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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‘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

Executive Lunch-Time Eats @ Tsui Hang Village, Central, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: August 27 2013

It was near impossible to find a place for lunch in Central before the restaurant boom took off with a gusto in Hong Kong a decade ago. Now, a short walk on the pedestrian overhead bridge to Sheung Wan from IFC or an escalator ride to Mid-Levels is all you need to find an array of new restaurants serving up cuisines from all over the world.

This is a significant departure from my good ‘ol days of McDonald’s take-aways and styrofoam lunch-boxes *sniff*. Then again, I was only an architectural intern engrossed with my mundane priorities of specifying steps in the stairs, gradients in the ramps, toilet accessories – amongst the most exciting tasks! My mind was far away from digging out any culinary finds then!

I degress… back to Central, I say reservations are still recommended today especially since this is a busy financial district.

Tsui Hang Village in New World Tower, Central has been around ever since I can remember. This is a family favourite. We used to have to check-in at least once every week when I was little. Gran had a ‘trader’s couch’ in Central where she reports for ‘duty’ every workday! Anyway, after many face-lifts, this is still the same expansive restaurant on the second floor of an office building with a low ceiling. Heck! Even the maitre d’ is still the same woman!

Food here are classic Cantonese, with dim sums for lunch. Some of the a la carte, I recommend are salted fish fried rice, braised e-fu noodles, 2-faced yellow noodles and back pepper beef on sizzling hot plates.

Naturally as a golden-oldie, Tsui Hang Village made into the list of recommended restaurants in Michelin Hong Kong & Macau Guides in 2012, 2013.

Great news for the ‘bananas‘ (Chinese who cannot read Chinese) out there! Bi-lingual menu with pictures – ordering made easy. All one needed to do is to tick off the boxes for the food one wants with the pencil provided and give it to the waiter.

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Bi-lingual tick-the-box menu with pictures

Honey Glazed BBQ Pork (HK$128): Sticky, juicy, succulent pork – half fat, half lean – exceptionally tender porky bites with sweet chewy unctuousness. I enjoyed the honeyed soy beans, so much that my chopsticks have only 1 path – to the plate for the beans into my mouth and back!

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Honey Glazed BBQ Pork

Steamed Braised Chicken Feet: Don’t say yuck! Also known as ‘Phoenix Claws‘, in Cantonese, this is a nutritious savoury-sweet delicacy with plenty of collagen to make you look younger and prettier! Curious at how this dish is cooked, I checked online (recipe here) and to my horror they have to be first deep-fried in order for it to puff up when steamed. Not so healthy now, is it? Still, as a once in a while delicacy, it’s OK as a treat, right?

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Steamed Braised Chicken Feet

Steamed BBQ Pork Bun: This is sweet BBQ pork filling in white fluffy cottony-soft buns. The filling is very hot. Personally, I am not crazy about BBQ buns because they are too sweet for me. I usually share the bun and have it as my dessert.

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Steamed BBQ Pork Bun

Steamed Squid: An old classic in any yumcha. I think a basket of this is becoming a rarity nowadays. I especially enjoyed the supposedly cholesterol-lowering or was it blood-pressure lowering pomelo skins under the squids dressed in salty nam jin sauce.

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Steamed Squid

Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings: Chinese chives or ‘gau choi‘ wrapped in glutinous rice paper wrappings.

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Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings

Vegetarian Stir-fry (Lo Hon Chai): Snap peas, carrots, celeries, bamboo shoots, black fungus, lotus roots, lotus buds and chestnuts. A flavoured packed dish with all my favourite vegetables in it. The notables in this dish are the crunchy lotus roots and water chestnuts.

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Vegetarian Stir-fry

Steamed Pork Ribs: I have not had this dish for quite a long time and it was not as good as I remembered. It was all bone cartilages with little meat. Basically a deep-fried pork ribs which is later steamed and given a generous garnishing of chopped garlic.

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Steamed Pork Ribs

Steamed Beef Balls: Finally! The favourite among my favourite dim sums. The beef balls here are rather special to me because the beef are minced to a pulp, thus having the texture of beef paste. The added parsleys and water chestnuts in the beef balls are accentuated with the soy vinegar provided.

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Steamed Beef Balls

The total time we spent in Tsui Hang Village from arrival to picking up the tab was only 50minutes! Now, that’s executive lunch-time in Hong Kong for you!

Dim Sums With The Sunday Hikers @ Ming Court, Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: August 26 2013

Bro informed us that he had booked Sunday Lunch at Ming Court, a 2 Michelin Stars Cantonese restaurant at the Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, which is on Level 4 of the hotel we are staying.

“Lunch at 10:30am and there is a dress code”, he reminded us.

“Lunch? At 10:30am, that’s very early”, Mom said, “Are you sure?”.

“Well, there was a choice of 10:30am or 1:30pm, nothing available for 12pm.  I don’t think they serve lunch!”, came Bro’s reply.

So here we, at 10:30am sharp standing in front of Ming Court amid a mini crowd. After registration with the maitre de, we were seated promptly. The restaurant is very classy, with a collection of Ming replicas and ink landscape paintings.  However, there was no baby stool for my bag!  This is not quite the Michelin restaurant that I expect after our experience at Yé Shanghai yesterday.

The restaurant filled up rather quickly and we noticed diners dressed very casually in their ‘Sunday best’ of in hiker shorts, T-shirts and even Crocs, some even arriving with backpacks! Did these people hiked here and where is the required ‘dress code’ we all wondered.  Mom being her observant self, then said to Bro that he must have made a reservation in English through the hotel reception, which he did.

Apparently my Bro has been mistaken for a gweilo or laowai (depending on whether you are speaking Cantonese of Mandarin).   The hotel has to make sure that house guests do not turn up in wife-beaters, T-shirts or flip-flops! Or God forbid bathrobes!  Well, you know how simple some people can be – the resto is in the hotel, it’s a matter of riding the lifts, pressing the buttons down and up, so why not?  That aside, we had experienced in  Japanese fine-dining establishments where guests turned up in hiking gears (totally spoiling the chichi atmosphere), it was hard for the  restaurants to turn them away because that would mean a loss in business – and Japanese economy is ‘no good’ at the moment.  (Know the word ‘RESPECT’ dudes? Duh!)  Moreover in ryokans, they specifically put notices on dress codes in theirrooms – NO YUTAKAS IN RESTAURANTS!

Anyhow, since it was only 10:30am, we were not eager to eat heavily, thinking that we will go somewhere else for a late lunch or tea later. Hence, we only ordered only 5 dim sums to kick-start our day.  Urmmm…the food were…

Condiments on our table consists of XO Chilli Sauce with Baby Shrimps and Black Beans Sauce

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XO Chilli Sauce with Baby Shrimps and Black Beans

1)  Pan-fried Turnip Cakes: Pretty good with bits of Chinese ham in it but nothing outstanding.  (When I was a toddler, I could eat 1 basket of steamed turnip pudding all by myself, so that’s kinda makes me an expert! Hear! Hear!)

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Pan-fried Turnip Cakes

2)  Char-Siu Rice Roll: The rice roll was good, thick chewy skin which did not stick to my teeth. The char-siu was savoury sweet with added parsley for a herby kick.  I like!

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Char-Siu Rice Roll

3)  Pork dumpling with foie gras paste:  Sounded interesting on the menu but very ordinary in reality. The skin was too thick and doughy, sticking to my teeth.  There was no hint of foie gras at all.  Disappointed!

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Pork dumpling with foie gras paste

4)  Beef balls with Bean Curd Sheets:  This is another of my all-time dim sum favourite, Ming Court’s version has all the right ingredients of minced beef, parsley and chestnuts, but lacked a certain finesse.

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Beef balls with Bean Curd Sheets

5)  Glutinous rice wrapped in leaf has a lot of conpoy, the rice was perfect. The whole package was very fragrant.  This is the best dimsum dish.

Every year, during the Tuen Ng Festival or Dragon Boat festival, Ming Court will prepare Rice Dumplings for sale. When I was living in Hong Kong, I never fail to buy a couple – and they were generously stuffed with convoy, mushrooms and meat in steamed rice.

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Glutinous rice wrapped in leaf

So there you have, the brunch was pretty ordinary, not 2 Michelin Stars material, nothing to sing about.  It was better off eating at Club L (the hotel’s in-house lounge), the dimsums are  catered by Ming Court anyway.  In hindsight, after perusing other reviews, we should have done dinner instead, since this is where the gastronomic experience lies.

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Dimsums for breakfast at Club L

After brunch, we went to Times Square Shopping Mall in Causeway Bay.  There were many people, but not as many as I remembered – where are you, people? Disneyland?

In front of the mall, I was awestruck.  There were 2 huge robotic figurines standing imposingly.  Apparently, they are Gundam and Zauku II, making their first appearance outside of Japan, in the event called “Gundam Docks in Hong Kong“.  The 2 models are approximately  7 meter  which are scaled to 1/3 of the original Gundam in Odaiba, Tokyo.  I’m not a fan of them, so left after taking some pictures.  However, if you are interested to see more, I found a You Tube link here – Enjoy!

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Gundam

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Zauku II

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Zauku II

The ‘Fishy’ Case of the Yellowfish @ Yé Shanghai, TST, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: August 24 2013

On the occasion of mom’s birthday, we went to Yé Shanghai, a 2 Michelin Stars  establishment located on level 6 of Marco Polo Hotel, TST for a Shanghainese lunch. There are 3 hotels along the Canton Road all within the same complex (Harbour City and Ocean Terminal – and these are the only shopping mall you need to know/ visit in Hong Kong if you are short of time).

Upon entry to the restaurant, there is a very nice bar area dressed in eclectically moody dark timber, it was rather chic, no doubt making  an ideal place for pre-dinner drinks.   I would love to take out my camera to start taking pictures to show my readers, but since the restaurant was starting to get busy, I did not fancy to make a nuisance of myself.

We were seated at the main dining area at round tables instead of the timber-framed booth seatings. With french-windows on one side of the restaurant we got plenty of natural lights and views looking out to Hullet House (one have to look beyond the balcony area).

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My views

Once seated, the waiter gave me a baby stool for my handbag! This is what I call Michelin service!

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Baby stool for my bag!

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Bag perching prettily on stool

Condiments on our table

In Chinese restaurants there are usually condiments ready on the table which are  added on to the bill.  They are also available in bottles for sale at the door.

XO Chilli Sauce: Lots of baby shrimps and very spicy. There is no stopping me digging spoonfuls out of the container to pick at the tiny shrimps one-by-one

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XO Chilli Sauce

Dried turnip: Spicy and sweet. Love the crunchiness of the turnips dressed in fragrant sesame oil

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Dried turnip

There is a dim sum menu but we decided to rise to the occasion by ordering our favourites from the proper lunch menu.

We started with Typical Shanghainese Cold Appetisers.

Tea Leaf Smoked Flavoured Eggs: Most delicious. The orangey yolks were perfectly custardy surrounded by sweet smoky egg whites. We tend to order these every time we see them on the menu.

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Tea Leaf Smoked Flavoured Eggs

Huadiao Wine Marinated ‘Drunken’ Chicken. Another customary dish for us. The tender chicken came intact with skin and fat. The fat literally melted away when I chewed on the chicken. The wine was very strong and fragrant, it was too delicious to leave it alone… I drank by the spoonful!

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Drunken Chicken

Shredded Jelly fish with Cucumber: Crunchy and charred, the jelly fish was dressed in sesame oil. The cucumber was refreshing and for those needing a spicy kick, there is a badass mustard sauce for you to dunk your jelly fish in!

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Jelly fish with Cucumber

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Our table of cold appetisers

The Mains that we ordered…

Deep-fried Sweet and Sour Yellowfish with Pine Nuts: It was already deboned when it came to our table. While I liked the deep-fried fish very much – dense meaty fish yet not oily – I did not care for the thick tomato gravy at all because they were overly sweet and starchy. I don’t need extra carbs.

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Sweet and sour yellow fish with pine nuts

My tale of the  ‘fishy Yellowfish’:

Yellow-fish or Croaker is very scarce nowadays and reminds me of the trip to Putuo Shan (a sacred mountain near Ningbo, China) that I took with Mom and her BFFs nearly 10 years ago. While my aunts were checking out the fish to order for lunch, one of them pointed at a fish in a plastic basin to enquire the whether it is a yellowfish and the market price – immediately – the fish-monger grabbed the fish and knocked it out! WHACK with the butt of a chopper! KAPOW! 7-0-0- Ren-Min-Bi! Gone and poof! The most expensive fish we have ever eaten and up to this day, we still laugh about it whenever we order Yellowfish. Moral of the story? Never point, keep finger to self! Another gaff was that yellowfish is never caught alive, they die as soon as they are out of the water -duh!

If you are interested to visit Putuo Shan, here’s a link, but mind you EVERYTHING there is newly built!  The Red Guards had destroyed all the statues during the Cultural Revolution.  The Chinese were in a hurry to get the UNESCO cultural heritage grant when they started rebuilding the site- however,  I don’t think it was approved because it was more of a theme park with ghastly golden statues without originality about it, thus did not comply with ICOMOS guide lines.

Back to food…

Braised Shanghai Cabbage with Beancurd Sheets: Simple dish of wholesome goodness. Fresh baby bakchoy in chicken essence.

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Braised Shanghai Cabbage with Beancurd Sheets

Pork Belly with Steamed Bun. Now this is a ‘deconstructed’ pork belly bun which easily beats Momofuku’s and Ippudo‘s famous pork belly buns hands down!  A cute steamed white bun perching on the sweet, gingery pork belly which was warpped by a piece of pandanus leaf.  The tender pork belly literally melted in my mouth.   I used the white bun to mop up the delicious soy sauce.

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Pork Belly with Steamed Bun: Nice presentation

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Pork Belly with with good fat and pork ratio

Noodles with spring onions and soy: Since it’s Mom’s birthday, we ordered a Shanghainese street food, the simple noodles cooked in soy sauce with baby river shrimps and the ‘prized’ spring onions. The springy noodles were delectable. The soy sauce left a sweet lingering aftertaste.

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Noodles with spring onions and soy

Desserts

Typically Chinese desserts consist of boring sweet bean soups, puddings or to make things a little more interesting, deep-fried egg whites or bananas fritters!  However, I must say that I am very impressed with Yé Shanghai’s Western fusion.

Tofu pudding with basil seeds, mango and nato de coco and pomelo: A very ordinary looking pudding with pomelo on top corrugating in a sea of mango sauce, dotted with translucent nato de coco.  Lo-behold, a surprise awaits when we dug in, it was filled with basil seeds and mango! This was a yummy dessert with the clean refreshing tofu taste.

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Tofu pudding with basil seeds, mango and nato de coco and pomelo

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Hidden treasures of basil seeds and chunks of mango

Black Sesame Crème Brûlée with Roasted Peanut Butter Ice Cream: Not pretty to look at, but surprisingly tasty. The addition of grinded black sesame made the brûlée grainy, but gave a strong nuttiness and sesame aroma, pairing black well with the salty roasted peanut butter ice-cream. A modern Chinese-take on the French classic.

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Black Sesame Crème Brûlée with Roasted Peanut Butter Ice Cream:

Ginger Panna Cotta: A very simple Chinese ginger pud with bits of ginger in it.  Personally, I think the strawberries and mango sauce are more for presentation.

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Ginger panna cotta:

The waiter knowing that we are Shanghainese, recommended that we buy a box of their home-made Black Dates and Walnut Mooncakes ( $160 per box of 6).   We regretted that we only bought 2 boxes because it was really well-made with smooth black dates paste, which is very rare nowadays.  It take s a lot of work to get a smooth paste.   Moreover, this is an acquired taste for non-Shanghainese since it is ‘tartishly-sour’, slightly bitter with a hint of charcoal.

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Black Dates and Walnut Mooncakes

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Mooncake embossed with Ye Shanghai in Cantonese-style baked skin

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Black Dates and Walnut Mooncakes

Finally for our dinner at home which we celebrated again with Gran, Lucy (our helper) prepared  Abalone Chicken Soup Longevity Noodles and a hard-boiled egg for each of us.

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Abalone Chicken Soup Longevity Noodles

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