Friday, February 25, 2022

One off the List (in a good way)

Less than a week after the announcement of the new Michelin Guide, in which a few new restaurants were awarded their stars for the first time, I was happy to scratch one off the list of “starred restaurant in Hong Kong that I haven’t been to”. With that I was referring to Yong Fu 甬府, which many have said serves some of the best “Jiang-zhe” dishes in town. 

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Holiday Sushi

We had more proper sushi meal in town than ever before since the pandemic, for obvious reasons. The latest one came a month ago at Sushi Tokami at Harbour City. When we saw an empty spot available during the Lunar New Year long holiday, we took it and so here we are, going for an omakase meal at 2pm on Nin Chor Yee (or the second day of the new year). 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The Legacy House

With the elegantly designed private room and the gorgeous harbor view from the window at the far end of the room, The Legacy House certainly made a great first impression to me as I went out to eat there just before the Lunar New Year festivities.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Cantonese Delights

I ate at Yue at Times Square a couple of months ago – the group under which the restaurant is operating is progressively expanding in 2021 in all fronts and Yue is one of their latest venture and first focusing on Cantonese cuisine (the name Yue, which literally means Delight, has the same pronunciation as Canton). 

Saturday, February 5, 2022

One Of A Kind

You know the meal was a special one before it started when the commute involved a private boat that carried our group to where the lunch eventually took place. The 15-minute boat ride did feel longer than it was, almost like being transposed to a totally different country with the Santorini-like vibe surrounding this private beachside villa completed with a private pier. 

Chef S and her small team were already making the final preparation as we walked in and began admiring everything from the well-equipped open kitchen on one side of the house, to the outdoor sculpture at the entrance, to basically every corner that were well-suited for the cover story of home decor magazines or IG snapshots. It's the kind of place most would dream of having, or even just to spend a day or two chilling and cooking in the kitchen with the gorgeous sea view. ("No pictures allowed on social media," I was told before we set foot in the place, and I intend to respect this rule by the host to the dot - so, sorry!)

The lawyer-turned-chef S made this family home of hers into a culinary atelier of sorts, flexing her muscles with a creative menu making use of local and imported ingredients and prepared in contemporary style. Spots at one of her tables are hard to come by and available strictly by referrals, true to the place's namesake being OOAK, the acronym for "One Of A Kind". 

What she served at lunch was described as the simpler version, with 4 courses plus amuse-bouche and petit fours. The elaborate "platter" appeared soon as we settled down at the table right in front of the open kitchen, with a quartet of canapes served with the theme of "Four Senses" - Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Spicy - which we enjoyed in the same order. 

We began with the tiny crispy "sandwich" of sweet corn puree garnished with baby shiso, followed by the dragonfruit gazpacho served in a shot glass with much tanginess and a hint of grassy taste from the sweet peppers. The bitterness from the third canape came from the Okinawan bitter gourd served on a rice crisp and topped with salted egg yolk for the flavor balance. The spicy one was my favorite - inspired by the classic dim sum "wu kok" (芋角) with taro mixed with chilies, tossed in a fluffy batter and deep-fried. You got this nice contrast of creamy and crispy texture with a spicy kick. 

Our first proper course was described as "Local Razor Clam". While not literally caught in local waters, they are purveyed at local fish market live and blanched a la minute at the kitchen before serving with scores of other ingredients mixed in. The touch of honeydew melon and sichuan pepper oil was interesting, giving each bite a nice contrast of umami, sweet and spicy tastes, and the presentation was impressive too, especially with such a small team they have. 

We continued with the theme of seafood, this time with Venus Clams (or Fa Gaap 花甲 in Cantonese), which are surely local and came into prime season at this time of year.  The clams came in decent size and got great umami flavor, and served with homemade tofu, Chinese celery puree and topped with a deep-fried shiso leaf. The tofu got nice firm texture but I thought it could do with slightly more flavor, or rather, use yuba (tofu skin) instead of the whole bloc of tofu to introduce the clean soy taste to accompany the nice sweet clams. Ume, or Japanese plum, was said to be used in the dish but to me it was hardly noticeable. And I did regret turning down the option of adding caviar on top - that rich umami flavor would have completed the dish nicely. 

Our main course was turbot. In the center of the dish was a piece of fish fillet, grilled and topped with "ratatouille" with a twist. The ingredients of the traditional vegetable stew were cut into fine brunoise and slow-cooked in oil along with crumbled soybeans, similar to the classic Sichuan "Dau So Yue" 豆酥魚. On the side was fermented endive rolled with cucumber jelly for the hint of acidity, plus the creamiest parsnip puree and the bouncy gnocchi for the textures (and colors with the gnocchi dough infused with spinach and beetroot). That was my favorite dish of the afternoon both in terms of taste and originality. 

The last course was souffle with blackberry ice-cream served on the side. The souffle was prepared gluten-free with rice flour used and that lightened up the texture somewhat. I also liked the white sesame and macadamia added in for the mild nutty flavor. Ending the meal was another fancy display of bite-sized sweets, including the warm madeleines baked with Da Hong Pao tea, the much-celebrated black tea from Fujian known for the hint of orchid aroma. 

Not knowing the menu in advance, I brought two bottles blind to match. Couldn't go wrong with the champagne to start, showing plenty of youthfulness with sweet lemon and apples and plenty of minerals. I thought the burgundy red was a safe choice - while not perfectly matched but it did work decently well with our main course with the rich "ratatouille" toppings. Medium bodied, good intensity for a village wine, violet bouquet, mildly fruity with some black fruit characters and plum on the palate. 

The meal and place certainly lived up to the hype of being OOAK, and for the unique dining experience (plus the feeling of travelling somewhere without setting foot out of Hong Kong), it was quite something. 

When? January 15 2022
Where? OOAK, somewhere in Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? The Sea - Turbot, "Ratatouille", Fermented Endive, Cucumber, Parsnip, Gnocchi
Champagne Vouette et Sorbee Cuvee Fidele Brut Nature NV (Disgorged 2018)
2017 Domaine de la Vougeraie Chambolle-Musigny

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Gin-Cantonese Pairing

I got to give them credits for being creative – a Chinese degustation dinner where gin is the theme. With dining restrictions still looming because of COVID, one has to think of new ways to lure customers back to the dining table and in this case, I sure was curious enough to give it a shot at Conrad Hong Kong when Chef Wan of Golden Leaf collaborated with the local gin distillery Two Moons for some dishes prepared using their products.