Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hong Kong - Misocool

The new mall K11 in TST opened to mixed reviews..   checked it out since I was in the neighbourhood.  Not entirely captivating retail, but I did go try Misocool's (Emperor Group's latest F&B offering) newest outlet in the basement.  Stick to the kitchen specials and you'll be ok.  

Their cold ramen is well tossed and therefore appropriately coated with a pleasant sesame-based dressing and topped off with crunch shrimps and a variety of vegetables.  Perfect as the weather turns warmer.  

Wash down with their Kyoho Grape Icey and it's a pretty satisfying lunch!

Their other special of the miso ramen with barbequed pork was decent but between the 2, the cold ramen won.  Might not change my mind even if we get into a cold front..

Tsim Sha Tsui Branch
Shop B233, 
Basement 2, K11
No. 18 Hanoi Road, 
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Tel: +852-3122 4477

Hong Kong - Prince Restaurant 王子飯店

I love fried rice.  If there's anything that shows a competent Chinese kitchen, fried rice has got to be on the test.  If you fail, you can pack up shop.  

The Prince Fried Rice at Prince Restaurant is one of my favourites in the city.  Slightly smoky from being tossed in a very hot wok, the grains of rice are firmly separate with a nice bite, and very tasty from the mix of painstakingly diced char siu, spring onions and crunchy fresh prawns.  This dish passes with flying colours.

The other items on Prince's menu are pretty decent and worth a visit.  My favourites are the No. 1 Steamed Bun (天下第一包) and the green leafy vegetables and yuba (the top sheet of bean curd) in a fish stock.

And if you like eel, their barbequed eel with honey is a yummy start to any meal there.

11/F, No. 1 Peking Road
Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852-2366 1308

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hong Kong - Awfully Chocolate

After exposure to all the fancy patisseries and this decade's bakeries, Awfully Chocolate takes us back in time to old-fashioned cake as we know it.  And because the ingredients are so simple, you do need the best. 

Hailing from Singapore, Awfully Chocolate is not new to me.  And it was refreshing take to Lana Cakes - for those who still remember growing up with it and enjoying the labours of the aunties at Lana's at every kid's birthday party in the 80s.  But my main gripe with Awfully Chocolate in Singapore is that the ingredients were not necessarily the best.  

Given the run-up to Valentine's, it was hard to refuse the smiles from the sales person at the temporary booth they set up in Harbour City and pick up a heart-shaped one.

I decided to try the chocolate rum and cherry one on this dreadful weather day.  I was pleasantly surprised by the much better ingredients they seem to use in Hong Kong over Singapore - the chocolate was smooth and had none of the aftertaste that I didn't like so much in Singapore.  Cherries were well soaked although the rum was subtle - a little too subtle to have it in the name in my opinion.

Nevertheless, an appropriately sweet dessert to a lazy day.  Next up: the Chocolate Banana one..

And oh... the combination of chocolate and banana wins hands down!  The smooth choco sponge and the fragrant ripened bananas are supremo!  YUMMS!!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hong Kong - BLT Burger

No, not bacon lettuce and tomato, although that is on offer.  BLT is Bistro Laurent Tourendel, named for the acclaimed chef and this is his interpretation of a classic American burger joint.  The menu is a fun combination of burgers, milkshakes (spiked and non), salads, and for the non-beef eater, they have chicken, salmon and even a veggie falafel on offer.  Big plus?  A&W root beers!  Bet you haven't had those in a while..

I am boring - I only do burgers at burger joints.  On my first visit, I had the classic, which was certainly promising enough for me to come again.  The burgers are made from a variety of cuts from the cow to deliver a juicy, beefy, yet relatively easy for the lazy to chew on.

Today, I had the Tex Mex.  It is a messy burger to hold in your hands - so stick to the cutlery on offer.  Slathered with chili, jalapenos and melted Montery Jack, it was like having 2 meals.  For those who don't like spice, this is not for you.  But otherwise, it is a fun burger to eat.  The spice and little bit of heat adds to the appetite and so I realise I was fooled, but only after I finished everything.  Oh well, extra hour on the tennis court tomorrow.

And to top it off, wash down with a strawberry milk shake.  This has got to be one of the better ones around.  Full of fresh strawberries, it tasted slightly like a healthy smoothie, but don't be fooled, this is the real McCoy.

My only disappointment were the fat fries.  They were too fat, so weren't tasty enough since there wasn't enough of a crisp skin to go round.  Maybe try the skinny next time, I am not one for waffle fries either.  But you know there's a next time!  Till I get my next burger craving...

Shop 301, Level 3, Ocean Terminal, 
Harbour City, 
17 Canton Road, 
Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852-2730 2338

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hong Kong - Benson Cuisine & Wine

Benson was and still is, in the wholesale business, bringing in quality produce and wines.  I don't know this for a fact but believe that the restaurant started a few years so they can showcase their quality inventory as well as perhaps manage the whole chain a lot better.  The restaurant is not what you would expect a place serving very decent food to look like - on the contrary, it is exactly like walking into your friend's dining room, casual and cozy.  Sometimes they even draw the curtains for privacy.

Service was a little short, and we were surprised that we could not swap certain dishes, and there was not even a suggestion that one could do so, by perhaps topping up some moola.  A little too rigid in my opinion for a small set up like this.  Oh well.

The menu does not boast complex dishes but rather simple cooking methods to allow the produce to speak for itself.  Although famous for its hairy crab tasting menu, I had the regular tasting menu since the former are no longer in season.  The 6-course tasting menu boasted the following:

Oyster duo - a Tasmanian and an Irish.  Both were very fresh but the Tasmanian was very creamy and sweet, which I preferred of the 2, even though I generally like a slightly more briny one.

The cream of mushroom soup was light but just a tad short on the mushroomy-ness.  Upside: it was healthier than usual.

Cleanse palate with a sweeter than usual lime sorbet and then..

The piece de resistance of the tasting menu was really the piece of ribeye.  Evenly marbled and very tender yet meaty, it was well executed.  Sitting in a red wine reduction which brought out the flavours, add some mustard for punch and you're in heaven.  My only complaint: presentation was on a plate which was a tad small and really like going to your friend's and all it's about is the food.  Boiled broccoli and carrots are a little '90s for me, but ok, we all could use a little fibre.

I liked the lobster ravioli also - although it was more akin to a Shanghainese wanton, so you have to like a slightly chewy and thicker than usual skin.  I like it and you should too - just have to take your mind away from the traditional ravioli skins in a true Italian joint.  The tomato concasse was not too tart and slightly sweet so as to provide a complementary sauce which did not overwhelm.

The crab cakes from the tasting menu were excellent.  Usually made from canned crab meat, this was the real McCoy.  Use of fresh crab meat, and seasoned lightly, the light flaky crab held together in a well deep fried breaded crust, and painted with old-fashioned tartar sauce, was very good.  At least our initially unhelpful waiter managed to put this in as an appetiser order, since it's not included in the 6-course.

The angel hair with lobster is also highly recommended from the main menu.  Lobster was still crunchy and fresh - sweet.  Obviously fresh!  And coupled with al dente angel hair, coated with a light tomato cream sauce, sheer delight!

Finally, tasting menu dessert of chocolate milk pudding was ok, nothing fantastic.  Just like eating chilled chocolate milk - pleasant enough.  The warm chocolate pudding from the main menu was however, decent.  Not the best, but a satisfying end to a good meal.

Next time you want to pop to a friend's for dinner, but have no invite?  Pay your way at Benson's for a similar experience.  Only hope that the waiters are a little more charming next time round.

G/F, 12C Sing Woo Road
Happy Valley
Tel: +852-2893 6900

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hong Kong - Shanghai Lu Yang Cun Restaurant 上海綠楊邨酒家

This has got to be one of the busiest come-back weeks in my career.  With projects and crises boiling over, there was hardly time to breathe, let alone eat.  So Friday night was a welcome treat, and of course catching up with people I have known for over 2 decades, OMG!!  If I were to lie about my age, I would say that I knew that from my previous life.

I finally decided on going Shanghainese, and to take them to Shanghai Lu Yang Cun.  An old hand who recently renovated along with the makeover of the World Trade Shopping Centre, the restaurant has taken on a modern look, and is no longer a noisy bustling place, but with segregated seating areas, making it more exclusive and more importantly, quiet.  Acoustics could still do with a bit of work though.  Service was brisk and efficient but not warm, unless you're a regular.  No complaints though.

We started with 2 appetisers.  The "hau foo" (四喜烤麸) which is essentially is gluten pieces braised with Chinese mushrooms, peanuts and wood ears is a healthy dish which is high in protein and low in fat.  Lu Yang Cun's version is also not oily but very tasty.  One of my favourites owing to the texture of the gluten and how it manages to soak up the sauces and take on a very different persona and completely mask its own.

The other appetiser of the chilled clove chicken (丁香鸡)is a specialty of Lu Yang Cun, and I was strongly advised to reserve it when I called for reservations.  It is similar to Cantonese Sha Geong Kai (沙姜鸡) and the sauce has a strong hint of cloves with a tad of ginger, sesame oil.  Although it was good - chicken pieces well steamed so that it was still moist, I would have preferred a wine-soaked chicken as a test of a good Shanghainese restaurant.

J hadn't tried hairy crabs before and I was hoping for some tail-end inventory but unfortunately she will have to wait till next autumn.  We did have the flower crabs, which are in season, stir fried with edamame in a thick soya sauce.  The crab was very fresh, with fall-off-the-shell sweet flesh, and extremely generous in roe, which the sauce complemented well, to take any hint of "fishiness" away, and to lend a creamy finish.  Of course, the edamame is addictive with this sauce, and we continue to pick at them even after the meal is said and done.

The other dish you are advised to reserve is the stewed belly pork called Dong Bo Pork or 东波肉 for those who read Chinese.  The gravy was impeccable and one can easily down 2 bowls of rice with it.  Not an obvious pork gravy, it had hints of spices and wine, with a touch of sweetness.  I was not that impressed with the meat though.  While the skin was braised to a melt-in-mouth texture, the meat itself could have been a little more that way.  I found certain parts still a little chewy for my liking, and detracted from a 100% enjoyment of the dish.

For J's benefit, who is on a low-carb diet, I ordered the broad mung bean vermicelli (Fun Pei or 粉皮) stir fried with seafood.  I love fun pei, and can eat it all day long.  The slightly chew texture is especially good stir fried with hand-picked hairy crab meat and roe but this dish wasn't bad either.  Well fried to not retain an oily finish, it was tasty and absorbed the goodness from the seafood.

To finish, we ordered the 酒酿圆子 or mini rice dumplings in an osmanthus-flavoured fermented rice soup.  Not for the uninitiated, the slight sourness from the fermentation process is an acquired taste, as S found out.  Lu Yang Cun's rendition is pretty authentic and if you like this dish, it is not a bad place to order this.

A very decent venue with authentic Shanghainese goodies to catch up on more than 2 decades of friendship.  My best wishes to J on hitting the big 4-0 before any of us, and also as she embarks on a new chapter with her family in Melbourne.  Cheers!

11/F, World Trade Centre Shopping Arcade, 
280 Gloucester Road, 
Causeway Bay
Tel:+852-2881 6669

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Singapore - quick jaunt in the East Coast

I am not the sort to miss local food in Singapore, but I do like doing the rituals I used to enjoy when I was growing up and living in Singapore.  Jaunts around the East Coast are common since that's where the family lives.  And so, I thought I'd bring my camera along today to show my non-Singapore friends what I eat around here.

The Peranakan laksa which many come from far and wide to try.  The stall I ate from today is Marine Parade Laksa, ironically lesser known than those along the main drag of East Coast Road, although this is supposed to be the pioneer who started it all.  At least the brand is!  Who knows - there are a lot of copycats in Singapore.  This version is the original coconut milk and lots of dried shrimps recipe, and does not use evaporated milk.

The typical accompaniment to laksa is the nasi lemak (loosely translated to rich rice, and is really rice cooked in coconut milk - a Malay-origins dish) served with deep fried anchovies and a local fish (typically eaten by cats - I kid you not) and of course, the sambal chilli sauce - sweetish but with a touch of heat.  The large piece of orange "cake" resting on the rice is otak (Malay for brain - I hear they use to use fish brains - do they have any?? or was it the texture??) but in more recent history, made of minced fish and more coconut milk, and grilled in a banana leaf over a charcoal fire.


After all that spice, take a walk to Chin Mee Chin to savour the nation's best Kaya on a soft and chewy bun (as opposed to the wafer thin type toast which I abhor), washed down with Teh-C (tea made with evaporated as opposed to condensed milk - the former more akin to Hong Kong style milk tea).  Still set in the same premises and decor of decades ago, time stands still in this place.  

Marine Parade Laksa
50 East Coast Road
Level 1 Roxy Square One


Chin Mee Chin Confectionary
204 East Coast Road

Friday, January 1, 2010

Singapore - Imperial Treasure Cantonese Cuisine (Crowne Plaza Hotel)

I live in Hong Kong.  And so when I come back to Singapore, I hardly want to eat Cantonese food.  Simple reason: why would I want to eat something in a place where I know will not lend the same standard or authenticity to the food that is abundantly available where I reside?  It's like saying wanting to eat laksa in Wisconsin??  Duh?

But to be fair, the popularity of Hong Kong style Cantonese food has grown in Singapore, especially with Singaporeans flocking to Hong Kong more often, the increased exposure consequently creates an increase in expectations, and food standards therefore raised.  

The Imperial Treasure group, started by an exodus group previously from the Crystal Jade group, is increasing the competition locally and contributing towards raised standards.  It is also a place I don't mind dining at despite my personal preferences since the standards are pretty and consistently good.  Their newest location at Changi Airport's Terminal 3, and within the Crowne Plaza Hotel is also a welcome move for Singaporeans who live East.  This is a good excuse to dine at the airport, even if you are not sending anyone off! 

Aunty A hosted a simple home-style meal for the family, to celebrate the sale of her house!  Congratulations!

Soup of the day is always a winner with a soup fiend like me, and the seaweed (not the Japanese kind) boiled with lean pork for hours on end is always a proper way to start a Cantonese meal.  

It was nice to eat good white rice after days of feasting, so we ordered dishes which had a destiny with rice.  

Black pepper beef cubes

A surprisingly very good cut of beef, which was tender without the excessive use of tenderiser, and so retain the meat's natural juices.  And the black pepper was not so overpowering as to mask everything else.

Sweet & Sour Pork

Well executed, again using a very good cut, so there is no over-reliance on fat to make it tender.  Of course, a winner with rice.  There is a slight porky taste towards the middle, but apart from that, a very decent effort.

Roast Chicken

Ever the winner with the kids, it was roasted till the fat melted away, leaving a very thin and crispy skin, wrapped round succulent meat.  Even the breast meat was still moist although wild horses cannot drag me away from the thighs!

And of course, one cannot live carnivorously, and so we had the Chinese spinach with 3 eggs.  Nicely done, flavourful from the eggs, but not overly salty and greasy.   The claypot eggplant with minced meat was also a winner and the men walloped 2 bowls of rice, easy, with this.  

Durian pudding

For dessert, I ordered durian pudding, highly recommended by our friendly waitress, and rightly so.  Made from fresh durian pulp, and embedded in durian-infused custard, very rich and satisfying.  The others who had the sesame filled dumplings in a sweet ginger soup raved about them too.  But I think between the two, the durian pudding wins - hands down.  Only snag, you burp it all night!

75 Airport Boulevard 
#01-02 Crowne Plaza Hotel 
(Next to Changi Airport Terminal 3)
Tel: +65 6822 8228


And of course happy birthday to cousin M and Aunty M too!  Always nice to have a holiday on your birthday and a guhzillion people in a party mood celebrating with you!

For a blast from the past, I decided to buy the green (and mind you, it is a hideous green especially if you are not from these parts) cake from Bengawan Solo for Aunty M's birthday party.

Yes, the Pandan Kaya cake - fragrant pandanus leaves infused gelatinous cake with soft sponge in between.

My HK pals love the pandan chiffon and I never understood why Bengawan doesn't just open shop in HK.  Instead, the folks behind BreadTalk/Toast Box have beaten them to it, but alas, it is not quite the same standard...  so the Bengawan at Changi airport does a most brisk business just catering to them.  Simply amazing!

Here's to a fabulous 2010, Aunty M and I hope you had an enjoyable party!