Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hong Kong - Saint-Germain

Happy Valley welcomes yet another new kid on the block.  This time, a casual French bistro that took over from a pub that used to sit a stone's throw from the electric tram depot.  For Happy Valley residents, this adds to the ever increasing and changing repertoire of the food scene in the village, so it's a thumbs up!

I've been there twice since opening, and while I'm not a fan yet, I like the fact that it's in the hood, and provides easy access to a cuisine that's not done anywhere else in the village yet.  The food is decent enough and it's quite a nice place to hang out over casual food and wine (although the last time I was there they hadn't gotten their liquor licence as yet, but you can BYO).  The menu is smallish, although not untypical of bistro menus, so unless you're a creature of habit, you can't go too often.

Summer Truffle Risotto with Beef Jus
This is a pretty yummy way to start a meal here.  If you like the aroma of truffles and the robustness of the essence of beef, you will like this.  There is nothing else except rice and shavings but you feel like there's a lot more ingredients present because the goodness of what's named has been reduced to and infused into a mound of rice with bite.  On my first visit, the rice was a tad uncooked (and I like bite) but no problems on the second.

Home-made Foie Gras Terrine
This was good too.  Great creamy texture and enough livery goodness.  The richness of the generous slab is balanced with a variety of condiments - balsamic vinegar, sea salt and fresh ground pepper, apricot compote, and a little Arugula.  Coupled with country bread, another easy winner.

Crab Salad
Less of a Wow! but great for the summer is the crab salad with wedges of citrus - orange and pink grapefruit.

Grilled Seabass with Risotto
Taste wise, this was good, but a big letdown was the fact that the Seabass was overcooked.  Hate that especially since this was not the Chilean variety, making the cottony flesh a tad rough on the palate.  The deep fried risotto balls were fun to eat and quite yummy when rolled around in the foam.

Grilled chicken breast with Cannelloni
Not a fan of breast meat, but this was pretty decent.  But I liked the Cannelloni stuffed with Ricotta a lot more.  The skin of the Cannelloni was crispy and balanced the creamy Ricotta within.  The sauce was tasty and so overall, a satisfying dish.  But again, I ain't no breast fan so this wouldn't be a first choice for me here.

Finally, a French place isn't a French place if their desserts cannot pass muster.

Chocolate Cake
Chocolate cake was actually pretty good.  Well moist, and not too sweet, given freshness from the real vanilla bean ice cream.

Apple Tart
But the dessert winner is the apple tart.  Very French, very good.  It sat in the oven 10 seconds too long but there are those of us who like it on the cusp of a burn (a deep golden brown).  Very crisp, full of apple goodness, and just yummy.

In all, a nice welcome change to the food scene in Happy Valley.  Hopefully they keep improving on the good work, and that they manage to change the apparently not-so-ideal feng shui in that location, considering the many shop owners who have changed hands over the years.  On my next visit, I look forward to trying their beef dishes and duck fat fries.  Yeah..

G/F, 1A Wong Nai Chung Rd
Happy Valley
Tel: +852 2836-6131

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hong Kong - Rakuen 樂宴

At the risk of incurring the wrath of @e_ting, I am sharing a little gem of a find in Causeway Bay, for those who enjoy an Izakaya style evening, with a comprehensive stock of Sake and other Japanese alcoholic fixes, and decent Okinawan food.

As I said, there is a lot of Sake to choose from...

...In bottles

...In Urns
Then, there are staple snacks from the lovely island of Okinawa.

Peanut Tofu
Unlike the usual tofu texture, this has a chewy bite to it.  This allows the peanutty-ness to come through and is rather quite fragrant.  The spring onions and grated ginger in soy allows a little reprieve from the richness of the peanuts although really quite unnecessary.  Keeps it interesting though.  Nice way to start any Okinawan meal, especially since it is served chilled.

Beef Croquette
This was my fave of the evening.  So I'm a sucker for anything deep fried in fluffy panko (bread crumbs)  but this was really quite good.  The juicy mixed beef contents just made it that much better.

Bittergourd Tempura
This is a winner for anyone selling the concept of downing alcohol at its establishment.  You'd need quite a few drinks to finish this since the salt content here is very high.  But it is an interesting way to serve bittergourd (another Okinawan favorite vegetable) and it is battered and fried to a dry crisp, with negligible traces of oil on the paper it's served on.

Akin to Snapper!
Don't usually order sashimi at drinking places but this one came highly recommended, and was really quite good.  Naturally sweet although it was quite a big fish for just 2 people.

"Snapper" Soup
Of course, the second course of serving up a soup made from the bones and fins of the soup was a nice way to finish the meal.

Cool place to relax the evening away if what you want are high quality snacks with your Sake.  No wonder @e_ting wants to try and keep this a secret.

12/F, 28 Tung Lung Street
Causeway Bay
Tel: +852-3580 8858

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hong Kong - Tai Wing Wah Village Cuisine 大榮華圍村菜

Once in a while, we crave the old.  Most of us are suckers for nostalgia.  Or perhaps I shouldn't generalize.  I am a sucker for nostalgia.  While I can't be stuck in time, I like traveling backwards, once in a while, to a time that once was.. when life was simpler, unfussy, innocent, and you get the point.

豬油撈飯 Rice drizzled with lard
It wasn't so long ago that many of our families were still living close to or below the poverty line.  During that time, meat was not an everyday occurrence at the dinner table, and often times, people resorted to using pork lard as a fragrant drizzle over a steaming bowl of rice, made savory with soy.  A simple indulgence which kept us warm through cold winters.  Tai Wing Wah brings this bowl of simple goodness back with decent quality liquid lard and soy.  They also use a good grain, keeping each separate and distinct, but not hard.  The combination was sinfully good.

To be honest, the rest of the grub isn't going to blow you away.  But hey, it is good ole fashioned stuff that is going to bring back vivid memories of the way we were.

脆鱔 Crispy Eel
Yup, crispy. Couldn't necessarily tell it was eel, except that it's a little crunchier than most fishies.  Good with a cold beer.

南乳蓮藕扣肉 Fermented Tofu braised with lotus root and belly pork
Of course, you could have bowls and bowls of rice with this one!  Sucker for fermented tofu.  For those unfamiliar with this, do NOT confuse this with stinky tofu.  This one has a sweet alcoholic fragrance to it.

蓮藕片 Stir Fried Lotus Roots
A nice way to have lotus root.  Crunchy, juicy and tasty from a good sauce which lightly stains it.

黃金蝦 Dry Fried Shrimps Stained with Salted Egg Yolk
This one is always sinful but good.  It's easy to forget the piles of cholesterol you can pick up with this one when the fragrance of a sea shrimp intermingled with a salty eggy-ness is delivered via a crispy texture.

馬拉糕 Steamed Malay Cake
This is one of the more famous versions in Hong Kong.  And it is good.  Fluffy, not too sweet and of course, the aroma of the lard that went into kneading the flour with...

奶黃水晶包 Steamed Crystal Dumplings with Custard
This was interesting but ordinary.  Custard was ok in taste although a tad clumpy.  I take the Malay cake over this one any time.

If you miss the good old days, this is a quick fix.  Just make sure you have enough people with you to reminisce.

2/F Chevalier Centre
8 Wan Hoi Road
Kowloon Bay
Tel: +852-2148 7773