-2002. It's a place I shared good and bad memories - including that Tuesday morning when I saw on TV two planes smashed into the Twin Towers, and then because of that I was stranded here for more than 2 weeks afterwards. Nonetheless I was always amazed at the beautiful scenery and rich history this city has to offer, not to mention the many delicious food and drinks and the vibrant social life I got to enjoy while living there - time passed and many of those are still vivid in my memory. It's still one of my favorite American cities.

More often than not I stayed at Copley Place when I was there - right around the finishing line of the Marathon and not far away from where the bombs went off yesterday actually, so in a sense it does feel like my own neighborhood was under attack and I feel the shock and sorrow as many in Boston has gone through seeing the scene of chaos with people running for their lives and injured being wheeled into ambulance. This is why today, my heart and prayers particularly go to the city of Boston and its people.

So far, 3 people died - including a 8-year-old kid - and hundreds injured, but it affected far more beyond that and the negative feeling may last for a while. I am sure some may even feel like living through the 911 anxiety all over again. But it's important we let our lives go on, not because of indifference to those who suffered but with resolve and in stern defiance, and say loudly to those evils who did this - we should not let such cowardly act and whoever did this terrible thing have their ways in inflicting fears on us. We are far better than that.

I salute to those first responders and volunteers and helpers on the work they have done on treating the injured, comforting those mourn and were worried, keeping everyone safe and trying to bring everything back to normal as soon as possible. May God bless you and be with you all.

Monday, April 15, 2013

An Invitation at Brickhouse

I was at Brickhouse recently for a dinner invitation to taste their new menu. It's been a while since I was last here so I was eager to try some of the newer items Chef Austin Fry has made. It's also good fun to meet up with old friends and new ones at the dinner table who shared the same passion in eating (and blogging about their experiences).

Friday, April 12, 2013

Quest for Tempura - Kondo

Tempura is my second favorite type of Japanese food, just behind sushi. If you think tempura's nothing more than just some shrimps or fish or vegetables dipped in batter and deep-fried in oil, try come to Tokyo and go to one of the many good tempura restaurants. I randomly walked into the legendary Tenichi Honten at Ginza by myself 10 years ago and had the best tempura of my life, and that forever changed my view on this adopted Japanese cuisine ever since.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Our First Sake Tour - Shirataki Sake Brewery

One of the many interesting parts of the recent Japan trip is a visit to the Shirataki Sake Brewery (白瀧酒造) in Echigo-Yuzawa in the southern part of Niigata prefecture. We were drawn to the area of Niigata mainly for it being a major rice growing and sake brewing region. I always wanted to go up close to learn more about how to make sake, but turned out it's much harder to find a brewery open to public, and even harder to find one that have someone fluent in English to explain everything to us than say finding a vineyard that can do the same for wine elsewhere. But a few email exchanges later, I am glad that Shirataki Sake Brewery agreed to show us around their facilities, and guide us through sake tasting at the end of the tour.

Friday, April 5, 2013

(Vegetarian) Cooking at home: Cauliflower au gratin

I was asked to do a recipe series for some vegetarian dishes for a local magazine recently. Given I am not a vegetarian myself, I found it a bit ironic but nonetheless I wanted to take this up as a challenge, to come up with something decent yet easy to make for fellow home cooks. At the end I made a 4-course dinner with salad, pasta, main and dessert which can be done within one hour if you prepare some steps in advance - at least that was the plan.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lunch at Sushi Kanesaka

Our itinerary started at Tokyo and then off we went to the Honshu heartland of Gunma, Nagano and Niigata prefectures, and as final stop, we stayed a few additional days in Tokyo, both for cherry blossom sightings, and more importantly, for more food.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013