Communal Dunkin’ @ Hotpot Express, Hillwood Road, TST, Hong Kong

I’m feeling for a nice hot bubbling hotpot dinner!  Weather in the Kong has been crazy! We had temperature dipping below 10C for the past few days – and with the dampness (and rain) it felt even colder.  Brrr…. even I who ‘never get sick’ caught the virus, did a couple of miserable projectiles and still coughing my poor lungs out!  And no, excuse me, I don’t have the H7N9 Avian Flu!

So, what’s a ‘hot pot‘?

Well, it’s basically that a bunch of diners gather around a bubbling communal cauldron of hot broth, while dunking raw pieces of food into it. Once these morsels are cooked, they are immediately slathered in various sauces and gobbled up.

Hot pot is the “Chinese socio-gastro activity of choice. It is a very low-maintenance meal that feeds a lot of people”.  👍

Here’s my review of my fav hotpot place in the Kong!

Date of Visit: December 30 2013

The place is called Hotpot Express at Hillwood Road, Tsimshatsui, but unfortunately the web address that I jotted down is no longer valid!  So, bummer, I can’t give you the address unless I ask my aunt for it.  Never mind, there is lots of eateries in Hillwood Road, if you decide to venture there.

The restaurant is very compact and simply done up, except for the magnums of cognacs on display there.

We were presented with a tray of assorted seasonings to make up our own sauces.

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Jars of assorted condiments

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My simple condiments of fresh chilies, garlic and soy sauce

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A peek at my dining companion’s murky sesame base sauce

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Essential Utensils: Chopsticks, strainer and of course a bowl with spoon and plate!

One can order various customised stock base according to one’s fancy. Here, we opted for a simple vegetable stock base.

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Bubbling cauldron of veg stock base

Since one has to cook each piece of food individually before one can eat it, the hot pot is the most tedious, and the the slowest of all slow food meals!   While waiting for the morsel of food to cook, one either watches the TV (just kidding – but yes, there are 2 at the corners of the dining room!), one chats and ‘bonds’.

Moreover, the steaming cooking pot doubles as a room heater in the chilling weather!

Let’s check out what we dunked into the hot pots!  Our ingredients:

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Sashimi

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Sashimi

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Fish jowl

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My fish jowl artistically presented (credit: Me!)

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Another shot!

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Wagyu Beef – thinly sliced

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Assorted ‘balls’: Squid, fish, prawns, pork

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Assorted mushrooms

Do you know that Cantonese call rockets, ‘Emperor’s vegetables’?  And I love rockets!

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‘Emperor’s Vegetables’ aka Arugula aka Rockets

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Razor mussels

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Seaweeds

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Some deep-fried bean-curd. I don’t like like, and will not recommend it!

Ahh!  Heaven!  But back down to earth –  I guess I better switch on my heater now and get my microwave working for my dinner!

おいしい Soba @ Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi, Neutral Bay

Date of Visit: July 28 2013

For my first catch-up dinner with my bestie last Sunday, he suggested Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi , a Japanese restaurant at Neutral Bay less than 15 minutes drive away from my home. The normally busy Military Road was surprisingly quiet and devoid of traffic, which made parking a breeze and we got the prized parking spot right in front of the restaurant.

Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi is an interesting hyphenated name for a restaurant, so I did a quick search on the net. Apparently in Japan, restaurateurs concentrate on specialising, rather than offering a meal-for-all-seasons. Hence, Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi wanting to give the best of both worlds in soba and teppanyaki successfully combined two specialty restaurants under one roof in a comfortable Japanese ambience.

Ju Ge Mu, the teppanyaki side, has dark timbers, red walls and a teppanyaki bar at the back where you can watch the action. Shimbashi is the yellow soba side with a soba making machine in front of the restaurant, and a traditional Japanese sitting area.

We ordered the 3-course set dinner ($50), but upgraded our soba option by paying $7 extra. There are 3 options for the main and soba courses. There is also a Duck Hot Pot Winter special for 2 people for $42 which seems reasonable.

To accompany our meal, we had a cold fruity, dry sake. Without any knowledge of sake, I cannot comment much except, it was drinkable. (The best sake I have drank was in Ginza Okuda in Japan called ‘Southern Beauty’, read here)

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Sake

We had a complimentary starter of fried soba chips and Japanese guacamole made from avocado, sashimi and fish roe. The thick soba chips needed some jaw action but the flavoursome creamy guacamole with a spicy kick made up for the effort.

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Soba Chips

My friend who is also a photographer had suggested me to buy the Lumix TZ40, and since I could not get the wifi to function on my camera even after consulting the instruction booklet, he had to show me how. QED (Quite Easily Done) – aka the instruction manual was poorly written. 🙂 We then compared notes, he took some pictures with his Lumix GF6, his pictures are slightly darker than mine,but otherwise pretty similar. Kudos to him for understanding my needs and good recommendation – I prefer my lighter Lumix with a wifi function over his GF6.

Next to arrive was my main for my set dinner which also came as our appetiser. The assorted sashimi was the finest I’ve had for a long time, very fresh and served at the right temperature. I especially like the thick salmon sashimi which went very well with the hand grated wasabi. I won’t mind coming here solely for the assorted sashimi platter the next time around.

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Assorted Sashimi

Our individual platter of assorted appetiser was also very prettily presented and interesting. We have cold soba in light soy in a spoon (with a tiny leaf on top), a vinegared oyster in light batter, 2 pieces of tamago (egg rolls), sweet and sour cold pickled vegetables and a piece of fried fish. At this stage, I am starting to feel suddenly very full…

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Appetisers

Then my friend’s main course of grilled fish followed. Tender, juicy and smelling buttery, it was perfectly grilled with flaking meat. The buckwheat in miso sauce presented in a hollowed out cucumber added extra umami to the fish.

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Grilled Fish

While busy attacking the fish, our Okonomiyaki of Wagyu beef and garlic chips made its appearance. It came on a metal plate, beautifully decorated with soy and mayo sauces. I normally scrap all dressing off my foods, but I made an exception for this one and added extra bonito and seaweed flakes that came in a tin that accompanied the okonomiyaki. In any regards, the pan-cake was too doughy and thick for me. I would prefer a slightly thinner and crispier pancake instead.

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Okonomiyaki

My final course was the Soba Course. I ordered the Walnut Soba (hot). I am very happy with my choice as I had never came across walnut broth before. The broth was a thick savoury soup made from grounded walnut, with the natural nutty sweetness. There are also 2 types of mushrooms and chicken pieces to’ lift’ the soup. The thin soba was firm with grainy texture.

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Walnut Soba

My friend’s Soba Course was the Duck Soba (cold). The noodles sit on a bamboo mat on a clay bowl together with a separate ceramic bowl of dashi broth to dip the noodles in. (I have noticed at the back of the menu that there is an interesting ritual to eat soba. First, take time to appreciate the presentation of the soba, secondly smell the fragrance of the soba, then dip the soba into the bowl to thoroughly enjoy the pleasure of eating the soba)

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Cold Soba with Duck Broth

Finally, sobayu which is basically the water in which the soba was cooked in made its appearance in a kettle. My friend dutifully poured the sobayu into his duck broth and finished up the heartwarming soup. (Burp!)

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Sobayu

We were well looked after by the part-time staffs who introduced each dish to us as they arrived and made sure our drinking glass is never empty. Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi is truly a neighbourhood restaurant since we were nearly the last table by 8pm. With perfectly handmade soba noodles, it deserves many revisits!

At the time of review Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi scored 91% out of 245 votes in Urbanspoon.

Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi on Urbanspoon

Bumming in Silver Kris Lounge, Changi Airport and A Ride on SIA’s A380

Date of Visit: July 20 2013

Getting a flight ticket back to Sydney from Kuala Lumpur was quite a task, the closest date that I could get on Malaysian Airlines (MAS) was 1 week away, so I had to fly Singapore Airlines (SIA) instead. That meant I had to take a 2:20pm shuttle flight from Kuala Lumpur and transit in Singapore for a few hours for the connecting 8:20pm flight. Not a problem since it has been a long time since my last visit to Changi Airport. I also wanted to check-out the duty free shopping and to buy a new camera.

The following pictures were taken with my brand new camera, Lumix TZ40.  There is a wifi connection on my camera, but I haven’t yet worked out how to operate it, so out came the memory card, fingers crossed and into my Mac… and no, I never read instructions, I just fiddle around…

Contrary to the popular belief that shopping in duty-free Singapore is ‘cheap’, I found otherwise. There is currently a Millionaire Lucky Draw at the airport, but the girl maning the store was very rude – and brought back ugly memories of the haughty Singaporean. One would have thought that with the amount of money spent on advertising Singapore to the World, the tourism board would at the very least train their personnels in basic etiquette, so as not to take their slogan “Get Lost”, so literally. (Check out the offensive ad here)

After a short wonder around Terminal 3… no, I didn’t bother with the new indoor Butterfly Park… I decided it’s high time to chillax at the Silver Kris Lounge and enjoy all the amenities since it was getting very  hot and rather stuffy in the public area.

Inside the Silver Kris Lounge:    I am very impressed with the chic design and layout of the lounge.  I especially loved the personal space afforded for each seating area with its own luxurious space around it.  This was very cleverly  accomplished by the smart arranging of seats eg. putting sidetables and reading lights next to every chair or grouping chairs together for larger groups/ families.  The chairs were comfortable for catching a quick nap or reading in peace.

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Personal space segregated by putting side-table between each chairs

The Cafe Area easily transitions into a cozy eating area yet still appropriate for work.  (I had some sandwiches at this station.  There are egg mayo, veggies and roast chicken choices- all sandwiched in white processed bread, unfortunately)

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Cafe-style Set-ups

I like the idea of communal seatings at the long granite bench.  However, in my experience, I found that in the Asian context, it may be a tad boring (a bonus if you like privacy and to have the possession of the entire whole bench to yourself) since Asians don’t like sitting on high chairs with their feet dangling above the ground, they prefer low chairs… I noted as well that the highly-polished timber bar chairs were upholstered in golden gauze polyester fabric which does not make for comfortable sitting for too long.

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Communal granite long bar seatings

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A variety of seating arrangements ranging from leather chairs to bar chairs

The Buffet Area:   Now, what was amazing about the lounge was the amount of food being served. I am especially impressed by the buffet area, which was done up like a Park Hyatt chain with scrumptious offerings in Asian and Western dishes.  I am a light eater when I travel, so I didn’t sample any.  The Japanese sushi and cold soba station looked interesting, but since it was uncovered, I did not want to risk a tummy-ache.  I tried the cheese station but the melting cheeses did not look  particularly appetising either.  I also gave the dessert station a miss since I don’t like tiny mousey cakes.

Buffet Area in Silver Kris Lounge

The Bar Area:   Now, this is me talking… my personal favourite.  There are 2 types of reds and 2 types of whites to choose from (not notable wines).  Beer on tap, a variety of harder alcohols and cappuccino/espresso/coffee machine.  Naturally, I chose my favourite tipple which is a champagne to kick off my homebound journey.  The champs is a Delamontte, a quaffable champs with not much of a character, but fizzy enough to make me bubbly.   I guess the  nuts, nachos and potato chips at  bar are very popular since I had to make a couple of return trips  for them  to be refilled.

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Bar Area (front)

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Bar area (back)

The Shower Facilities:  There are 4 shower cubicles which are very well used since I had to wait for my turn.  What turned me off was that it was not manned, I had to wait for my turn and use  the dirty cubicle which was rather unhygienic to say the least.  (Cathay Pacific and MAS has a personnel  station that mans the showers facilities and clean up after each users.)

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Orchids: Singapore’s National Flower

On-board the  A380:   SIA is seriously the most  stingy kiasu airline!  Only a pair of socks and a sleep shade for bizo class?  What?!  I get a whole Agnes B amenities kit even for flying the KL-HKG route!  I get the full-works from MAS in a Tumi kit for KL-SYD route.  Gosh!   Wi-fi on-board, did you say,  but you need your credit card to activate it.  Why, I get free wifi  on Turkish and Emirates Airlines even on coach class!   Anyway, let’s not get worked up about this, the wifi system did not work…

My dinner on-board:

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Tuna tataki on Greek salad with meclun leaves and balsamic dressing

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Lavash

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Hiccup Inducing overly well-done: Seared tournedos of Beef with thyme jus, roasted vegetables and seared asparagus

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Chocolate Truffle Ice-cream with Passionfruit Coulis

In-flight Entertainment:  I watched 2 movies, ‘G.I Joe: Retaliation‘ (because I want to see Channing, Willis and the cool Korean actor… either I was slow or tired, I couldn’t catch the story line), and ‘Hotel Deluxe ‘, (a super darn funny Cantonese movie – must get DVD!)

Sleep:  The largest lie-flat bed, did you say?  Well, I’m a dork, I needed assistance.  I even needed assistance to get my seat to recline!   I guess age, even the 5 short years,  did not bear well for the A380… Even though I had a good sleep on-board, I still slept the entire day when I arrived home.  This is what one calls ‘stress’, and travelling is very stressful!