Tulip Time @ Corbett Gardens, Bowral, NSW

[Pops out from behind wall  👻]…BOOH-YEAH! It’s been a seriously long time. Thanks for sticking around even though I seem to have died for the last few months… I have been kept very occupied in Malaysia, but I’ve also been fortunate to go back to Sydney for a quick break where I met my Beau! 

Date:  October 3 2015

Since Beau and I had nothing planned for the October long weekend, Beau suggested that we drive to the Bowral to see the tulips exhibition while at the same time show me  where he spent most of his school holidays as a boy.

The tulip exhibition is in Corbett Gardens. Entrance fee is $10 per person, which I later found out is the only week that entrance fee is charged. Never mind that!  The seas of tulips were stunning! 🌷🌷🌷

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The rows and ROWS of tulips…in an amazing assortment of colours…

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Different varietals of tulips were exhibited.  Flaming Parrot is by far my favourite amongst the various varietals.

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Flaming Parrot

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Tulip with frayed edges

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I am able to recall that black tulips were all the rage over a decade ago (if you can remember that, then you are old too!😜) – a single stem costs up to $100 – an obscene amount of money…

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Black Tulip

 

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Beau said that this cherry blossom tree is a century old.  He could remember having picnics under that tree.

Some light entertainment under the rotunda…

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Jazz under the Rotunda

As with all public fairs, there were several stalls selling fast food, drinks and gourmet produces.

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1st Hotdog for Spring!😋

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Poffertjes with maple syrup

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Cider that we both enjoyed, which is also available at B&W liquor shops

We spent around an hour and a half in the Gardens, then continued with our road trip to Kangaroo Valley

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We stopped at Cambewarra Mountain Lookout for a quick break.  This lookout is 678m above sea level.  Some notable landmarks can be seen: Seven-mile Beach, Jervis Bay, Nowra bridge, Shoalhaven River mouth, St Georges head, St Gerges Basin, etc…

Cambewarra Mountain Lookout

We proceeded to drive back to Sydney on the Grand Pacific Drive via Kiama…

My Friend’s Wedding @ Newport Mirage, Northern Beaches, Sydney

Date of Wedding:  September 16 2015

A good friend of mine got married today.  The lucky couple chose Newport Mirage to hold their wedding ceremony and lunch.  It was a glorious spring day with the sun shining brightly. The ceremony itself was moving and romantic.  The couple met 2 years ago; yet with age differences and many, many kms apart, they managed to continue developing their relationship to literally ‘sealing the deal’ today! 💞💞

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Views from the terrace where the ceremony will be held towards the marina

We had a 3-course set menu with 2 options – straight-forward and fed us well. Here they are!

ENTREE

My choice was the Smoked Salmon Roulade with very briny capers.

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Smoked Salmon Roulade: Tomato, Baby caper and Herb Salad, Horseradish sauce

Or

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Confit Port Belly: Caramelised orange and Cardamon Reduction Fennel Salad

MAIN

I had the Herb crusted Beef Sirloin with a hard-as-cardboard polenta, otherwise the beef was good.

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Herb crusted Beef Sirloin: Crispy Polenta, Wilted Spinach, Roasted Tomato, Shiraz Jus

Or

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Oven Roasted Chicken Breast:  Colcannon, Asparagus, Mushroom Sauce

Vegetarian Option

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Grilled Capsicums, Eggplants, Zucchinis, Asparagus

DESSERT

I shared both desserts with another friend of mine.  I preferred the Cherry Clafoutis because it is lighter and had a crispy shell.😋

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Cherry Clafoutis Tart: Grand Marnier Reduction, Mascarpone Cream

And

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Sticky Date Pudding:  Butterscotch Sauce, Date Compote, Vanilla Bean Ice-cream

After some congratulatory speeches and dance, we were served the wedding cake as our final dessert.

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The cut-up 2-tier Weddding Cake: Orange poppy seed, chocolate fudge, lots of cream and thick fondant

As part of custom, all the single ladies were invited to catch the wedding bouquet.  I caught it together with another girl, but decided to let her have it instead. 😇  (I figured, she has better luck!😜)

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Wedding Bouquet

Surprise, surprise..The surprising ‘hero’ of the day was the humble piping hot bread roll! 😅

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Humble roll…

I Ate Jimmy Cricket! @ El Topo Mexican Restaurant, Bondi Junction, Sydney

Date of Visit:  September 13, 2015

So I’m back in Sydney again – this time for around 2 weeks.  The trip from Borneo to Sydney was truly an expedition in itself, taking me a-day-and-a-half!   I transited for around 9 hours in Kuala Lumpur International Airport.  I had the privilege of using the Golden Lounge, but unfortunately, MAS being a near bankrupt airline is undergoing cost-cutting measures: alcohols are served in tiny Barbie-doll play-sized goblets, and I had to trek to Burger King for my Diet Cokes…with no temptations in sight, I’m on track with my ‘diet’ *win!* 🙌  (Although I did gorged 5 bread rolls to dull my hunger pangs! 😂)

Perhaps, the stars were not aligned for my red-eye flight.  After boarding, there was a delay meaning that we were made to sit on the plane for over an hour…when we finally arrived Sydney, we were 45 minutes delayed…meaning that I only had time to drop my bags at home, then drive to Bondi Junction for lunch with the Ladies.

Ever so efficient, the Ladies had already ordered, I happily await for the food to arrive…

The complimentary Roasted Crickets really made our day!  Oohs and Aahs all round with phones out a-clicking.  The Chapulines: Roasted crickets in chilli, garlic and lime are popular Mexican street snacks.  Sour-spicy-salty, I preferred the accompanying garlic chips instead of the crickets themselves!  The crickets were bland and tasteless…similar to eating charred leaves?

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Chapulines: Roasted crickets

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Chapulines: Roasted crickets

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Up and personal with Jimmy The Cricket 😋

Prawns were so-so…forgettable…

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School of deep-fried Prawns

Scallop ceviche with cucumber, charred corn, tomato, chilli and lime juice in a pot with fried crisps was nice.

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Scallop ceviche

We each ordered a Tacos.  I had the Gemfish Tacos which was good…

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Soft-shell crab Taco

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Gemfish Taco

Quesadillas were another typical Mexican fare… I had a forgettable taste of each.

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Mexican Truffles and Mushrooms Quesadillas

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Zucchini flower, Quinoa Cheesy Quesadillas

The 12-hours beef short ribs with pickled cabbage and baby onions was amazing!  Tender soft meat in overly tasty BBQ sauce, hence my favourite of the day was the pickled baby onions.

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12-hours beef short ribs with pickled cabbage and baby onions

We also had the tasty Whole grilled Spatchcock with back beans and corn.

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Whole grilled Spatchcock with back beans and corn

For dessert, we ordered the Buńuelos Con Chocolate:  Mexican doughnuts & chocolate sauce.  The Ladies all loved the fluffy doughnut balls…

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Mexican doughnuts & chocolate sauce.

It was a beautifully perfect afternoon lunching with the Ladies on the terrace under the blue skies, talking about lipsticks!  While in KLIA, to kill time, I did MAC true-red lipstick runs – Ruby Woo to be specific!  A devaluation of the Ringgit meant that RM74 is equivalent to A$25 – a substantial price difference of A$11!  *Bargain*

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Blue Skies

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Colourful drinks…

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Rooftop terrace

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Murals along the wall

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Muncha Gratias

Hanaya Japanese Restaurant @ Grand Millennium Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Date of Visit:  August 31, 2015

Getting good sushi outside of Japan is hard.  So I was very happy to find out that Hanaya at the Grand Millennium in KL serves an excellent Sushi Set Lunch.

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Hanaya

Thoughts have been put into the privacy concerns of the clients, that the tables are set further apart, and with privacy screens.  The one major drawback was the irritating background music.😞

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Glass privacy screens

Assorted Sushi , TAKE (RM60): Types of sushi as listed on the menu are – Tuna, Salmon, Trevaly, Boiled Prawns (I think I had a Alfonsino as substitute), Boiled Octopus, Scallop, Mackerel, Salmon roe, Squid, Kappa Roll: Cucumber Small Roll, Tekka Roll: Tuna Small Roll

Pictures of my Sushi Platter!  Fishes flown in from Japan and prepared by Japanese chef!  Absolutely delectable sushi!

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Beautifully crafted

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Kappa Roll: Cucumber Small Roll, Tekka Roll: Tuna Small Roll

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The other set worth mentioning is the Special Kaisen Don (RM88): Assorted sashimi served on a bed of sushi rice.

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Kaiseki Don

Same side dishes for all the Set Meals:  Comprising miso soup, salad and grilled vegetables

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Miso Soup

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Grilled Vegs

Complimentary dessert for the ladies: Black sesame gelato with chopped mixed fruits

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And Coffee or Tea to finish up!  Fab food, service and great value!  I shall be back! 😍

Aziamendi 88 @Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Date of Visit:  August 24 2015

When I discovered that a 3 Michelin Star chef is opening a pop-up in Kuala Lumpur, I was very excited!  Perfect timing for a birthday celebration!  The pop-up is only in operation for 88 days. thus it’s called Aziamendi88👍.  It occupies the Mandarin Grill at the Mandarin Oriental, KL (my review of a prior visit here).

Eneko Atxa is Spain’s youngest ever 3 Michelin Star Chef and has recently been voted 19th Top Chef in the World by San Pellegrino.  Mind you, he designed the menu at the pop-up, but not the actual cook!

Well-advertised: Basque chef Eneko Atxa

Unfortunately, dinner slots on the day we wanted were booked solid, so we had lunch instead – after a lot of annoying phone calls from the restaurant to confirm our reservation, we rocked up promptly to secure our lunch at noon, to find the restaurant was not yet opened!  😁  It was also the first time I have been asked by a restaurant if I am sure about my 8-course lunch menu! Pfftt…

Whatever…Naturally, I had a high expectation of the the chef’s creativity and the MO’s service!

When we finally accessed the restaurant, we were led to a mock garden where we were served some amuse bouches before entering the main dining room.  (The jungle feel of the waiting area brought memories of  the now defunct ‘Rainforest Cafe’ in Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong where we used to go very often when I was little😄).

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Mock-garden:  Loved the sensory experience as well…smell of fresh of hay..😃

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Mock garden

Once seated on the park bench, we were handed a 8-course Dinner Menu 😳.  Caught by surprise with the mistake, I queried the waitress, apparently the 8-course dinner menu is same as 8-course lunch – so hence recycling of the dinner menu for lunch! Join the green crusades, dudes! 🌳🌳 👏

Pre-Lunch: Picnic

Amuse Bouches, aptly called ‘Picnic‘ on the Menu was served in the Picnic Basket while we waited.  There were 3 types of amuse bouches:  Anchovy Mille Feuille, Corn Toast & Caviar and Mojito Bon Bon.  

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Picnic basket

We were advised to start with the Anchovy Mille Feuille: Crisp crackers sandwiched with the briny tang of anchovy paste decorated with red local pine leaves, looking cute like little butterflies.  Then moving onto Corn Toast:  Black corn toast with caviar, fish roe and mayonnaise whipped with sea urchin.

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Anchovy Mille Feuille, Corn Toast and Caviar

For the finale, the fragile Mojito Bon Bon literally pops in the mouth giving an alcoholic rush of minty-tangy enjoyment.

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Mojito Bon Bon: Can’t remember the dusting on top 😟

1:  Bonsai Tree

A huge Bonsai Tree was waiting at our table, hmm… the presentation looks familiar, our minds race to Aronia Takazawa where we had the pleasure of dining in Toyko a couple of years ago. (review here)

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Bonsai Tree

Hanging on the tree were 3 cherry tomatoes, one for each of us.  The firm tomatoes flooded our mouths with juicy sweet liquid flood.  It was clever to take out the inside of the cherry tomato to replace it with a mixture of tomato and fruit juices.  It was absolutely delightful!  By far, the best cherry tomato I had ever tasted! 🙌

We finished off the 1st course with brown crackers with a sweet-earthy-savoury chew akin to beef jerky – ‘wood bark chip‘.

Cherry Tomato

2:  Truffled Egg

First the egg yolk was removed.  The yolk then infused with hot truffle jus then re-injected into the original membrane, hence cooking the egg inside out.  We swooped it in one mouthful, expecting a warm burst of truffled yolky flavour, but it was cold and gamey…no hint of truffles…hmmm…

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Truffled Egg

More to our expectation was the steamed milk bun served from a dimsum bamboo basket.  it was hot, fluffy and very delicious  especially with the dense and aromatic spanish olive oil.

Steamed Milk Bun

There’s wine pairing available, but we opted to choose a bottle of red instead. We were happy with our choice of  an easy to drink Tempranillo from Rueda within a reasonable price-point (RM268)

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2009 Tempranillo

3:  The Garden

Edible soil has been around for a while now, so nothing new for me.  There are 2 parts to this creation: ‘Soil’ was made from dehydrated beetroots and later adorned with miniature carrot, sweet peas, tomato, cauliflower, broccoli and zucchini.  ‘Earth’ was the sweet jelly tomato-orange emulsion.  Very pretty presentation, which I ate gleefully with my spoon.

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The Garden

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Earth: Tomato Jelly

Paired with the soft sweet corn bread.

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Corn Bread

4:  Foie Gras Ashes from the Grill

A bit of ceremony here, first I was given a wet towel, then my place was set with a black napkin.  I really loved the presentation of this course, although eating it was very messy.  The frozen foie gras paste sits on top of a toasted brioche and covered with foie gras shavings possibly mixed with ashes or squid ink (my guess 😜)  It was hard to eat because the brioche we hard and tough to chew.  In the end I had to use the towel to wipe my face and fingers – I was really messy. 😝

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Foie Gras Ashes from the Grill

Pretty… the local pine flowers made the grey lump looks like a dressed-up porcupine resting on a branch!
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Accompanied with Spelt Bread.

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Spelt Bread

5:  Squid Noodles with its own Crunchy Juice

First came the dish with squid topped with 3 slices of pickled onions.
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Then local fish roe and a croquette of squid ink and juice.

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Squid ink and juice Croquettes and a teaspoonful of Local fish roe.

Then the unctuously thick broth was poured over the squid noodles.

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We start with the fish roe, then move onto to squid noodles and then the croquettes.  Nice dish, but the broth was too salty for me… plus it was cold.

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6:  Grilled Tuna, Fried Eggs, Marmitako and Flowers

I had no idea what ‘marmitako‘ was, so I googled – it’s basically a tuna pot or fish stew eaten by the fishermen in the Basque country.  What we had was the modified version of a thick, salty soup.

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Modified Marmitako with Tuna Sashimi and Crisp

The soup was followed by the cold grilled tuna, it was tough, salty and fishy … good thing is that it sits atop the sweet pureed cauliflower… I could use that to tone down the fishy saltiness!  😜.  Although the 2 fried balls were fried egg yolks, i thought the runny centre was cauliflower pureé!   Whatever… I liked the pretty pickled flower petals!

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Grilled Tuna, Fried Eggs, Marmitako and Flowers

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7:  Lamb Shoulder, Pesto, Parmesan and Pine Nuts

The last savoury course was the very disappointing lamb shoulder sandwiched between 2 thin sheets of pastry with a micro salad garden on top.  The lamb shoulder was tough, raising suspicions that it was reheated from last night’s dinner.  In any regards, the liquid parmesan balls were delightful!

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Lamb Shoulder, Pesto, Parmesan and Pine Nuts

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8:  Dulcey Chocolate and Peanut, Salted Caramel Ice-Cream

Beautifully presented – like a Japanese art!  Basically a quenelle of salted caramel ice-cream that melts a bit too quickly and a peanut butter log coated in chocolate ganache dusted with some gold dust.   Added to the plate, some cookie crumbs for textures and chocolate and caramel sauces for decoration.

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Dulcey Chocolate and Peanut, Salted Caramel Ice-Cream

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Petit Fours

The petit fours came in a perspex box with 4 compartments filled with:  marshmallow sitting on a bed of sugar ( incidentally, this was my mom’s favorite), White chocolate on white cookie crumbs, Chocolate macaron on chocolate biscuit crumbs and Dark Chocolate on coco crumbs.  My favourite was the Dark chocolate praline with a sour-sweet fruity filling.  😛

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Petit Fours: Marshmallow, White Chocolate, Macaron, Dark Chocolate (L to R)

The rather underwhelming 8-course food only degustation lunch was priced at RM438 (inclusive of all surcharges).  There’s also food and wine pairing at MYR698.

My 2nd Revisit That Shall Last For A While …@RyuGin Hong Kong

Date of Visit:  December 26 2014

So I am back at RyuGin Hong Kong again…this time with my Bro to celebrate his birthday.  My last visit with mom was enjoyable (here), so I thought I should splurge again for my Bro’s special occasion!  The 3 of us had been to Ryugin Tokyo earlier in the year too (here)

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Place setting

We didn’t order the signature RyuGin Sake this time, but instead opted for a more ‘competitively’ priced hot sake. 😆

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Hot sake

COURSE 1

Monkfish liver from Hokkaido and ‘aka’ clam with spring onion in mustard miso sauce 

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COURSE 2

Simmered abalone with winter vegetables served with grated radish sauce

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Love the presentation!

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COURSE 3

Shiitake mushroom egg custard topped with Matsubagani crab

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Whilst I had the substitute without crustaceans, due to my allergy

Shiitake mushroom egg custard topped with simmered scallop

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COURSE 4

Poached oyster and mashed turnip soup in winter style

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COURSE 5

Assortment of Sashimi 

Fishes flown in directly from Japan!  Try as I want to, I can never recognise the fishes – except tuna (pink)  and salmon (stripey orange)! 😁

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Loved how the chef plated the course: Using salt to draw a mountain scenery

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I really like this, I think it might be razor clam (?)

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COURSE 6

Charcoal grilled Alfonsino served with crispy scales.  

Yes, the citrus is from a province in Japan!

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The crispy scales were the highlight

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The lump in the middle is the salty preserved yuzu peel

COURSE 7

Wagyu ribeye sukiyaki with onset tamago

The egg is from Japan as well…😆

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Thinly sliced beef hidden under the simmered carrots, leeks and onions

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Brilliant gooey orange colour – double yums 😋

COURSE 8

Sea-urchin rice with pickled vegetables and miso soup

This is the traditional set denoting the end of the savoury course in a Japanese degustation meal.

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COURSE 9

Pear

Being spoilt with the theatrics of desserts, needless to say, I am quite disappointed with the rather under-whelming presentation…no theatrics of dry-ice…

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Pear

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Powdered sorbet pear

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Cooked pear added after I cracking open the miniature pear

COURSE 10

Deep-fried sticky rice spring-roll with ice-cream

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Quite a traditional dessert

Matcha, personally prepared by the maitre-d to finish off our meal.

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Matcha

Overall, the meal was good – utilising the freshest ingredients ALL air-flown from different regions in Japan – as expected of a 3-starred Michelin Restaurant 😗, but unfortunately a rather straight-forward text-book execution with not much of a ‘wow’ factor after a couple of visits.

But what is a birthday without a cake? So off we went to Robuchon for our 3rd dessert…😗

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The Royal Touch Bakery Café by Carolyn Robb @ Ocean Terminal, Hong Kong

Date of Visit:  July 19 2015

I had a good Sunday lunch today – which was a surprise – considering, it’s a small unassuming ‘restaurant’ (if you can call it that) in a mall, with a prominent display case of cakes and pastries!  It’s tiny with only 30 seats!  (Psst… here’s its digits for reservations: +852 3188 8086 ☺️)

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The Royal Touch is a brand created by Carolyn Robb, former executive chef to Prince Charles and Lady Diana, so without doubt, this cafe features some royal dishes! Those following the Royal Family will know that Ms Robb is also famous for being  the creator of Prince William’s Chocolate Biscuit Groom’s Cake!

Without further ado…

We had the Set Lunch Menu – simple British fare but really special!

APPETISER

Seasonal Fresh Fruit Salad with Raspberry & Passion Fruit Dressing

or 

Avocado & Papaya Salad with Papaya Dressing

I had the Avocado Papaya Salad which was very different to the salads I have had.  The combination is unusual – papaya and avocado (?), but very flavourful – slightly tart and not overly sweet.

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Avocado & Papaya Salad with Papaya Dressing

SOUP

Asparagus and New Potato Soup

or

Soup of the Day

I opted for Carrot Cream Soup was the Soup of The Day.  Normally, soups featuring carrots in Hong Kong is sweet, Ms Robb’s carrot soup is creamy and savoury.

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Carrot Cream Soup

MAINS

We decided on different items for our Mains.  The price of the Set Lunch is dependent on the Main course one chooses:

My bro got Corned Beef Potato Cake with Black Truffle Scrambled Eggs (HK$218).  The creamy eggs with truffles were highly recommended.

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Corned Beef Potato Cake with Black Truffle Scrambled Eggs

I had the Slow Cooked UK Dingley Dell Pork Collar with Wild Berry Jam (HK$288).  I ordered it medium, but parts of it was a little bit undercooked, but nevertheless not bloody and tasted good. What I especially liked was the cute Romanesco Brocoli or Buzzy Broc, the potato mash with truffles was divine!

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Slow Cooked UK Dingley Dell Pork Collar with Wild Berry Jam

My mom had the Royal Classic Cod Fish Pie (HK$228).  it arrived piping hot, but not enough fish she said…😏

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Royal Classic Cod Fish Pie

The mains are heavy in potatoes and all used campari tomatoes as garnish.

DESSERT

Dessert was chocolate cupcake with different butter cream frosting – I had the Earl Grey frosting, the others were Blueberry and Pistachio…

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Chocolate Cupcake

COFFEE OR TEA

I also have to mention that the coffee (included in the Set Lunch) is very good – strong, not bitter – definitly better than those from the speciality coffee bars around… seriously!

A look at their menu says that we shall be back for their afternoon tea set!  The waiters are very polite and attentive, and the price very reasonable, so pinkies up, everybody! ☕️👌🏻 Next time, Royal Afternoon Tea!
Where is The Royal Touch Bakery Café by Carolyn Robb?

Shop G02, G/F, Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, 17 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui