Liberty Private Works

(A scheduled post from the Chica currently on a month-long luncheon in Japan)

Date of Visit: February 18 2013

I booked Liberty Private Works (LPW) a month before I arrived Hong Kong. Booking was super-easy as it’s all done via online booking and the restaurant will email you with confirmation, followed up by 2 more phone confirmations – the week before and on the day. Getting a seating on your prefered date is a different matter. I did a Google search and found that this is the Top Restaurant in Hong Kong. The seats are very coverted since the establishment is operated in the ‘private kitchen style’, i.e. limited seating of around 26 persons per night organised in 2 seatings – 7:30pm and 8:30pm.

The menu is a set degustation menu costing $HK800+10%. Wine pairing will set you back further for HK$680+10%. We opted for a bottle of Spanish red instead. The wine list is very well curated with New World wines as well as the Old Worlds, I would suggest you to peruse the wine list online before you go for dinner – if you prefer reds, choose a lighter style wines (my 2-cents)

Chefs at work...Plating up with precision... and utmost concentration

Chefs at work…Plating up with precision… and utmost concentration

Munching on the lavash with guacalmole dips while waiting for the 8:30pm start

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Lavash with Guacamole

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The highly prized truffle in the glass cake-stand

AMUSE BOUCHE: Octopus terrine, balsamic (black dots) & pepper (red dots) reductions, cute circular cabbage leaf, cheese croquette, triangular pepper. Very delectable…

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Amuse Bouche of Octpus Terrine

ONE (Seafood): The chef suggested that we start from the left with the frozen grape and finish on the right. The espelette gave a spicy kick that lingers. After eating the last frozen grapes, I can really feel the espelette kicking in, warming my belly

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Tuna, Sea urchin, Espelette, Rice

Close up of the sea urchin and tuna. Can you see the caviar and gold leaf? The puff rice was very crunchy and tasted slightly vanillin… some childhood memories perhaps – munching on puff-rice crackers, anyone?

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TWO (Seafood): This course came on a very hot stone-slate plate. Because I’m allegic to shellfish, I got 2 pieces of the pumpkin ravioli instead of the lobster. (The lobster was apparently quite chewy and tough). The foam is coconut reduction. There was a suprise in store – I found a piece of seaweed under all the trappings. I love the green endame and yellow sago beads

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Lobster, Chorizo, Pumpkin, Coconut

THREE (Seafood): What beautiful presentation! Ponzu jelly in cubes, dots of yogurt, fennel, tiny nectarine bits, sous vide salmon and sweet oyster

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Salmon, Oyster, Nectarine, Fennel Yogurt

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Mine – but without the oyster

FOUR: This is a rather difficult dish to make, since the egg is poached inside the ravioli. Boy-O-Boy, delicious! I stuck the warm baguette to break the egg and wipe down the plate to soak up all the yolk and sauces – let’s spare the dishwasher boy the trouble, I say…

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Egg, Truffle, Parmesan, Caviar

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Spear the egg with the baguette

FIVE: The foam is from the essense of ham and fowl. There’s chargrilled brussel sprout leaves, daikon, thick ‘vegemitey’ truffles sauce

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Guinea Hen, Winter Black Truffle, Iberico Ham, Pear

Pulled fowl under the ham

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What’s under the Ham?

SIX: This is a fun dish. It kind of reminds me of my breakfast muesli with coco nibs. Venison is cooked in 2 ways: Venison steak cooked medium-rare and venison sausage. There’s a mint inside the sausage – another suprise? Cute! The pickled onion compliments the cherries, one whets the appetite, the other sweetens it.
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Venison, Cherry, Cocoa, Muesli

SEVEN (Dessert): THIS IS THE HIGHLIGHT!!

Each dessert plate is done very artistically and not one looked the same!

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Korean Strawberry, Tomato, Mascarpone, Rosemary

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Tomato with a suprise stuffing inside (not telling) and basil seeds

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Closer look

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Ice-cream, mochi with condensed milk filling

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The final product – crackling of liquid nitrogen

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EIGHT: Taking the Cantonese spin with fried milk – and healthful bee pollen and honey to soothe the body… interesting. The fried milk was very ceamy and milky which I absolutely loved

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Fried Milk, Saffron, Manuka Honey, Bee Pollen

PETIT FOURS: The clock is striking midnight and I have to catch the last MTR back to the dark-side… All-in-all, a very fun, interesting and tasty experience. Yes, I will be back! Most defo!

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Petit Fours: Mini Madelaines

 

Soaking the Ambience @Ammo, Admiralty, Hong Kong

(A scheduled post from the Chica currently on a month-long luncheon in Japan)

Date of Visit: February 17 2013

AMMO is The Hong Kong Asia Society’s museum restaurant and bar. It is housed in a cantilevered glass box wedged under the landmark building designed by New York based architects Todd Williams & Billie Tsien.

The name of the restaurant/bar is very clever – combining the duality of ‘Ammo’, a slang term for ammunition, and the acronym for ‘Asia, Modern, Museum and Original’.

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Glass box of activity cantilevering out of the rock. Visual interaction with its natural surrounding

To enter the surreal ultra-chic copper-inspired museum restaurant/ bar, one has to climb up the stairs, pass the century-old heritage-listed banyan tree and walk through the garden of greens, stones and rocks.

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Heritage protected Banyan Tree (over 100 yo)

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Garden entrance

The designer of this whimsical interior architectural wonder is Joyce Wang. In her experimentation for creativity which is respectful to the context while also alluding to the historical signifcance of the building, she created a unique and retro-chic swish interior masterpiece using copper pipes which were abundant in the former British military explosives magazine.

“The source of inspiration for AMMO was derived from a science fiction film noir masterpiece directed by Jean-Luc Godard known as ‘Alphaville’. This particular 1960’s influence is one of the jewel attributes as to why this space has such importance.”

Feature wall mural at the bar brings excitement and dynamics the place. Cpper pipes riveted together in immaculate detailing. An absolutely swish place to dine and relax in.

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Check out the level of detailing in the riveting

With a ceiling height of 6m, the designer is able to create an exceptional space using 3 sculptural spiral staircase chandeliers made of copper pipes to fill up the space and an aura of high drama.

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Spiral- staircase chandelier of copper pipes

The naked bulbs while classy, also contributes to a warm soothing ambience especially in the evenings.

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Bar’s counter top with naked bulbs underneath

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Naked bulbs under the bar’s counter top gives out a warming glow and thus a soothing ambience especially at night

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Circular chandeliers with naked bulbs

The copper-ribs of the bunker-like ceiling reminds diners of the site’s magazine history.

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Ceiling with a mirror in the center supported by copper ribs

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Chandeliers together with the military and industrial elements refers the overall setting to is former glory as a British Military Explosive Magazine

Custom-made furnitures

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High chair at the communal table

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Detail of the table – riveted table edge and copper pipes for table-stand

Afternoon Tea

I had perused the online menu but didn’t appreciate shell-fish-n-pasta-centric menu, so I settled on the afternoon tea ($308 for 2 persons), which is only available during the weekends.

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Tea-set

The bites were delicious but very dainty and tiny. I’d say “Let’s rock-and-roll kiddies!”

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Afternoon tea set for 2

The scones with blackberry jams were very good. I will suggest that you order scones (didn’t check the price, sorry) and a pot of tea ($50) instead of the afternoon tea.

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Scones with blackcurrent jam and cream

The savouries were good too, but too small to savour the taste properly (boo…)

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Mini Savouries – croquette, beef cheek bruchetta and sardine bruchetta

PS: The pricing for the wines are reasonable starting at $95 per glass.

Tokyo Marathon 2013… Ready or Not, Here I Come!!

The day has finally came, I’m going to Tokyo tomorrow to ‘run’ in the Tokyo Marathon 2013 on Sunday. To run is a misnomer since I have not been running for 2 months now due to my stress fracture which is taking a very long time to heal.

All I have been doing are HIIT on the elliptical and bike.  I couldn’t continue with my deep water running as the public pool here would not allow  ‘foreign object’ in the main pool (eg my flotation belt).  Physically, I am very drained and exhausted from my gung-ho attitude to go to the gym as soon as I roll out of bed – I need more sleep!  Mentally, I’m staying positive – my friend commented on my ‘Ah Q attitude’ – Ah Q is the proverbial Chinese village idiot who is known for deluding himself into believing he is the victor every time he loses a fight!  (Hang on, is he making fun of me?)

In the last week of mara-prepping. I saw my physio to scalp my feet to increase blood-circulation – hell, it hurt so good! I also started on my Arnica course (this is a natural anti-inflamatory med), used the capsicum plaster to warm up my feet to increase the blood circulation and bandaged my feet with sportstape to stabilise the base of my metatarsals so I won’t aggravate the fracture further. Today, I am starting my Voltaren 75mg (twice daily) so it will kick in by race day.

My goal is simply to finish the race and get the finisher’s medal. The motivator or bait is to be back in the hotel in time for my 4pm massage, then slink to the talk-of-the-town molecular dinner at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo.

With my Leukoplast sports tape, fisiocream, sunblock and Volatren packed.  I’m ready – and looking forward to my 3 weeks of eating and travelling around Japan!

Incidentally February 24 coincides with Hong Kong’s Standard Chartered Marathon.  Check out this dude’s running style!  (Note anything perculiar?)

adiZero Billboard

adiZero Billboard

Royal Banquet… what else but in Chocolate? @ Harbour City, Hong Kong

As I enter the exhibition gallery, the sweet aroma of dark chocolate permeates the air. What I see before me is the sumptious feast for a King, richly decorated and detailed, all made laboriously yet lovingly by hand.

The Royal Banquet of Versailles By
World renowned chocolate artist Master Chocolatier Sculptor WACS Global Master Chef Culinary Olympics Winner
Gerhard Petzl

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A Feast to the Eye: All made in Chocolates, inclduding the huge table probably weighting a ton!

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Plump juicy grapes

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Fruit Stand

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Place setting: Cutlery and napkin

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Tableware

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Marveling at the realism of the bananas!

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Table ornaments

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The entire table is made out of chocolate – note the careful detailing of the knots and rope

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Even the bread look real!

Flickering lights of the candles. Zoom in close – you can even see the wax dripping off the candles!

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Candles

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More intricate detailing of the cake stand and cover

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Center-piece of the table

Do check out Gerhard’s other works here

I look forward to the annual Chocolate Exhibition as part of the Chocolate Trail fest every year. Each year, the theme is different and the previous year was cultural heritage where heritage monuments were represented in chocolates by a different chocolatier..

Window-shopping…@Harvey Nichols, Pacific Place, Admiralty, Hong Kong

When I go shopping, I love checking out the window displays.

Harvey Nichols is one of the top 2 luxury department stores in Hong Kong selling premium labels. I especially like their shoes (if you are lucky, they may carry women’s size 42 – which is a rarity in this city) and accessories (they carry very edgy costume jewellery – wait for frequent sales though!).

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Another Bowl of Noodles Please…@Olala, Wanchai

Date of Visit: February 15 2013

After yesterday’s most uninspiring ramen experience (here), mom took me to Olala near Admiralty. This is dubbed ‘Hong Kong’s most expensive noodles place’ with a bowl of noodles costing a whopping HK$150!  To give you a bit of perspective via Big Mac Index, a Big Mac Extra Value Meal here costs a mere HK$21.

This noodles joint is in a tight corner-shop sitting around 16 people with double celing height and adorned with some unremarkable BW pictures.  Apparently this restaurant is also included in the Hong Kong and Macau Michelin Guide!

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The Chinese calligraphy hanging over the wall says ‘ One Bowl of Noodles’, which is also the shop’s Chinese name

Pickled Salted Shanghainese Vegetables (Complimentary)
Smackingly good!

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Preserved Veg

Smoked Eggs HK$20
These are perfect smoked eggs in Shanghainese vinegared soy sauce with coargulating egg yolks. I must say the soy sauce is of premium quality as it left no briney aftertaste.

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Smoked Eggs

Beef Noodles Soup
This bowl of beef noodles soup brought me back to my childhood days where my gran took my brother and I to the Shanghainese ‘cha cha’an teng’ in Tsim Sha Tsui. These old Shanghainese noodles places are long-gone. But I remembered the tender soft beef brisket and springy noddles. Here, I was given a huge bowl of noodles in rich beef broth, 6 huge chunks of beef briskets and baby bak choy.  The soup was simply too delicious to not drink up. Although tea was offered I didn’t touch them and felt the guilty pleasure of a tummy full of beef broth when I left the shop.  Haha!

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Beef Noodles Soup

Fish Noodles Soup
Wow! The next time I’m back, I will order this. Mom gave me a taste of the broth. It was tantalizingly sweet from the fish-head and chicken stock (not MSG, mind you) coupled with the pickled vegetables, very reminiscent of our home-cooked fish-head soup (another piece of ancient history).

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Fish Noodles Soup

Check out the noodles – thick and chewy with a spring in each bite!

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Spring in my mouth!

Will I be back?  Most defo!

‘Not blown over’… @Ippudo Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: February 14 2013

To be honest, I have never been a consummate foodie until recently when I discovered the world of food blogs and found bloggers waxing lyrical about restaurants that I have frequented, their opinions I sometimes differ.

Call it mere laziness or ‘good time management’, my nightly dinners while living in Hong Kong as a young expat had been Instant Doll-brand Ramen.  What could be more convenient than boiling the ramen and cracking an egg with some luncheon meat!

Like I said, my knowledge of ramen does not extend past instant ramen. So I did some googling for ‘Ippudo’s background…

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“Ippudo is a huge ramen restaurant chain established in 1985 with over 60 locations in Japan, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul and I noted recently while in Kuala Lumpur, another new overseas branch opening at the end of February 2013 in Pavilion Mall. 

Its founder Shigemi Kawahara was crowned Ramen King in 2005 and holds a place in the Ramen Hall of Fame after winning the championship three times in a row between 1995-1998, on “TV Champion Ramen Chef”, a reputable Japanese television show produced by TV Tokyo.”

I have heard of Ippudo’s Cantonese name (‘Yat Fung Tong’) which literally translates ‘one wind hall’, and this was so-called because “at the time, there were dark clouds over the Kyushu ramen industry, and the founder CEO Kawahara intended to ‘blow wind and revolutionise the era‘”.  Since I was not too interested in food back then, I never made the connection with its English name ‘Ippudo’ until it branched out to Sydney last year.

Since I understand that Ippudo is very popular, Mom and I were at  Ippudo TST at 11:45am before the lunch crowd hits.

As with every Japanese eateries, one is greeted by a chorus of welcome in Japanese.

Some pictures of the interior…

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Enclosed open kitchen, lone diner at the singles bar area

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Ramen Bowls Wall – 55 bowls from other ramen establishments presented to Ippudo

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History of Ippudo in Manga (Japanese comics)

I ordered the Karaka HK$78 which is the hot spicy ramen. But what came was rather uninspiring noodles half-filled in a  huge bowl.  There were chilli oil and scallions floating on top of the broth. The broth was undrinkable as I suspect it spiked with MSG.  It certainly wasn’t the ’25-year old recipe which requires slow cooking over long hours to achieve a perfect emulsion of oil and liquid, creating a rich and powerful Tonkotsu that enhances the flavour of pork–bone topped with IPPUDO’s secret miso, garlic oil, lean slices of pork, black fungus, soybean sprouts and scallions’, that Ippudo’s literature prided itself to be . It was simply oily, not even hot – tastewise and temperature wise!

Talk about stinginess!  Only 2 pieces of thin pork belly, although I admit them to be tastelessly tender.

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Karaka Ramen

BTW, the waiter will ask for your preference of your noodles – hard or soft.  I asked for hard and boy, were the noodles hard!  There’s no ‘spring’ to it, if it’s an elastic band, it will snap!  Ouch!

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Oodles swimming in oily broth

My mom order The First Surprise in 2013 –  ‘“Tokyo Seafood Tonkotse” HK$88!…A fish broth combining IPPUDO’s homemade signature Tonkotse, gives (sic) you a well-balanced sensation you will truly indulge in. Available only at IPPUDO in Tsim Sha Tsui.”

Well, the eggs looked good… with coargulating yolk.  Not mom’s favourite so to speak…

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Seafood Tonkotse

BBQ Pork Belly Bun HK$28

A rather unenthusiastic looking bun.  This likens to the typical steamed Chinese bun with braised pork belly, except Ippudo’s version has bits of cabbage and a smear of mayo.  A bit too sweet for my liking and the bun was hard!  I can’t envision what the fuss was about – any Chinese restaurant can do better!

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BBQ Pork Belly Bun

Tofu salad HK$48

This is a scrooge of a salad.  It’s as though the creator of the dish knows that the orderer will be sharing, hence, 2 of everything – tomato wedges, brocoli, cabbage and 4 slices of tofu which were topped with sweet, crispy dressing (I can’t detect what I was eating) and seaweed.

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Oh well, with all the shortcomings, Shigemi Kawahara’s philosophy: “To continuously innovate to remain true”,  will no doubt improve Ippudo TST’s standard!