Thursday, December 31, 2015

Signing off 2015

Signing off 2015 with a collage of all the food memories throughout the year, as this has became kind of my tradition taking a trip back the memory lane for the past 12 months.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Through the Red Door

When my friend M told me about his supper club project at The Fringe Club a few months back, to be honest I was both curious and secretly, a bit doubtful at the same time. To start with, as far as food is concerned, I wasn't aware of anything serious going on at the venue ever since Michelle Garnaut left her legendary namesake restaurant behind a few years ago. And I haven't heard much of this new supper club - called Red Door Dining Lab - despite it being in operations for a while already and I considered myself to be kinda in the know of any new and exciting restaurant openings. The lack of information added to the sense of mystery and also, skepticism.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Breakfast at The Pen

We always have this ideal Sunday morning in our mind which starts with a leisure breakfast at The Pen followed by an easy walk to church down the Nathan Road on a Sunday morning. But in practice we often opted for the second best, but a much easier option instead, which was to sleep in until we must get up to be on time for church.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Pit-iful Smokehouse

Last week, I went for dinner with a very high expectation at a private barbecue kitchen inside an industrial building quite literally in the middle of nowhere on the island side as our group's pre-christmas celebration. Some friends of mine loved the turkey they made at a pop-up event during the thanksgiving weekend, and from the pictures on their Facebook page everything looked good and proper. Maybe after all these years Hong Kong finally got a legit "artisanal smokehouse" as the place claimed to be, or so I thought. Well sadly from what I have tried on that night I reckon it was quite a far-fetched statement, and it's more like another living proof that just by putting "artisanal" in your logo doesn't mean you are necessarily any good or know what you are doing.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Family Style Issan Dinner

Chachawan may no longer be the newest Thai restaurant in the hippiest neighorhood in town these days, having open more than a year ago right on Hollywood Road, but it's still buzzing as ever, even on a random Monday evening that I managed to pop by for dinner with some friends who wanted to say goodbye to Chef Adam Clift on his last day there before he moves on for the next gig.

With the seven of us going as a group, we went for quite a number of different dishes, all served in family style - just came up a little short of "sweeping" the whole menu. The portion of the dishes was decent, good enough for going around with everyone getting a fair share of food. Most of the dishes were spicy but not unbearably so, and I do love the bold flavors - a good kick of spiciness and acidity which brightened up the dishes served. Chachawan was known to serve the authentic Thai dishes from the northern region, known as Issan cuisine, best known for the liberal use of spices, especially chili.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Caprice Bar Lunch

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to try out the new lunch offering at Caprice Bar of Four Seasons Hong Kong. I loved the idea when Caprice Bar was first opened for lighter fare in the evening with a more casual food and drink menu than its fine-dining "big brother" next door, something we have enjoyed much either for a late-night "simple" supper with just wine and cheese, or a chilled evening out with friends, chatting over a few drinks and charcuterie platter. I am glad that now the similar concept is extended to weekday lunch hours.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Celebrate at Tate Dining Room

We wanted to check out Tate Dining Room for some time already, but haven't been able to nail it down on our diary until last week. We have heard great things about Chef Vicky Lau's cooking at this Michelin-starred restaurant in Soho, so we thought it would be the perfect place for our wedding anniversary celebration in early December.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Number 4

Just as we returned from a weekend away in Singapore where we had a memorable pop-up meal from one of the World's 50 Best Restaurants, we received an email promoting yet another dinner event, this time in Hong Kong at Landmark Mandarin Oriental featuring the top restaurant in Latin America.

I got to be honest here - before the event, I have not heard of Chef Virgilio Martinez nor his restaurant Central in Lima, Peru. True it's voted top on the Latin America's 50 Best Restaurant and is number 4 in this year's world ranking, something that should be in my radar naturally you would expect, but I guess Lima just sounded too far away for me to pay any serious attention to. But that's exactly why I was particularly interested in this dinner event, because otherwise it may be hard to try his food in the foreseeable future.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Fraternity Food

There is no secret that the best Shanghainese food in town was served inside an old building in Central at the clubhouse of Shanghai Fraternity Association. What started as a meeting place for people sharing a similar cultural heritage some 30 years ago has grown to become an exclusive, members-only venue best known for its exquisite Shangainese cuisine served at their restaurant.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Thanksgiving Turkey a la Peking Duck

We haven't really celebrated thanksgiving for the past few years, but this year, when we saw the special promotion at Mott 32 for their special roast turkey during the thanksgiving week, we thought we would give it a try and have our belated celebration at lunch on the Sunday after thanksgiving.

As we walked down the dark staircase of the restaurant right in the middle of the central business district at the basement of Standard Chartered Building, I was actually surprised that the place was so crowded in a Sunday afternoon. Yes, I know the place was packed with people on weekdays and evenings, being one of those high-end Chinese restaurants many people talked about, but I never expected so many people in this part of town during weekends.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Snake Soup at a Warm Winter Night

With temperature still hitting the high 20's during the day even as we approached late November, it certainly didn't feel like we were at the right season for the old-fashioned Cantonese snake soup, but that didn't stop our friend Growing Boy from rounding up a gang of friends for another night of snake soup dinner at our favorite private kitchen in town last week.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

VEA-ry Impressive Dinner

There is always a constant stream of new restaurant openings throughout the year in Hong Kong, but to me, so far in 2015 there is none more exciting than this new place near Sheung Wan, which opened its door a couple of weeks ago.

This new restaurant, called VEA, is a collaboration project between Chef Vicky Cheng (formerly of Liberty Private Works) and mixologist/bartender Antonio Lai of The Quinary. I am a fan of Chef Vicky's creative cooking since his early LPW days so I am eager to find out his next move since he left the old venture early this year after over 4 years at the helm. And I came here for the dinner tasting during their soft opening period last week at the invitation of their PR.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Madame Pork

When my friend C mentioned we were going to lunch at "Madame Pork" on our second day in Shunde (順德), I had this mental image of a rustic, somewhat filthy roadside eatery with a fat lady with knife in one hand, cigarette in her mouth, whilst tending a pot of pork stew by the stove (don't ask me why). Not that I really mind street food, but you could imagine I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the restaurant and saw the grand, old Chinese-style entrance gate with a giant Christmas tree next to it, something resembles a high-end restaurant instead of what I had in mind originally.

And just when I thought "Madame Pork" might be a nickname for the restaurant, it's the actual name - they even have a large plaque with the name in Chinese "Jue Yuk Por" (豬肉婆) hung up high at the entrance so there's no mistake. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Late Night Teppanyaki

We were looking for a place for post-concert supper when we "stumbled" across this little Japanese restaurant called "Kozy Okonomi-yaki Teppan-yaki" in Causeway Bay on Google search. A quick glance at the online reviews did look promising, so we trekked over across the harbor from the concert hall after the show ended at 10pm, figured it would be interesting to try out a new place for a quick late-night treat.

Friday, November 20, 2015

From Spain to Vietnam

I was intrigued when I saw the press release about an upcoming dinner event featuring a collaboration between two relatively new casual restaurants in town, La Paloma in Sai Ying Pun and Viet Kitchen in Central. A special menu will be available for 2 nights only - one at each restaurant - in the last week of November, with the joint effort to blend the food and cooking of Spanish and Vietnamese cuisine for a series of unique dishes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Lunch at the Village of Fish and Rice

We put on our travel backpacks for the second consecutive weekend in early November and headed out for a short break to Shunde (順德), a small town in Guangdong province just north of our border, about 2 hours away by speed ferry.

Locals have long referred Shunde as a "village of fish and rice" (魚米之鄉) - for its abundant produce from its fertile land at the Pearl River Delta region. And people from Shunde were known to have exquisite taste and cooking skills, and arguably, their dishes represented the best of Cantonese cuisine.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Hipster Sunday Brunch at Artichoke

A few friends have separately recommended Artichoke as the place to go for Sunday brunch in Singapore so we decided to give it a try while on a quick weekend holiday there recently. There are quite a number of small cafes and restaurants serving brunch-style food in town but we were told Artichoke does something different, and better than most.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Oops I did it again - Massimo Bottura Dinner Encore

The feeling of serendipity of sorts hit when I saw the press release 2 months ago about Chef Massimo Bottura being the guest chef at Shangri-la Singapore in late October, on the very weekend we happened to be in town to watch a tennis tournament. I couldn't quite believe such a stroke of luck hitting us twice - only a few months ago another coincidence led me to an unforgettable meal at another pop-up dinner hosted by Chef Massimo in Milan.

The October event was part of the Shangri-la hotel chain's "International Festival of Gastronomy" campaign, featuring 8 different chefs of Michelin-starred restaurants each offer a special menu at five of the hotel properties around the globe. Despite the initial sticker shock - let's just say it's not something we would normally be willing to pay for one meal - we confirmed the reservation as soon as it became available, as I figured an encore for a great meal without having to fly half the world is an opportunity too hard to miss.

Friday, November 6, 2015

HCMC Foodie Trip: The One with Banh Mi

One of my regrets of not spending more time in Ho Chi Minh City was not being able to try out all the wonderful street food in town - well, I guess there's never enough time since on every block at every corner you see people cooking and eating, day or night.

But rather than lamenting on the food that I didn't have time for, I would rather look back at the delicious stuff I was able to try during my short stay, and on top of my list would probably be Banh Mi.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Labor Union Snake Feast

Last week we showed up at a rather unusual place - a commercial building in Kwun Tong in a makeshift dining hall - for a dinner event commonly known by locals as "labor union snake feast", something uniquely Hong Kong and with deep connection in our grassroot culture.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Tosca's Wine Lunch

I have always wanted to check out the wine lunch series at Tosca at The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, where every month a new theme was introduced for their weekend menu with specific wine and food pairings, whether that be based on a specific region, or grape varietal or sometimes even production method (they did one with biodynamic wines before)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me

We often use the occasion of birthday celebrations as an excuse to check out any fancy new restaurant in town, but this time, we decided to go back to one of our favorites, the tried-and-true Caprice at the Four Seasons, to celebrate my own birthday.

Life has been quite hectic for both of us lately so the prospect of a slow and quiet dinner at a place we have been perfectly comfortable with was something that we eagerly anticipate. We were also excited to see what new dishes Chef Fabrice and the team would bring to us, as October came the time for the new menu to be introduced for the autumn game season.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Chasing the Roast Goose

There's no food as iconic in our culture as "siu mei" (燒味), the traditional Cantonese roast, and it's one of those dishes that transcends all boundaries. From an unassuming box of char siu (barbecued pork) served with hot steamed rice and dressed with soy sauce, one could be had for as low as 20 Hong Kong dollars at a casual cha chaan teng, to the whole roast suckling pig brought in to each table with much fanfare at the most luxurious wedding banquet at a hotel ballroom, siu mei is enjoyed by locals of all generations and walks of life. And anyone new to town should be aware that raising the topic of where to find the best siu yuk (roast pork with crispy skin) among a group of Hongkongers should by all means be avoided, if you don't want to get caught in a heated discussion, as everyone here seems to have their own opinions of their favorite place.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sushi with Heavy Taste

I found it dangerous to have a good (and expensive) sushi joint near to my new office, with Sushi Mori Tomoaki now sits just right across the street. Obviously it's not very healthy for my wallet if I fall into the habit of making too frequent a visit there. But I did let myself in one afternoon last week and walked over for a quick lunch. I know it's a bit over the top for just another weekday meal, but this time I told myself this is a little birthday treat to myself - only a couple days in advance.

Monday, October 19, 2015

HCMC Foodie Trip - The One with Huong Lai

I followed my friend C's recommendation to have lunch at Huong Lai, located just a couple blocks away from the Independence Palace and the Notre Dame Cathedral. The place is located on a main street not far away from the major tourist spots but the entrance could be a bit obscure and easy to miss, with just a small sign and a narrow door on the street level with stairs leading up to the dining area on the second floor.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fancy Lunch at L'Altro

It's like a constant carousel movement with dining establishments come and go at L Place in Central faster than you blink, but L'Altro on the 10th Floor has been the longest lasting one still standing. We never got a chance to come around to check out this fine-dining restaurant, but I am glad I finally did just that last week for lunch, just when my long holiday is sadly coming to an end.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

HCMC Foodie Trip - The One at Cuc Gach Quan

Lunch at Cuc Gach Quan is only one of the few meals I had at a proper sit-down restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City. Many people have recommended this cozy, "countryside" restaurant on the fringe of District 1 serving traditional Vietnamese cuisine, so I came here for lunch one afternoon.

Friday, October 9, 2015

HCMC Foodie Trip - The One with The Lunch Lady

One of my favorite travel experiences in Ho Chi Minh City was to try the food prepared by Nguyen Thi Thanh - aka the Lunch Lady - at her stall at a residential neighborhood on the fringe of District 1, near to the Mekong River bank. She got her worldwide fame since Anthony Bourdain covered his visit in a TV show a few years back and couldn't sing enough praises of her, her food and the stall.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

HCMC Foodie Trip: The One with Pho

I know I have come to the right town to visit when everywhere I walked by, I could see those little food stalls on the roadside serving all kinds of different food. Ho Chi Minh City is truly a foodie town, especially if you are into street food, and I was eager to explore more during my stay in this interesting city for all the wonderful food, particularly Pho, perhaps the most famous Vietnamese dishes of all.

Monday, October 5, 2015

HCMC Foodie Trip: 5 Days in Saigon

I recently returned from a trip to Saigon, by myself. CX ran a special Fanfare promotion to SGN in late September so I figure it's a good time to pay a visit to a country that I have never visited before, something I haven't done for more than 4 years.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pre-opening Dinner

My friend E has been working on this new restaurant concept for a while at the site under the same roof as his wine cellar venture. It's good to see that the project is near completion and last weekend, we were there to give it a try.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Dinner with a bunch of oldies

The idea of a special themed BYO dinner just came towards the end of our last BYO gathering at the end of August. This time it's been decided that the theme was going to be "Wines before 1990", and someone in our group came up of the idea of hosting the dinner at an equally old-ish restaurant The China Club. (Technically speaking the club was only opened in 1991 but the building itself - the Old Bank of China Building - certainly went way back, so that counts!)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Good to be home - OZONE x SUSHISAMBA Dinner

After spending a few days in Ho Chi Minh City walking in sweltering heat and feeding myself mostly on casual, street food, it was good for a change for my first meal back in Hong Kong. During the Moon Festival long weekend, Ritz Carlton Hong Kong is running a pop-up special menu at their OZONE restaurant, featuring the food and drinks from New York City's SUSHISAMBA restaurant, and they asked me to join them for a tasting on the first night of the event.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Breakfast at Blue Bar

As much as locals were obsessed with all-you-can-eat meals offered in many places around town, it seems like no one really paid attention to the breakfast buffets, as offered in most hotels, for a meal which some may argue as "the most important one of the day". Guess that's just something I would never understand, as I do enjoy hotel breakfasts, especially when I am traveling.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Back to School at SAAM

There were way too many restaurant openings in Hong Kong throughout the year, which inadvertently means some just never got on my radar. SAAM in Soho was one of them - I sort of heard about it when it opened late last year, but I never got around to check it out. But last week I was invited to a dinner tasting for their new seasonal menu.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Ritz Carlton x Godiva Afternoon Tea

The hiatus from 9-to-5 work afforded me to do things I wouldn't be able to do before - like having a leisurely afternoon tea on a weekday. Ritz Carlton Hong Kong is running a 3-month-long promotion with a crossover afternoon tea menu at Cafe 103 starting in October, featuring the chocolates and goodies from Godiva, and we were given a sneak preview one weekday afternoon.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Quick Meal in Central

Last week I had the opportunity of having lunch at Lai Bun Fu, one of the new-ish boutique Chinese restaurants in Central. The restaurant is located on "On Lan Street" just a block away from Lan Kwai Fong, sharing the same building as a few fine new western restaurants.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Lazy Beachside Lunch

This probably sounded like a humble brag, but recently one of my favorite pastimes has been hanging out at Repulse Bay on a weekday. In the past I always thought the beaches on the south side of the island were too crowded and too far away, plus I am not exactly a beach person so there isn't much to do there, but turned out on a weekday when there's little traffic, it's only a quick 20 minute drive from home, and even with scores of tourists making whistle stop at the sightseeing spots occasionally, the place is relatively quiet and orderly, and there are ample parking available even on the street meters. And most important of all, inside the new shopping complex The Pulse right by the beach, there are numerous new restaurants and cafes providing decent choices as far as food and drink are concerned.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Restaurant Opening - El Mercado

To be honest, I have never heard of the term "Nikkei Cuisine" until an invitation arrived in my inbox for a dinner tasting at El Mercado, a new restaurant in town serving this unique culinary specialty, a crossover between Japanese and Peruvian cuisines. My knowledge of Peruvian cooking was limited to ceviche and perhaps some fusion dishes created by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, probably the most famous Nikkei chef gaining worldwide fame with the chain of his namesake restaurants, before the proliferation of the term "Nikkei Cuisine".

Friday, September 11, 2015

Eating and Drinking at a Popup Bar

Of course, there were numerous occasions that we are more than willing to go the distance to try out the best restaurants, cafes or bars in far away places, but it's also nice when some of them come to you instead, saving us all the hassles. A few days ago I was at MO Bar at Landmark Mandarin Oriental, checking out the food and drink at a popup by the visiting gang from Employees Only, a speakeasy-style bar/restaurant in New York City's West Village, which is now ranked one of the world's best.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Be full and drunk

There's an old Cantonese saying "Eat, drink and be full and drunk" (飲飽食醉) which we often used to describe a perfect meal. Of course, there's some merit to that - after all we belong to a culture which treats feasting as the most important social activity, and how can one be completely satisfied if there's no sufficient food or drink on the table for everyone? But then, it seems to be too easy if all we needed were a full stomach and a light-headed mind - even a few bowls of plain rice and a bottle of cheap vodka would have done the job. So what constitutes a perfect meal?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Sukiyaki at Mishima-tei

I knew the only chance I could get a table at Mishima-tei, the Kyoto restaurant specialized in beef dishes, without a reservation was to go for an early lunch just when the restaurant opens, so I did exactly that. We have been here for dinner previously and loved their food and the whole experience of dining inside the old building, and my sudden craving for beef brought me back here last month when I was in town again.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Shoku at The Pulse

Lately there seemed to be quite some buzzes from this new shopping/dining premise called The Pulse at Repulse Bay, featuring a few new and interesting restaurants, many of which received excellent reviews. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to try one of them, a Japanese restaurant called Shoku, at a dinner organized by their PR team.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Koyasan Experience Part 2: The Art of Shojin Ryori

True, during my stay in Koyasan I was impressed by its beautiful scenery, stunningly magnificent architecture and interesting lodging facilities, but it's their unique cuisine which drew me here in the first place. With its religious background, Koyasan is known for Shojin Ryori (精進料理), the art of vegetarian fine dining.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Koyasan Experience Part 1: Hostel and Temple Lodging

After Kyoto, I set off for a few days of tranquility at Koyasan (高野山), a secluded mountainous area in Wakayama Prefecture, about 3 hours away by train. Koyasan, or Mount Koyu, is considered a sacred site for the Japanese Shingon Buddhism, founded by monk Kobo Daishi who built the first temple on the mountain in the year 826 AD after returning from China in Tang Dynasty. Since then, over 100 temples were built in the area and now it has become a major pilgrim site, or for me, a perfect place for time of retreat and to enjoy the beauty of mother nature. I am also interested in touring around this UNESCO World Heritage site and experience their unique cuisine. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Staying and Dining in a Milan Farmhouse

With my 3-day itinerary in Milan focusing solely on the Expo, and that the Expo's theme is on food and culture, I just thought it's appropriate that I stayed in a place which was somewhat related along that line. Un Posto a Milano, which literally means "a place in Milan", was housed in a 17th Century farmhouse which has now been converted into a combination of hostel, bar and restaurant, community space and urban farm, which sounded just perfect for me as a weekend accommodation choice. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Newest Thai Restaurant in Town

We normally would wait at least a couple of months before trying any new restaurants, because just like cars, we believe restaurants do need some time to run in to perform at the right level - menu is to be revised and refined, front staff to be trained, and kitchen team to bond and get on the same page with one another. But this time we decided to take a chance with this new restaurant that's not even officially opened because I am curious enough to defy our "unwritten rule" for this one time.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Food Crawl in Omotesando

Over the past few months a number of new restaurants have opened up near the shopping district of Omotesando, which justified my spending one afternoon just to do some serious food crawling in the area.

Monday, August 24, 2015

In Search of an Antique Gallery

Four years ago we stumbled across an interesting antique shop in Kyoto by chance. The storefront looked unassuming from outside, with a few ceramic items on display from the window, but once we stepped inside, it's like we found a land of treasure, with a fine collection of vintage kitchenware and drinkware all in excellent condition and reasonably priced.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Yakitori at a Sake Brewery

The neighborhood of Fushimi (伏見), about 15 minutes away by local train from Kyoto, was known as one of the oldest sake-brewing region in the country, partly because of the proximity to the former capital and also because of the great quality of water that flow through the area, providing the perfect key ingredient for brewing. And I was here one evening not only for some sake tasting, and for a serious chicken feast at an izakaya which was actually part of the brewery.