Wednesday, February 28, 2007

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Day 4. Finally all the CNY meals were over and done with and we decided to spoil ourselves with some haute cuisine. Since we loved the Robuchon a Galera in Macau we were happy to find his new addition of his restaurant empire in HK.

The first part of the restaurant consists of a very large square "bar". According to Geoffrey Eu on The Business Times the concept apparently is "to have patrons seated, diner-style, around a lacquered countertop, facing a high-gloss show kitchen in which staff clad in black designer outfits create and serve tasting portions of culinary art". To me it was just a little odd and there was no body sitting there. We were led through a long corridor with a few private rooms before we got to the main dining area.

There were around 7 tables in the area and we got a small table. I meant small like a McDonald's table for two. The place was dark and romantic enough though with fresh lilies on the table. Not bad.

Here's the complimentary cream of champignon and it was cooked to perfection. So rich and creamy and so much better than the other salty varieties I had (mostly from Chef Campbell). :)

My king crab legs with avocado, basil, rocket, tomato, Parmesan, and truffle (HK$320). The king crab was as fresh and sweet as it can be, and in perfect temperature - the best I've had. There were quite a lot of crab too.

My husband had the crispy langoustine on papillote (HK$280). He said one had basil and it was definitely better than the one without. The langoustine was jet-fresh and the crispy paper provided a good contrasting texture to the dish.

I ordered one of the signature dishes - the Le Caille - free-range quail with foie gras stuffing(HK$420). The meat was not as gamey as I had expected, which was a good thing as I find gamey overbearing. I really liked the texture and the taste of this particular quail- why doesn't chicken taste like that? The breast meat was stuffed with foie gras - I am not a big foie gras connoisseur and therefore won't comment on it. I would say the dish would be just as nice without it.

Our other main course: the crispy Amadai fish (HK$560). Some say Amadai = sea bream, some say it's tile fish. I don't even know the difference between the two. In any case it's a popular fish you find in many Japanese restaurant. In this case the fillet was pan-fried WITH the scale to get the crispiness. Very interesting and innovative but we were a little concerned about eating scales. It was kind of scratchy in the mouth when we chewed and didn't have a lot of taste. The fillet was firm and meaty but the price tag is a little steep however good it was.

My hot green chartreuse souffle with pistachio ice cream. Made to perfection. The souffle was nice and featherlike. Didn't really taste too much of chertreuse though, but then I never had the stuff on its own to know what it *actually* tastes like. The pistachio ice cream was not overly sweet and it was just the perfect match.

Hubby's le chocalat sensation was impression (albeit girlie) looking! Basically it was creamy Guanaja chocolate, cacao sorbet on Oreo biscuit. We love the regular dark Valrhona chocolate and we figured we would like Guanaja as well. He said the flavours were nice but confused and overly complicated. I guess it was the different texture and temperature, i.e. sorbet and warm chocolate mousse and it was all too much for him. I guess I like a man with simple taste. :-)

We really liked the food as everything was cooked to perfection with very delicate tastes. What we didn't like was the small tables, and the fact that the courses were served too quickly. I also didn't understand why almost everything on the menu had either truffle or foie gras in it - makes the menu look very predictably swanky in a pretentious kind of way.
P.S. The wine list is good but expensive. A glass of champagne was HK$200! Ouch!

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon
4/F, The Landmark, Central Hong Kong. Tel: 2166-9000

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Uncle's Poon Choi

The definition of Poon Choi from Wikipedia:

Poon Choi, also known as Big Bowl Feast. It was said that Poon Choi was invented during the late Song Dynasty. When Mongol troops invaded Song China, the young Emperor fled to the area around Guangdong and Hong Kong. To serve the Emperor as well as his army, the locals collected all their best food available, cooked it, and put it in wooden washing basins. By doing so Poon Choi was invented.

And this was my uncle's proud creation: (I should add that the pot was at least 20 inches big in diameter!)


It honestly had everything you could ever imagine in it. There were chicken, goose, dried scallops, king prawns, Chinese mushrooms, abalone, dried oysters, black moss, fish balls, meat balls, squid, sea cucumbers, fish maw, pig skin, dried tofu, Chinese radish, and extra vegetables. I am sure the list is still incomplete. It was served like a hot pot and the brown broth was left simmering the whole time. Everything was tasty but after a while they all taste the same (as they would since they were all simmered in the same sauce). There was more than enough food for all 12 of us!

Some ingredients were more adventurous than others and it's like a treasure hunt when we dug in to the pot. The secret is to sit next to someone whom you can pass your unwanted items to. :) In this case my cousin's boyfriend L was lucky enough to have all my hand downs. Thanks for helping!

My cousins have the cutest dog! Look at him!

The Clipper Lounge

Day 3. New Year Day #2. After one full day of new year food yesterday we decided to indulge a little, before yet another Chinese dinner that evening.

It was our first visit to the Clipper Lounge since the re-opening. The place is as spacious as before but with less couches? At least the tables were big and comfortable, unlike the set-up at the MO Bar in the Landmark Mandarin. Anyhow we got one of the 2 couches at the corner and ordered the tea set for two (HK$368).

The presentation was noticeably more "wanky" than the previous version. I guess it's nouvelle high tea. We didn't think much of the sandwiches to begin with. One had chicken, and one with grilled eggplant. Don't even remember what the other two were - all a bit blah to be honest.

I dived into the scones before I even touched the mini quiche. The good old Mandarin scones did not disappoint. The one with sultanas were to die for. There was of course the rose pedal jam and the clotted cream on the side. Hmmmm.....

The small scone on the left came with the set (there were four). We decided for extra ones and were surprised to see the difference in size. Both were extremely soft and doughy and not crumbly at all. Good for piling on that cream and jam!

We were so full we didn't have room for the sweets - they didn't look too impressive at that point anyway. Next time I think we would just order the scones and the tea on their own.
M/F, Mandarin Oriental
5 Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong. Tel: 2825-4007

Grandma's Chinese New Year Repertoire

Day 2. Chinese New Year Day. Each and every year we go to my grandma's place for our new year's lunch (and collect our red-pockets). Each and every year she would cook all these dishes, enough to feed at least 25 people for 2 days!! I don't know how she does it. I have to say I don't like home-cooked Chinese meals but I love her stuff. A big THANK YOU for grandma!

B - will you please correct my speculations on the ingredients.

One of her specials: stir-fried fish (carp?) slices with choi sum. A simple dish but with lots of flavours and I don't know where they came from. As I understand it the choi sum was blanched first then stir-fried with the fish. Where did the sauce and the taste come from though? There seemed to be some kind of sauce.

I don't even know what this one is called - grandma's own creation perhaps. It had a variety of ingredients - 2 types of minced fish balls, prawns, broccoli, and enoki mushrooms. I hadn't noticed it at the time but she garnished the dish with coriander! This is the thing with grandma's cooking - she seems to throw randon stuff together but it always has taste. Stange.

And no New Year meal is completed without the bottomless veg stew. It always seemed to last for days: either she cooked a ton of the stuff, or nobody liked vegetables. Could be a bit of both I guess. The stew had sugar snap beans, Chinese cabbage, tofu, bean sprouts, and my favourite glass noodles. It was as good as vegetables go I guess. :-)

Kid's favourite: Grandma's Signature Wings®. They are a pain in the butt to eat (with chopsticks!!) but always taste reliably good. We tried to find out the recipe but it sounded way too complicated. From what we gathered the seasonings include oyster sauce, Chinese (rice?) wine, chicken seasoning, water, salt. I don't think it is the complete list so don't try this at home. The wings were braised for a while and the skin came off easily. Good for us picky eaters!

There were a few more dishes like pan fried pomfret, and something with Chinese radish - but I was too busy eating then. :-) She also made some slow-cooked soup - again her own creation with pork, sweet corn, carrots, and all bunch of other stuff in it. I guess I would never grasp the essence of Chinese cooking as everything seems so random.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Chesa

Day 1. We decided to go to our favourite restaurant Chesa for our CNY's Eve dinner.The place was renovated a while ago but they made sure everything looks the same as before. We felt right at home as soon as we walked into the cosy dining room.

We were greeted with a basket of freshly baked bread after we ordered. We find it welcoming as a basket of bread is hard to come by these days. Instead we find we often get asked to pick from the waiter's basket and end up just pointing at whatever. Call me old-school but I think it's a crime to do that unless you're on an airplane.

My starter: salade de cervelas à l'Appenzelloise (HK$160) - very poncey sounding but I assume it's comfort food. If they make salad like this I will be having salad everyday! I love the pickled carrots and cucumber. The sausages were similar to Vienna sausage and the Appenzeller cheese was very rich and sharp.

My husband had the Raclette du Valais (HK$115), with gerkins and pickled onions on the side. He said it was simple but nice. The cheese smelled rightly like feet. :-)

I had the filet de bœuf américan poêlé, ravioli aux champignons et deux sauces(HK$330). The texture of the beef was tender and juicy but lacked taste. It just didn't taste like beef at all for some reason. The two sauces were interesting but the winner was the ravioli. I believed they were filled with porcini mushrooms (could be mushroom cooked in a very tasty stock reduction though). They were divine. For what you get though I thought the dish was a little over-priced.

Hubby had the jarret de porc salé et lard croustillant, choucroute au Champagne (HK$250). The pork was tender and flaky: fall-off-the-bone kind of way.

We shared the fondue au chocolat Lindt aux fruits selon saison (HK$95). It was all good.
After the nice bread and everything the petits fours were uninspiring. As usual I just poked one without eating it. We decided to make a move as the joint at that point was starting to smell like a fish and chip shop + stinky feet with all the fondues cooking at the tables next to us. Why didn't they sort out the ventilation I wonder?
Overall a very pleasant dining experience. The service was spot on and unpretentious. Reasonably priced wine list (lots of GOOD half bottles) and we felt like the meal was definitely good value for the buck. In this instance if it wasn't for the smell we would have stayed longer and perhaps move on to dessert wine. In hind sight we are glad we didn't as we were pleasantly trashed as it was after 2 gins and one and a half bottle of wine later. For once we didn't go OTT!
2/F, Peninsula Hong Kong
Salisbury Rd, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Tel: 2315-3169

Steamed Treacle Sponge with Butterscotch Sauce

We are back! The Hong Kong Food Odyssey was mega successful and we ate like there was no tomorrow. My tummy decided to give up as soon as we got back...I tell you I was sick as a dog all day...wasn't able to keep anything down. Yikes.

My husband came to the rescue though. This is one of Rick Stein's recipe - but he now insists that it is his creation as it is now called Treacle Pudding with Luuuurve.

The Luuuuve worked like magic!

I loved the doughy texture with steaming (as supposed to spongy when you bake). The butterscotch sauce was the perfect match as it had the same sticky and sweet consistency. Just try not to think how much sugar is in it!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Hong Kong Food Odyssey

The title says it all. See you in a week's time!

Fashion Police vol.4

My friend B was telling us about the legendary 'chicken-boots' woman the other day - and guess what - could this be her?

She was totally wearing two chickens on her feet!!
Had to have a close-up:
The side-profile would reveal that the chickens were probably alive and therefore had to be chained down!

Park Life

I know my dear friend M would love this one:

P.S. How's life in Calgary? Frozen to death yet?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Fashion Police vol.3

I noted at least 3 counts of fashion felony on this one. Sinbad boots, puff jacket, 3-quarter length(red!) pants. Life imprisonment my friend. Her man felt so sorry for her he carried her bag. Awww......
Did she steal her grandma's itchy TV/couch blanket? Was it why she had to wear 500 denier nylon pantyhose as a shield? And I am not even going to comment on the boots.
Remember those mushrooms you have to jump on in the Mario Bros game? She must be a big fan. Note the individual on the right. I think she might have misinterpreted Sienna Miller's boho look and tragically transformed it to her own hobo look.
PJ woman was still thinking - how could anyone go out with mushroom hair?? Everybody knows poodle-perm + 2-tone hair + fuchsia PJ is THE look of the moment .
Another offender. As least she hadn't got roots. Not yet.

Xin Ji Shi, part deux

Back to Xin Ji Shi again for lunch. Unlike last time we decided to give the dim sum dishes a try.

My friend U recommended the yun tun soup - which I suspect is the northern cousin of wonton. The filling composed of finely chopped green and white veg -parley and bamboo shoots perhaps? Maybe pak choi? It was all good. The peppery soup was definitely a highlight as well. We loved it! And there were so many of them! There must have been 7 or 8 in one portion? It was almost a meal on its own.
Steamed xiao long bao with crab meat. Different in style compared to the Taiwanese version (thinner pastry) at Ding Tai Fing, but equally as good. The pork + soup filling was actually VERY rich in taste. I didn't taste any crab meat but I was happy nonetheless.
Spring rolls with three vegetables. Couldn't tell which three veg but probably the usual suspects = carrots, mushroom, and bamboo shoots? I didn't care because the moment I had my first bite I decided that it was so good I shoved down the whole thing in half a second. It was so crispy and fresh I feared that any delay would ruin it.
We also ordered the signatures dishes: pork ribs cooked in brown sugar and vinegar, and the Shanghai fried noodles. As usual our eyes were bigger than our bellies.
The bill came to RMB 175 for the two of us.
Xin Tian Di Restaurnt. Shanghai. Tel: 6336-4746

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day! And a big thank you to my husband for the lovely roses. The tulips were a gift to myself. Flower power!


Vienna Cafe

Wednesday. My workout day with my friend U. As usual we decided to reward ourselves by going to the Vienna Cafe - just to make up the calories we burned off. :-)

U ordered the kartofelsuppe - potato soup. It looked really rustic with the chunks of potatoes, bacon bits and all. She said the bread was the best in town.
Now if there is one German word I should learn it would be käsespätzle. It's basically macaroni and cheese but x100 times nicer. The pasta had a similar texture to gnocchi and with the (extremely cheesy and stringy) Emmental the dish was out of this world. The fried onion and garlic chives on top added some interesting taste to the dish.
When we walked in I was so hungry I thought I could eat a horse. At the end I couldn't even finish half on the plate - so heavy! Too bad we didn't have any room for dessert as the cakes there are pretty good too.
The food, with 2 wine spritzers and a coffee came to RMB200.
25 Shao Xing Road, Shanghai. Tel: 6445-2131

Shake and Bake

Look at my pile of food! Our all-time favourite: Shake and Bake Extra Crispy. We cut the chicken in strips so we get more crispy bits. :-) I also put cumin seeds and cayenne pepper in the mix to give it extra kick. So simple and yet so tasty - you shake, and bake for 20 mins and voilá!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sipadan, part 2

Orange-striped Emperor. Can get up to 50cm long. The mottled pattern is a camouflage when sheltering in sea grass or corals.

Crocodile Flathead - black phase. They again typically camouflage their body to match the bottom color but it's not uncommon to see them in black. Titan Triggerfish. They can get as big as 75cm! I have seen some around half a meter long, Always chomping on rocks or corals. I know triggerfish has a reputation of being really aggressive but so far the ones we have encountered were more scared of us. Whitetip Reef Shark. Typically rest on bottom, sometimes in small groups. Very shy. Many-spotted Sweelips. Sweetlips are also called Grunts as they make a grunting sound when they smack their flat teeth plates together. The sound is quite loud as it is amplified by the adjacent air bladders. I once swam past one and heard a knocking sound behind and when I looked there was this big sweelips looking at me. Spooky!
Sharksucker. Swim with or attached to sharks, turtles, and other large fish.
We think this is a type of Shrimpgoby. Gobies are so small and shy they snap in and out of their sand burrows whenever they are spotted. Spotted Garden Eels. They form large colonies on sandy bottoms. Green Turtle. My favourite creature in the sea.
School of Midnight Snapper. They look tasty. :-) Yellow-mask Angelfish. They get pretty big in the wild - up to 40cm!

A type of nudibranch. Cool colours!
Trumpetfish - golden variation. Often seen drifting upside down as a camouflage among branches of gorgonian coral. I love the almost transparent-looking mouth.

Humphead Wrasse, also known as Napoleon Wrasse. The bump on forehead grows with age. In some area it's an endangered species due to overfishing. Poor thing.
Another Green Turtle. You can tell I like them hehe.
Most probably a Tasseled Scorpionfish? Looks so dangerous.
Flamboyant Cuttlefish.

Clownfish. Always darting in and out.
Green turtle on cleaning station.
Humphead Parrotfish. HUGE!! Over 1 meter long they travel in big groups early in the morning or late afternoon to feed. I think they can all use a dentist.
And finally a Giant Trevally - up to 165cm big! They are sneaky -always on the look out for food.