Saturday, March 27, 2010

07.01.10: ♥

(Amuse bouche: Salmon)

(#1: ABALONE. Salad of shimeji. Jicama. Soy syrup)

(#2: BEEF. Carpaccio maki. Lentils. Foie gras. Beef tongue. Broth)

(#3: SALMON. Sweet potato "risotto." Curry Emulsion. Apples)

(#4: SPRING CHICKEN. Potato. Truffle mushroom stew)

(#5: COCONUT. Panna cotta)

Union J: Seconds

What the schedule for a good day looks like:

Before 9:30am: Trot over to Salon de The de Joel Robuchon. Pick up big red box of tarts. Grab coffee to go. Head to office.
9:30 – 9:45: Morning chat with I.T.
9:45am-12:45pm: Work work work. Finish column.
1pm: Lunch with some looooovely person. Chat and eat good food.

Well, that was the schedule for last Tuesday at least. The “looooovely person” that day was no other than Tata and the “good food” was provided by the good folks at Union J. We had settled on that lunch spot since a) I hadn’t been in a pretty long time, and b) they had just added a few new things to the menu.

While I don’t remember being blown away last time I was at Union J for lunch, I did fall in love with the space. So open, so clean, sooooo “Noo Yawk.” It seems almost a waste that the restaurant isn’t on street level. I settled on my lunch course-choices over their A-M-AZING sourdough bread. Seriously, Union J bread is in my top 3 in the city (along with Fusion Gourmet and THE Robuchon, of course) so I happily lapped up every crumb of the crusty bread.

(Leafy sesame salad: eat your greens, yo!)

As for my actual lunch, wanting to pretend to be somewhat healthy, I opted to start with the leafy sesame salad. The serving was unexpected ginormous. I did feel very fortified while eating it. Loved the soy vinaigrette and the crunchy edge from the almonds. But was sadly disappointed by the avocados (tasteless, of course, as most avocados so happen to be in Hong Kong) and the oranges (tasteless, of course, as most oranges so happen to be in Hong Kong). They also had that sesame and fried wonton situation going on, which was just a little too “New York Chinatown take on Chinese food” for me.

For my second dish, I went for the crunchy crab cakes with creamy dill-cucumber salad. Oh, this was sooooo much better than the first dish. The crab meat was so delish, made into a soft patty which was then encased by a perfectly seamless, crunchy breadcrumb mixture. Mmmm… the textures… The heaviness of the crab cakes were well-balanced by the tangy dil-cucumber “salad.” It was so beautiful. Much more impressive than the salmon I had the last time I was here.

(Crab cakes: DILL-icious!!)

Near the end of our second dish, Tata introduced me to pastry chef, a.k.a. one of the “J’s”, Jason Casey. And I have to say, his desserts were, without a doubt, the highlight of the meal. The ABC Ice Cream was a happy combo of tangy raspberry and cream cheese sorbet, shortbread and strawberry meringue – the flavors of a strawberry shortbread fitted into a white Chinese takeaway box. Cute. The Cheese Cake with blueberry snow has such a unique and lovely crumbly texture. But the hands-down winner was the Soft Milk Chocolate – a hazelnut and coffee mousse-like cake with olive oil yogurt sorbet. Oh My Gawd… it was nothing short of “ooh”-worthy.

Now wouldn’t you say that that’s what the schedule for a good day looks like?

FOOD: 4/5

UNION J ($$$/$$$$)
1/F, California Tower
30-32 D’Aguilar Street

Antique: Sugary Sweetness

The beautiful Shen surprised me with a box of macarons from Antique during her visit. I lurved the colors. If Betsey Johnson’s dresses transformed into French pastries, they would be a box of Antique’s macarons.

Whee to good friends and good food!

(Macarons: so pretty!)

46 Lyndhurst Terrace

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lobster Bar and Grill: Chef Alexander Ehrgott

I was lucky enough to try Chef Alexander Ehrgott’s food while he was here (back in January - sorry folks), guest-cheffing at Island Shang’s Lobster Bar and Grill. And for a little chef background bio: Chef Ehrgott comes from the famed Schloss Vollrads restaurant in the Schloss Vollrads castle in Germany.

I was so impressed with the refined and clean flavors of chef Ehrgott’s food. The grilled shrimps with white tomato mousse and marinated pepper had the tomatoes’ most intense flavors drawn out, making the humble vegetable even more of a flavor attraction than the prawns. The pea soup with tuna locked in all the essence of the peas, making a bowl of what seemed like pure, pea essence.

(grilled shrimps with white tomato mousse and marinated pepper)

(Pea soup with tuna)


Needless to say, a wonderful meal.

6/F, Island Shangri-La
Pacific Place
88 Queensway

Bitte Bitte: The Virtue of Trying

I had heard the hype about Bitte Bitte before. But, not being a particularly big fan of hotdogs (thanks to too many tasteless, boiled frozen sausages, served dry in a Garden brand hotdog bun during my childhood days), I didn’t think it was something worth noting. That is, until we were told straight up to give this place a try. I figured, as long as I didn’t have to queue up for an hour for a hotdog (à la that RIDICULOUS episode at Pink’s Hotdog, Los Angeles), I’d give Bitte Bitte a shot.

(Alligator MESS!)

We trekked out way behind the Causeway Bay Sogo and found the open-air, shoppe. After perusing the many… and I mean MANY, topping-sausage combinations (six different types of sausages and a myriad of different Japanese-inspired toppings), we settled on the Alligator Bites Dog ($27) with avocado, tomato salsa and mayo.

The dog was actually pretty good. The bun was toasted and was fluffy on the inside. The sausage had a nice taut, pop to it on the first bite, which yielded to a well-seasoned, meaty center. The flavors of the toppings worked well too. Our only complaint though would be that the sausage was pretty much sitting on TOP of the bun, instead of being sandwiched IN it, making the whole thing unbelievably impossible to eat without appearing like the district’s clumsiest and unmannered brute. We had mayo smeared across our faces, bits of avocado dropping all over the table, and a sausage constantly in danger of slipping out of its bun.

(Fries: YUMMMMM)

But to end this on a positive note, the fries are abso-effin’ stellar. So beautifully golden and crisp on the outside, flecked with just the right amount of salt. A bite revealed the fluffiness of the potato.We were so enamored, we asked the staff who their fries suppliers were. They didn’t reveal, of course, answering merely “local suppliers” with an awkward smile. Ah well, at least we tried. And sometimes, trying is the most important part.

FOOD: 4/5
SERVICE: 3.75/5

Shop B&C Hoi Tao Court
15 Cannon Street
Causeway Bay

The French Window: Pictorial

Dec 28, 2009

Shop 3101
3/F, IFC Mall
8 Finance Street

Shanghai Lane: $38 Worth of Yumminess

Lunchtime in the office district can be a pain sometimes. You go here and it’s packed, you go there and it’s packed. Not cool. So when Moe and Leo wanted to meet up for lunch in the area and asked me to choose the restaurant, I based my choice on one thing – seating availability.

(Appetizers with a spicy kick)

And that led us to Shanghai Lane, the not-really-new-anymore eatery that opened on Gough Street. The place was bustling, but we managed to grab a seat, thanks to the super-polite and helpful staff there. And being that I only had an hour to blow – I ordered the quickest thing on the menu. The chilled Shanghai mixed noodles ($38).

(Noodles: pre-mix)

(Noodles: post-mix)

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much more than a quick bite to satisfy the hunger, but I was actually really impressed by the noodles. It was a giant bowl of chewy strands, served with thin strips of cucumber, egg, ham, and shredded chicken. I mixed everything into one giant mass with the peanut sauce. Such an appetizing mix of flavors. I finished every last noodle and licked up every last bit of the fragrant peanut sauce. Yum. And all for $38? Not too shabby…

FOOD: 4/5

35-37 Gough Street

Xenri No Tsuki: Check the Bill

I was tipped off about this 6th floor Japanese eatery, Xenri no Tsuki, by a foodie friend. From what I was told, this place does old-school, traditional Japanese cuisine, and… they do shirako (male fish genitals). I was actually enticed by the shirako (I’ve never tried it before), but that night, was told by the sushi chef that they were out of that. No dice. Ah well, maybe next time.

(Amuse bouche: Nippon style)

After we made our orders, we were presented with a lovely amuse bouche platter. A bite-size serving of shrimp with jelly and caviar followed by a square of bonito-topped pumpkin and a tamago-esque concoction of some sort. A very welcoming start that heaped automatic brownie points to Xenri. Then came the first of the few small dishes we ordered. The marinated baby squid were slimy and intensely salty. Sooooo perfect with the sake. Then came the chilled uni tofu, which personally, I thought was no surprises there (not that it was not fresh or well-made… but it was just a little boring). Next up, stingray tempura. I’m not sure if I liked the stingray itself – it didn’t really seem meaty enough for my liking, but the tempura itself was perfectly executed. It was crispy and not the least bit greasy. I popped them, piece by piece into my mouth like peanuts, along with the accompanying mayo.

(Sake-perfect squid)

(Uni tofu: fresh but "meh")

(Stingray tempura: like peanuts)

(Cucumber with miso: complimentary from the chefs)

And having nabbed a seat at the sushi bar, there was no way we could bypass the daily specials. We tried a chef-recommended fish, which was diced up and dressed in a light and tangy sauce which really elevated the freshness of the fish. We also gave the jumbo shrimp sashimi a go. This was beautifully prepared, with an accompanying sauce made from all the delectableness in the head of the shrimp. And waste-not – they deep-fried the shrimp head for us afterwards, for our crunchy eating pleasure.

(Fresh fish sashimi of the day)

(Shrimp sashimi with sauce)

And wanting our share of carbs for the evening, we placed an order for my beloved ikura sushi (savory yumminess), and also the grilled eel sushi, which was interesting served with the slice of eel rolled around the rice. How pretty…

(Sushi: carbsssss)

In terms of service, I had absolutely no complaints about the chefs, who seemed like a nice bunch of dedicated, and friendly folk. Our serving waitress, on the other hand, though not unfriendly, seemed only half-awake (we ordered the onigiri, she brought us the teapot rice). But overall, I was impressed with the dining experience at this tucked-away gem… that is, until our bill came. Just as we had been commenting on how cheap everything seemed to be, our waitress handed us the bill, which turned out to be a few hundred $$ over what we had calculated the bill would be. But of course, being not the smartest people in the planet (and finishing a whole bottle of sake didn’t make things better), we didn’t realize this until we had paid the bill, left the restaurant… without taking the receipt, of course. Damn…

So kids, here’s the moral of the story: enjoy the food, double-check the bill, and drink the sake responsibly.

FOOD: 4/5
SERVICE: 3.5/5

XENRI NO TSUKI ($$$$/$$$$$)
6/F, Jardine Centre
50 Jardine's Bazaar
Causeway Bay

AJ's Sri Lankan Cuisine: Kotthu for You

I dropped by Sai Kung a while ago for my first ever Sri Lankan meal. We made our way down the main street, rejecting all the beckoning from the many Cantonese seafood restaurants and made our way to the quiet stretch of Hoi Pong Street. A cute, rustic-looking cottage stood out… with a Sri Lankan flag waving about at the door.

This was it. AJ's Sri Lankan Cuisine.

(AJ's "bread basket")

We walked into the cottage, into a dining room complete with wooden chairs and tables and a strange but amusing faux waterfall sort of decorative contraption inside. Not knowing the Jacks and Jills of Sri Lankan cuisine, we sort of winged it and just picked a few random things from the menu.


First up was the pittu ($45), known in English as lightly roasted fresh rice meal with shredded coconut steamed in a bamboo mould. The dish was unexpectedly bland. Which is where the accompanying curry and sautéed onion sambol came in handy. The flavors are actually very similar to Indian food, thought seemingly less intense. Interesting… but not awe-inspiring. The beef kotthu roti ($68), on the other hand, was much more well-received. According the menu, this is a “Sri Lankan street-side specialty” made from elasticized doughy pancake, shredded and stir-fried with veggies, meat and eggs. It was so comforting… like the Sri Lankan version of Chinese fried rice.

(Kotthu roti: like fried rice)

But having nothing else to compare it to, I’m not sure how authentic AJ’s is. All I know is that it’s the only licensed Sri Lankan restaurant in town (at the time of writing of course) and, if you haven’t tried Sri Lankan food before. It’s worth checking out. After all, if you decide that you don’t it, you can always go back to one of those Cantonese seafood restaurants out there.

FOOD: 3/5

14 Sai Kung Hoi Pong Street
Sai Kung

Delicious Inn: A Bug's Life

It’s not that I deliberately try to eat “gross” foods. It’s just that I don’t really mind them. In my mind, a heaping plate of Oaxacan style stir-fried crickets is far more appetizing than let’s say, a corndog. And it’s exactly because of this mentality, I’ve never turned down a chance to chow down a bug, or anything that’s still semi-moving, or anything that looks suspiciously like a booger… you get the idea.

So when I heard that the once-infamous, bug-serving restaurant – Delicious Inn – had recently reopened in Sham Shui Po, I was all geared up to pay it a visit. Aside from the dishes of creepy crawlies, Delicious Inn’s menu is rife with a good several other “unorthodox” items. Think donkey meat, duck chin, fish lips. Fun.


But I was only really there for the bugs that day. Owner, Yu, tells me though that bugs are a lot more difficult to source these days, which explains the scant selection of only three types of bugs. We started off with the caterpillars – these golden-brown thin strips looked and actually also smelt a lot like crunchy potato fries. Stir-fried in spicy salt, these tasted like… well, spicy salt. Literally. The cylindrical cocoons were prepared the same way, but were more “meaty” so the insect protein taste was slightly more prominent.


But the star of the night was the salt-baked whole water roaches. These shiny jet-black buggies need a three-step process to ingest, as the owner explained to me. First, take the bug between your thumb and index finger, squeeze a little so the hard back shell pops up. Tear these off, along with the soft, thin wings underneath it. Next, twist the head off, making sure you remove the intestine along with it. Now you’re ready. Move bug to lips and suck from where the head used to be. Voila – bug ingested.

(Water Roach)

Verdict? This was by far the strongest flavored of all the bugs. The protein flavor can be a little disconcerting at first and can taste a little soapy. The creamy texture of the protein doesn’t help either. But other than that, it’s nothing really special. It’s not disgusting, but it’s not something I’d be craving in the middle of the night, like I would a bag of crunchy potato fries.

29-33 Shun Ning Road
Sham Shui Po