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.

Staying Awake For A Nice Long Dega Dinner @ Oscillate Wildly, Newtown

Date of Visit: November 7 2013

Oscillate Wildly is only a short skip opposite Newtown Station, facing the Local Courthouse and next to Black Star Pastry which is very famous for its signature ‘strawberry watermelon cake with rose scented cream’.

To get to Newtown, Side-Kick Nana aka Side-Kick Chica from here – but read on why we felt our age in this dinner!) and I caught a train from Wynyard.   I have not been to Newtown by public transport before, so we arranged to meet at Wynyard station to catch the train together.  Lots of talking, and paying no attention meant that  we jumped into the limited express train which did not stop at Newtown, we went all the way to Strathfield and had to take over a good half hour to detour back.

We arrived right on the dot at 6:30pm, nevertheless!

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Interior shot

The restaurant is cosy,  servicing 20 people max on the ground floor, but on our date, the restaurant was packed with a  private function upstairs.  We were seated under the stairs.  I took care not to look up whenever someone is going up/down the stairs to block the thoughts of sprinkling dust. 😳

Service was polite with excellent introduction to each course and water constantly refilled.

To amuse us, we were served 2 Snacks 

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Pic #1

Followed by something stuck in a bowl of ice.

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Pic #2

Any takers for what they are?  *Hint*  These are 2 iconic aperitifs – served solidified!
Well?
Given up?  OK.

Pic #1 looking like stiff wrinkled plastic wrappers is dehydrated Kir Royale(!).  It was made of potato starch, flavoured with cassis and blood plum and tasted like the Chinese haw flakes on edible rice paper.  James, who looked after us told us not to worry about making a mess on the table since it was quite delicate and crumbled when bitten.  Now, I am not sure about you, but I  love haw flakes which is a very common sweet snacks for the Chinese people – it purports to have blood-presure lowering properties.  I surfed the net to find more info on the haw flakes and found that many non-Asians find this a ‘weird and awful tasting’ snack – so many silly postings on YouTubes on it – even a haw flakes eating challenge (which I won’t bother on linking here).  If you are curious as to what haw flakes taste like, check out this link by Mel Eats Weird Stuff where she and her friend attempt to give an accurate description

Pic #2 is the classic GT or Gin Tonic – compressed in sugar cane – no description needed!

Amused by the Amuse Bouche?! Hope you were!

Bread-rolls and butter were served next, accompanied by ribbons of super-salty lards that you can eat sandwiched with the roll or do what I did – eat no bread – snack on pigs’ fat all by themselves!

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Bread roll, butter and luxurious ribbons of lard

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Ribbons of lard (+ details in the background picture: Butter dotted with salt-flakes)

Course #1

Slices of sashimi trumpeter (from Tasmania) on rice paper crackers signals the start of our degustation.  The fish has beautiful firm white flesh without  a very strong taste, so that was probably why it came with salty smoked butter.

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Trumpeter, Butter, Rice

Before the 2nd Course was served, we were given hand towelettes to wipe our hands – the ever popular tablet that magically ‘grows’ and turn into towelettes when one pour water over it.

Course #2

A compact goodie of freshly-planed cauliflower and Jerusalem artichoke chips stuck into the creamy foie gras custard and garnished with crushed macadamias and hazelnut powder.

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Foie Gras, Artichoke, Macadamia

Course #3

A faint smoky-salty aroma wafted through the room as this dish was brought out.  Here, we have Job’s Tears – commonly known as Chinese pearl barley – with sautéed Chanterelle mushrooms on sweet black garlic custard and bits of Appenzeller cheese.  The foam of Appenzeller, a Swiss washed-rind cheese, was the ‘smelly’ culprit.

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Job’s Tears, Chanterelle, Black Garlic

Course #4.1  (Additional add-on for $20)

The waitress had us sold when she told us that the kitchen had received some white truffles and recommended us their special for the night:  White Truffles and Polenta Sweetcorn.  I found the polenta and sweetcorns very custardy and overly sweet, whereas Side-Kick Nana found it to be too cheesy for her liking.  We also have a  slice of percorino cheese for the extra sharpness  to go with the polenta.

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White Truffles and Polenta Sweetcorn

Course #4.2

This is SO pretty.  Whenever I see fronds, it conjures up Toad from my favourite novel ‘The Wind in the Willows‘.  Here, we have pan-fried Murray cod plated up with roasted young almonds (still jelly in the middle) on a bed of potato, drizzled with chive oil.

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Murray Cod, Potato, Almond

Course #5

Saddleback pork belly sitting in duck broth and crowned with thin crispy crackling.  Eating the crackling by itself was bland, but dunking the crackling in the duck broth comprising mustard seeds, onions and parsley really elevated it. (The original version has prawn floss, but since I am allergic to shellfish, mine did not have any).

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Pork Mustard, Parsley

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Pork Mustard, Parsley

Course #6

The final savoury course is tender charcoal-grilled Wagyu beef from Victoria, combined with bitter water-cress and refreshing discs of radishes.  The sous-vided-almost-set egg yolk gave a blokey’s touch of steak-and-eggs to fill one up, if one is not already-surely not!

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Beef, Radish, Yolk

Because we have been sitting and eating for 3 hours already, when enquired whether we would like to order a  pre-dessert of Cheese on Toast (+$10) – a signature of Oscillate Wildly‘s, we had to decline as it was getting very late and we were both very tired -SideKick Nana is sliding off her chair and I am trying my best to keep my eyes open!

Course #7

Our first dessert arrived in a white bowl with smokes blowing off it -a rather impressive entrance.  Here, we have coconut shavings on lime sorbet (very tart), under the sorbet we have the tiny pearls of tapioca and kaffir limes – influenced by Thai dessert perhaps.  Nice, but not smitten by it!

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Lime, Coconut

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Lime, Coconut

Course #8

Our finale is a quenelle of Chocolate sorbet on Eucalyptus-infused mascarpone covered with chocolate soil and topped with a crunchy chocolate caramel shard.   A refreshingly ‘light’ minty dessert sending us home with a high-note into the dark of the night.

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Chocolate, Eucalyptus

I must say that I have enjoyed the remake of classical dishes with a touch of molecular gastronomy designed by head chef Karl Firla .  This is a spectacular degustation dinner at $100 per person.  The only low-point is that the meal pacing was uneven and it took us 3.5 hours to finish dinner!

At the time of posting, Oscillate Wildly scored 84% out of 267 votes

Oscillate Wildly on Urbanspoon

Epilogue:  Overly tired, I took the wrong train home and had to make another detour to get home…

Hot and Cold… Frozen and Crumbed @ Tomislav, Darlinghurst

Date of Visit: November 1 2013

Like most ambitious young chefs, Chef Tomislav Martinovic went abroad and worked in many kitchens including the highly esteemed Heston Blumenthal’s. So when my friend, Side-Kick Chica (she writes a travel blog here), said that she missed out on dining at Fat Duck when she was in UK recently. I told her we have a Fat Duck alumni here! No need to travel all the way to Bray in Berkshire county – a 50 minutes journey from London’s Paddington Station and why bother figuring out the logistics and lodging simply for dinner?! Duh!!

So a Saturday lunch at Tomislav was settled…

The restaurant is a leisurely 10-minutes walk from Kings Cross Station – one can also trek up William Street, if one is up to it – like we were going to, except it was a 30C Saturday…

We had the 4-course set lunch at $95 (no other options). We parked ourselves at a table for 4 on the balcony, enjoying a partial view of the Bridge and a partial view of the Coca-Cola sign blocked by the trees and the magpie that swooped in for a visit…but mostly entertained by the sound of traffic…

As we waited for our 1st course, we snacked on rice crackers with sea salt (+$10) which we spritzed vinegar from an atomiser – so deft! The rice crackers were apparently “simply brushed with egg white and deep-fried for two to three seconds, resulting in paper-thin scrunches that look like dropped hankies. They stay crisper than crisp even when sprayed with the little atomiser of vinegar, a move nicked straight out of Heston Blumenthal’s kitchen/laboratory” (much quoted sentences from food blogs).

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Rice crackers with sea salt and vinegar.

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Rice crackers

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Lemon, lime and bitters and Tap water

The affable Ann- Maree, looked after us well. We had house-churned butter and frozen chocolate presented on a granite plinth accompanies our complimentary sour dough. What a kooky idea to blend choc-ice with butter! Interesting chocolate bread idea, but I preferred picking and eating the choc-ice instead!

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Chocolate-ice and house-churned butter

Our Amuse Bouche was the triple cheeses onion toasties. The cheeses were marshmallow-ishly soft and tasted cheesey, accentuated with bits of caramelised onions and fragile crackers.

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Triple cheeses onion toasties

Course 1

My Choice (Kickass Chica): A light summery dish of thinly sliced Spanish mackerel carpaccio covered in finely chopped salad of burnett – the herbs tasted very fresh, reminiscent of cucumber – and when paired with celery sorbet makes a good transition to the crackers held in place by creamy mackerel mousse. Should I have broken the quail’s egg to mix with the carparccio? I am not sure since it is ALWAYS my habit to always eat the yolk whole without breaking it.

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Spanish mackerel carpaccio, salad burnette, mackerel mousse, prawn crackers

Side-kick Chica’s choice:

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Roast Kurobuta Pork Belly, anchovy juice, raw cauliflower, poached cuttlefish

Course 2

My Choice: A fan of offal and eggs, roast veal sweetbread with poached quail yolk – again? – foie gras was my ideal choice. I enjoyed the sweet caramelised sweetbread against the bitter charred pieces of spring onions. The frozen and crumbed foie gras was a novelty – creamy and smooth for me to smear over my sweetbread. The grilled mango was presented in the form of a streak on the plate – from my fading memory, I recalled popping candies of dehydrated cranberries and a couple of thinly sliced radishes as well, however, I may be proved wrong…

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Roast Veal Sweetbread, poached yolk, grilled mango, foie gras crumbs

Side-kick Chica’s choice:

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Butter poached scallops, peas shoots, broccoli cream, cyrstal bay prawns

Course 3

(Both Side-kick Chica and I had the same course).

The pairing of coconut pudding with the roasted Riverina lamb neck piqued my interest so I decided to order it to see how well they matches. Overly contrasting and perhaps mismatched, I can only describe the pairing as ‘interesting’. The lamb neck was faultless but I ate the coconut pudding – basically tapioca sago cooked in milky coconut – separately as dessert.

Hmm… we have another play of the ‘frozen and crumbed’, now in the form of frozen mustard.

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Roast Riverina Lamb neck, frozen mustard, pickled radishes, coconut pudding

Course 4

My Choice: I had the lemon cheesecake which Tomislav described as his perfected version of Wow Cow yoghurt. An interesting deconstructed cheesecake with lemon mousse studded with cheese on a sable base; a pink quenelle of strawberry sorbet sitting on the crumbed sable with salt; green frozen and crumbed mint on the yellow grilled pineapple – added a contrast of colours to the dish – oh, and not forgetting the 2 deep-ruby berry drops on the plate.

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Lemon cheesecake, mint crumbs, frozen yoghurt, grilled pineapple

Side-kick Chica’s choice:

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Chocolate and Caramel Cake, coconut ice, chocolate biscuit, roast apple ice cream

It was definitely a very technique-driven lunch of flavoured frozen crumbs on hot dishes. I am sure Chef Tomislav had made good use of his paco-jet machine to the delight of us all, his customers!

While browsing though my pictures, I was thinking how the choice of plates made for interesting and psychedelic plated dishes!

I also have to praise Ann-Maree for her fantastic hospitality which added to our luncheon enjoyment! 😘

At the time of posting, Tomislav scored 91% from 136 votes!

Tomislav on Urbanspoon

‘X-treme Chinese’? @ Bo Innovation, Wanchai, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: August 30 2013

You say ‘Boo’, I say ‘Bo’, whichever way you say it, a restaurant review is a subjective matter.

Having read various mixed reviews on Chef Alvin Leong’s BO Innovations, I managed to convince Mom to test out the maverick chef’s self-proclaimed ‘X-treme Chinese cuisine’ on her Lunar birthday. The Chinese is a lucky race to have 2 birthdays – a Lunar and a Gregorian – so if you miss one, you can easily make up with another! 😜  (We celebrated Mom’s Gregorian birthday here).

What Alvin terms ‘X-treme Chinese cuisine’ is essentially combining traditional Chinese recipes with scientific molecular gastronomy techniques – in what I call  ‘Thermomix magic’, a nifty and super-expensive all-in-one kitchen appliance.

Naturally, in order to understand whether Alvin had accomplished what he set out to do in his  ‘X-treme Chinese Cuisine’, one should already have a background in traditional Chinese cuisine.  In my opinion, who else makes a better judge than Mom who has intrinsic knowledge of Chinese cuisine to be able to discern the subtleties of traditional Chinese cooking under the guise of modern molecular cooking – and explain them to me?

A little bit on Alvin:  He is the controversial self-promoter who prided himself the ‘demon chef’  or 厨魔, tattooed in Chinese characters on his forearm. An acoustic engineer by training, he ditched engineering to become the second self-taught chef in the world – after Heston Blumenthal – to be awarded a Michelin star.

Likewise, Bo Innovation’s Chinese name, 厨魔, literally means ‘kitchen demon’. It has won many restaurant accolades, having remarkably debuted with 2 Michelin stars in the inaugural Michelin Hong Kong & Macau Guide in 2009, since then it had lost 1 star then bounced back to regain 2 stars in 2012 and 2013. This year, it is hanging onto No 15 in the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2013 and No 90 in the World’s 100 Best Restaurants 2013.

The restaurant is located on the second floor of a semi-residential building – J Residence in Wan Chai, which is fast filling up with trendy restaurants. Access is via a dedicated elevator accessed from Ship Street which opens up directly to the patio.  Guests are greeted by a giant black-and-white mosaic portrait of Leung pontificating in his dark shades.

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Promotional B&W self-mural of the Demon Chef in mosaic

The compact dining room seats around 60 people with an additional outdoor patio seating.   The interior is very sleek – black reflective surfaces, glossy white table-tops and shiny copper hexagonal lightings overhead with a large screen print of a blurred neon lights of Wan Chai to add a splash of colour.   For the inquisitive guests, there is an open kitchen/ bar to check out the action.  (Unfortunately, on the day of our visit, Alvin was not around.  We assumed him to be in London, for his much-hyped new restaurant opening).

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Interior of Bo Innovation

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A screen print of a blurred neon lights of Wan Chai.

Service at the restaurant was certainly fantastic, even my bag received attention – begetting the question to sit on a chair or swing on a bag-hanger?  (Either way, no dirty ‘pat-pat’)

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Bag hangar for my bag!

There is a choice offor a Set Lunch or a Degustation at HK$780 (+10%).  We chose the Degustation.

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Degustation Menu

Interesting place-setting – one is able to choose to dine Western or Chinese style.  (I went Chinese!)

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Marble place plate: Choice of Chinese chopsticks or Western cutlery

We ordered a half-bottle of Pink Kiss Wein from Willi Opitz which came in a gorgeous black bottle with a giant red lipsticked label.  We thoroughly enjoyed this pink Austrian rosé, and thought we did well in picking this wine as it paired marvellously with the food we were soon eating. It had a  lovely nose with haunting rosehip and strawberry fragrance and a palate brimming with lively, fresh, cranapple acidity.

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Pink Kiss Wein from Willi Opitz, Austria

Service was fantastic!  Ooops… I’ve said it before.  The service crew was friendly and very professional. Both the waiter and waitress took turns to explain each dish clearly and bringing out samples – in the process of making us informed diners.

Dead Garden
The garden/ soil theme seems to be a popular theme in gastronomy nowadays – I have came across a couple of edible garden themes this year, the most memorable is the Flower Pot at Mandarin Grill (here).

Alvin’s Dead Garden is made of dehydrated mushrooms on top of avocado-onion butter:   Air dried crumbled morel mushrooms representing dirt; caterpillar fungus, a kind of fungus that is sometimes used in traditional Chinese medicine, laying like a worms on top of the soil to create a creepy surreal effect.  Enoki mushrooms (‘trees’) have been deep-fried then dipped in liquid nitrogen to intensify the flavour as well as to make them shrivel and crispier.

We were advised to eat the ‘trees’ first, then the ‘worms’, then mix the remaining ‘soil’ with the avo-onion butter ‘earth’ before eating.  I must say, the smooth creamy avocado and green onion mousse was the perfect accompaniment to the crunchy morel crumbs, sweet with a slightly acidic kick, the Dead Garden thus set scene for a truly memorable meal to come.

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Dead Garden

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Dead Garden

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Dead Garden: Avo-onion butter with morel mushroom crumbs (soil)

Scallop – Shanghainese ‘Jolo’ sauce, crispy woba, sugar snap peas
A beautifully presented moreish (aka small) dish of barely seared Hokkaido scallops – nice, firm and very flavourful – served with crispy woba (or crispy burnt rice which were leftover in rice pots in olden days before the invention of rice-cookers) and snappy sweet sugar peas.  The dish was drizzled in the ‘jolo’ sauce (fermented red rice vinegar) which has a sour taste albeit spicy kick!

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Scallop – Shanghainese ‘Jolo’ sauce, crispy woba, sugar snap peas

Foie gras – ‘Mui Choy’
There is pomp in serving this course, first came the dragon stand to hold the clay-bowl (harkening to ‘mui choy’ fermentation pot, perhaps).  Then the the foie gras, ice-cream and mui choy were brought out in a clay-bowl.  The waitress also brought out a pot of mui choy to show us – in case we don’t know what mui choy is – this is sweet preserved mustard greens.  The foie gras was BBQed in same tradition as char siu, imparting a caramelly fragrance and was delectable, unfortunately mine had a stringy piece of membrane in it.  We were instructed to eat the  mui choy first then the  foie gras and ice-cream together.  The mui choy was dehydrated then compressed to look like a piece of thick seaweed, it had a sweet-savoury taste and a very nice crunch to it.  The idea of the salted ice-cream was to bring out the sweetness of foie gras, supported by the caramelised ginger.   A very well-executed course, dented by a major faux pas of a chipped bowl (in a Michelin restaurant, mind you!)

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Dragon brass-stand

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Chipped bowl in a Michelin Restaurant??
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Foie gras – ‘Mui Choy’, salted ice-cream, caramelised ginger

Har Mi – ‘Lo Mein’, Chili, Kaniko
This course is ‘lo mein’ tossed in har mi and garnished with tiny shrimp roe (kaniko).  The specialness in this course lies in the har mi (dried baby shrimps) oil which Alvin concocted by infusing har mi in the oil for 3 days before distilling it.  Personally, I did not find anything remarkable about this course, the noodles were so-so, not the springy ones that I remembered fondly from here.

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Har Mi – ‘Lo Mein’, Chili, Kaniko

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Har Mi Oil

Did I mention that Alvin is artistic as well?  He designed these cups – and the cute caricatures of the demon with chopper!

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Alvin’s artistic caricatures

Molecular – ‘Xiao Long Bao’
Finally, the famous molecular xlb that made Alvin’s name – the moment I have been waiting for!  The xlb takes its presence in the form of a  spherified bubble, dotted with sweats of pork oil perspiration and a strip of red ginger.   We were advised to eat the whole thing with our eyes closed to properly savour the xlb.  Our views settled on the skin being too thick, the filling too gooey.  Mom reckoned that the vinegar was too bitter and left a rough after-taste.   However, I think I recognised a hint of xlb aftertaste.  Success? 😃

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Molecular – ‘Xiao Long Bao’

Langoustine – English mustard, salty egg, cauliflower, black truffle, duck jus
I skipped this shellfish, for a fish substitute.   Beautifully plated, I am sure this is a winning combination of langoustine with English mustard and salty egg.

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Langoustine – English mustard, salty egg, cauliflower, black truffle, duck jus

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Langoustine – English mustard, salty egg, cauliflower, black truffle, duck jus

Cod – Sauternes jelly
My substitute was a cod wrapped in sauternes jelly,dressed in yellow miso and seaweed.  I remembered the cod being overly done, but otherwise, it was a tasty combination.

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Cod – Sauternes jelly

Saga-Gyu Beef – Black truffle, Soy, ‘Cheung fan’
I also remembered this dish well.  The sous-vided beef was cooked medium-rare, a good piece of beef but nothing out-of-the-ordinary. The cheung fan was very salty being drenched in soy sauce.  The strip of black truffle sauce only accentuated the overly saltiness of the course by leaving a strong aftertaste.

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Saga-Gyu Beef – Black truffle, Soy, ‘Cheung fan’

Strawberry gelato and orange profiteroles.
The final course – the dessert was totally unremarkable.  While the strawberry gelato and white chocolate bark makes for a classic pairing, the cocoa nibs did nothing to uplift the dessert plate especially when I presumed the profiteroles to be stale.  😢

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Strawberry gelato and orange profiteroles.

Although we ordered coffees, we did not get the  petite fours presented in a birdcage – if you squint your eyes and try your hardest, you can see the metal birdcages hanging over the bar area (2nd picture)- perhaps because we were only paying half the price for a degustation dinner?   Anyway, this I can live without since we are going to Mrs B Cakery to pick up a real dessert! 😍

Overall, it was an enjoyable and interesting meal, but nothing overly ‘x-treme’ about it, then again, I had been to Tapas Molecular Bar in Tokyo (here).  I am somehow desensitised with the hype surrounding spherification and liquid nitrogen.  Taste-wise, the food at Bo Innovation all have strong tastes – in part from the use of vinegars and soy sauce – I am guessing because Alvin smokes cigars?

At HK$780 (+10%) for a degustation lunch or  HK$288 (+10%) for a Set Lunch, it is really up to you to call it a “Boo-” or a “Bo-” Innovation.

I leave you with…

Bourdain’s HK visit of Demon Chef, Alvin Leung of Bo Innovations

Fine Eats to End A Heck of A Week @ Gastro Park, Potts Point

Date of Visit: August 9 2013

Since opening in April 2011, Gastro Park has been awarded 2 chefs hats from the Sydney Morning Herald and 2 stars from the Gourmet Traveller. The owner-chef Grant King formerly worked at Piers, Rose Bay (my old hood), no wonder one of the waiters looked familiar, then again these professionals tend to move around.

As I was saying,  I am back in Sydney for a bit of R&R – which it did not happen. On the contrary, I have early morning meetings to turn up to in the City and when I arrive home in the evenings, I have to attend to a slew of emails coming from Malaysia.  I do protest – this is not R&R, as I understand!

Tonight being a Friday night, I was looking forward to end the hectic week with a relaxing dinner with my bestie.  But at the eleventh hour, an ambiguous fax came through bearing bad news comparable to:  the captain had abandoned his ship with all crews onboard!   Astonishing!  This irresponsible chap signed off a bundle of blank cheques and had left without leaving a successor! It was totally mind-boggling, so I had to stay back a little bit longer…

The interesting bit was, he engaged a KL law firm here to advise him on Australian law (?).  The said Cheat Take and Sue Lawyers, (google the acronyms, you didn’t get it from me!) Now I understand why Malaysians get bad raps for credit card frauds, overstays and working illegally.  Well, we have here,  2 Malaysian lawyers from KL working illegally in Sydney, advising/ acting on behalf of their client (without Australian license) and cooking books!  No wonder we need tight immigration controls!  This firm is notorious in KL for killing conveyancing deals, anyway, ”a fool and his gold is soon parted’,  and this client was labelled the ‘pauper billionaire’ by BRW a few years back…

An interesting week ahead… now to DINNER!

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Gastro Park is a short skip (3mins) away from Kings Cross Station. It sits on a triangular wedge of land, giving lookouts to the activities on the streets or traffic further down the road – remember, when looking at the pedestrians, no eye contacts!

The interior has a slightly goth edge to it.  Sterile concrete walls, hardwood floor boards and timber furnitures.  Mosses and lichens draping from dry branches on the center table and wall give elements of playground warmth.  This is after all, a gastronomic playground as suggested by its namesake, Gastro Park with a swing dangling between the letters ‘A’ and ‘S’ in it logo.

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Logo

Listen up folks, a thrilling ride through culinary technique, taste and texture is ensured.

The menu is divided into snacks, entrees, mains, cheese and dessert…(I forgot to take a picture of the menu to remind myself since I was so hassled from the prior events…)

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Interior

There are 2 degustation choices: 7 courses or 10.  However, since both of us are in portion control mode for the night, deg will have to wait another day.

To start, Peachy,  gin with elderflower to soothe me down. Sweet and peachy like its name.

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Peachy

Complimentary natural, sour dough bread, apparently only made from flour, water and salt without any yeast (good, stomach will not bloat!)

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Sour dough bread

Lobster consomme with ageshi tofu. The consomme came separately and was poured into the stone bowl at the table. The consomme smelt very strongly of shellfish, although I am allergic to shellfish, I still rendered the aroma to be very fragrant (and did not itch).   In the bowl are mushrooms, and tofu. I presume potato starch is used to fry the tofu in because the skin stretched.  My friend liked it.

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Lobster consomme with ageshi tofu

For the Mains, my friend ordered Cod presented in splashes of sauces for artistic effect.   He pointed out to me the interesting layering of the fish colour.  The flaky flesh was white, then  changes to orange and then to the black scales – very interesting. I can only say, the technique must be masterly to get the layering effects of  colour.

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Cod

For my Main, I ordered beef fillet with sweetbread. The reason I ordered it was for the sweetbread. All the mains on the menu looked good, making a decision very hard.  Moreover, I was too busy to do background ‘food research’!  (*Face plam * Eeek… how can?  Me, a food blogger?  No!) Onion skin filled with creamy white sauce, 2 mushrooms propped against the cube of beef fillet lightly caramelised and sprinkled with salt.  The sweetmeat was firm, yet almost creamy.

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Beef fillet with Sweetbread

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Beef fillet with Sweetbread

My dessert was the cherry raw and cooked paired with vanilla sponge and sorbet.  The vanilla sponge tasted like rye bread to me, there were sliced cherries and marinated/ stewed cherries accompanied with some sort of cream and cream sorbet. The most interesting bit was the ‘cherry’ in the forefront of the pic. It was actually a chocolate mousse inside a jelly skin!  How deceptive!

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Cherry

It was a wonderful dinner, I enjoyed my food and a glass of red relaxed me and I felt happier.  Watch this space for deg!

At the time of review Gastro Park scored 80% out of 168 votes.
Gastro Park on Urbanspoon

Mandarin Grill Chef Sunday Tour @ Mandarin Grill + Bar, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Hong Kong

I’m betting my bottom dollar that most of you dudes and dudettes are fans of the Masterchef series.

How awesome was Heston’s Blumenthal’s week long appearance on Masterchef?  I hope none of you missed out the fun-filled molecular themed episodes – with lots of liquid nitrogen, dry ice, spherications, smokes, etc. That particular episode on ‘Medieval Feast’ with the ‘vegetable patch’ reminded me that I have not blogged about my degustation dinner at Mandarin Grill + Bar in Hong Kong a couple of months ago.

Date of Visit: June 2 2013

Mandarin Grill + Bar is a 1-Michelin stared restaurant in Hong Kong synonymous for decadent dining – delicious food, sophisticated ambience, fantastic service, arty food presentation – all for HK$1,588+10% per person for the degustation.  A dress code is in force.  All men must wear a jacket and keep it on at all time.  No torn ripped jeans even the designer ones.  (Anyone remember Marc Jacobs’ kilts fiasco?  He was refused entry to a restaurant because he contravened the restaurant’s dress code by wearing a ‘skirt’?  It made news – and some noise!)

Anywaz…

The gastronomy at Mandarin Grill + Bar has enough neologisms and touches of creativity to convince the most discerning food critic and yet mom would still be happy with the landings in front of her. Since I was hosting  dinner for 6 on that night, I used my Samsung Note  to take these quick blurry snaps and relied on my memory of the highlights of the night – so apologies for the horrible photos and sketchy food notes.

Under the guidance of the sommelier, my guest chose a Kabinett Riesling and a Nuits Saint Georges for dinner. I liked the French Burgundy, but found the German Riesling slightly too sweet as I refer drier varietals.

With our wines ordered, menus collected and everyone at the table comfortably settled, the waiters brought out a potted olive bonsai plant. A bit puzzling at first until the waiter said  to imagine eating the spherifed olives under the olive tree. Visual aid is said to evoke our memory center in our brains which works by enhancing the flavour receptors in our taste buds hence making the corresponding food taste better. To be honest, I cannot remember how the spherified olives tasted like…  The key of making ‘olives out of olives’ is to find olives that have a great quality juice that tastes great, here is a link of a tutorial by Ferran Adrian.  

The melt-in-your-mouth gougères rolled in parmesan cheese (presented in a Mandarin tin box) and olive gougères on the other hand, were heavenly, I distinctively remember the sweet buttery aroma of cheeses in the crumbly gougères.

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A pot of olive bonsai plant, with spherified olive and extra olive Gougères

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Gougères rolled in parmesan cheese (presented in a Mandarin tin box)

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Gougères

The warm soft breads were fresh out of the oven. A trolley of 5 types of  olive oils were wheeled to our table.  The waitress explained in detail the flavours and nuances of each type of oil hailing from different countries.  I think I chose the French, although in hindsight, I should have chosen ‘Lambda’ from Greece, the world’s most expensive olive oil (read here)

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House-made soft rolls

The presentation of a Flower Pot for each of the diners marks the 1st course.   It was accompanied by the ceremonial watering of the plant with a tea infusion from a watering-can!   Inside the Flower pot was a small garden patch of herbs and sous-vided root vegetables stuck in a creamy concoction and edible soil. This was quite similar to the Masterchef contests’ vegetable garden whereby they used egg mayonnaise (for earth), topped with chopped-up dried olives and nuts for make-believe edible soil.  I am not sure whether the same ingredients were used for the pot, but the pot was exceptionally divine – a bit too heavy and filling though.

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Flower Pot

Salmon and Caviar
I am assuming that the caviar was of the sustainable farmed varietal.     Because I nipped off to the Ladies (there was an attendant stationed there to hand me  a hand towel after I had washed my hands), I didn’t realise that we had to share a tin between 2 people.  I only realised later when I had a good half of it.  I think there was lobster boursin under the bed of caviar.  It was very delicious.  My apologies to my guest, but since she had recently attended a lavish wedding reception, she told me, that she has had enough of her share from the humongous bowl of caviar that is so de rigueur in Hong Kong society weddings nowadays.

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Caviar

The hedonistic salmons came out in style, smoking on a bed of herbs/hay.  This is smoked-cured-salmon-heaven and very good!

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Salmon

Sirloin
5 slices of tender juicy beef arranged in a circle around different types of mushrooms, (and a piece of dehydrated mushroom) on a heavy timber board- the waiter gave us a tall-tale of “cows roaming in the woods”.  Really?  We all thought that the story-line could be improved with “deers roaming in the forest”.  Whoever heard of cows in woods anyway?  This came accompanied with mash potatoes and spinach

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Sirloin

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Sirloin

By the time, the cheese trolley rolled over.  We were stuffed and had to wait for 20 minutes to digest before we can proceed any further.

We were served 17 types of Cheeses. Again, each piece of cheese was explained in detail by the cheese sommelier.  We had some crackers, honey and pastes to go with our cheeses.

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Cheese Board

I had a Light Bulb for dessert!  Really?!  Yup, the light bulb was made of spun sugar and filled with coconut foam and paired with a quenelle of mango ice cream and a chocolate filament for extra panache.

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Light Bulb

The grand finale was the petit fours.

This is melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffles presented on  Mandarin Oriental’s signature edible chocolate ‘madolins’. I tried to scrap some chocolate bits off to try, but it was rock-solid hard.  Better not risk a trip to the dentist, right?  I should have asked for a doggie-bag too…

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Chocolate truffles presented on Mandarin Oriental’s signature Edible Chocolate ‘Madolins’

All-in-all a fantastic 4-hours dinner.  A bit Downton Abbey-ish, served in full silver service.

I might have missed the Art Basel 2013 and the special menu designed in conjunction with it, but nevertheless, there is always next year.  Here is a link to the astoundingly specially created menu here  *Food Porn*

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Van Gough’s Ear made from Foie Gras

A Bit of a Yawner…@ Tapas Molecular Bar, Tokyo

Date of Visit: February 24 2013

Tapas are primarily small bites with something to drink. After some surfing on the net, I decided to go for an ‘adventurous’ molecular dinner at Tapas Molecular Bar at Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Tokyo. I will advise to book sometime ahead since there are only 2 seatings per night accommodating 7 diners per seating.

True to its name, this tapas bar is REALLY a bar – a cosy 7-seaters tucked away from the Oriental Lounge where we can watch the bartender mix cocktails at one corner while waiting for our dinner to start.

From reading blogs and reviews, I came to understand that the main draw card is the highly entertaining Canadian chef called Chef Ramsey. Unfortunately, it was his off-night, so we had his second-in-command, Chef Yamamoto to ‘perform’ for us.

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