Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hong Kong - Kowloon Tang 九龍廳

The Elements Mall is not a mall I frequent.  And frankly, I haven't been all that impressed with the F&B scene there so it really is a tad much effort to trudge there for lunch even though it isn't all that far away.  A chance errand required me to get there and so with E, we decided to try out the of late, much reviewed Kowloon Tang. 

The restaurant is beautifully fitted to look like a posh dining hall from 1930s Shanghai.  Stepping in, it smacks of nothing like the Chinese restaurants Hong Kong has come to know.  It was quiet, very quiet.  No doubt we were early for lunch but still, no clanging of tableware nor loud chatter from the staff.  Makes for an excellent venue to have quiet client meals.  Service is trained efficiency although it did lack a little warmth.  I didn't get the happy staff feeling but oh well, who am I to judge. 

We weren't looking for a lot to eat since we needed to manage time and our appetites.  But what we had was actually quite decent, and not overly re-created, and still true to its Chinese roots.  Many reviews had raved about the Peking duck here but perhaps one duck between 2 people would have been a little too much to handle.  

Goose liver in Huadiao
 This was chilled, creamy and exuded alcoholic fragrance.  Couldn't ask for a better starter on a hot and humid summer's day.    

Steamed crab meat and egg white dumplings
This looked quite ordinary when it showed up at the table, but one bite and we were suitably impressed with the freshness of the crab meat and the natural sweetness which filled the dumpling.  And of course, as true Cantonese demand, the skin was thin, yet had the requisite bite.  Quite good, really.

Deep fried spring rolls with taro wrapped in a steamed rice flour roll
This was a good twist to the usual steamed rice rolls.  For crisp, they are usually stuffed with dough fritters.  This one, however, was stuffed with a high quality spring roll which was well deep fried and drained of grease, and in turnr stuffed with a creamy taro mash and other vegetables for crisp and crunch.

Wok fried four angled beans with crispy pork lard and garlic
For greens, we decided to forgo the usual leafy greens to try this more sinful one.  It was an interesting vegetable we don't normally have in Hong Kong.  The closest I've ever had is the winged bean we eat with sambal in Peranakan food, but this was bigger, and required a little more effort to bite.  Using lard, fermented black beans and garlic bulbs flash fried together to release a heavenly taste and aroma is quite a clever way of making this vegetable palate pleasing.   

Overall, a very pleasant experience.  Very decent surrounds so you can actually hear yourself and your companion without fear of losing your voice.  And the food was pretty good too.  So I will make it a point to go back and try the duck.  Afterall, many have proclaimed it the best in Hong Kong.  So I might just break my rule of never eating the bird outside the capital.

Shop R002-003
3/F, Roof Deck, Elements
1 Austin Road West
Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852-2811 9398

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hong Kong - Mirror Restaurant

After a long week, I had no reservations for Friday night.  O.M.G.  I called 10 places before I got lucky.  And surprisingly so that I couldn't react momentarily when the voice on the phone enquired "What time should we expect you?".  Such luck since I had been unsuccessful twice before.  Too bad I forgot to take a pitstop at the Jockey Club..

Although there was signage when we exited the lifts, we almost thought we should either ring a doorbell (which we didn't find) or knock the opaque wooden door before entering.  Inside, soft lighting and plush chairs await and it's comfortable chic without any pretentiousness.  The elevated open kitchen is the main feature of the dining room, manned by 5 men in whites, under the watchful eyes of Jeremy Biasiol.  The chef has an easy manner about him and camaraderie he appears to have with his team provides a casual yet disciplined approach he has to running the restaurant.  The other talking piece of a curtain made from hanging cutlery gives the room its playful charm too.

There are only 2 menus - a signature menu and a tasting menu.  After much deliberation, we decided to try both.  But before that...

Bread and Butter
they spoil us with bread.  Extremely well baked (from left to right): baguette, whole wheat baguette, and the awesome bacon twisty, with salted and unsalted butter on the side.  It was tempting to ask for another serving..

Amuse Bouche
A lemongrass risotto with clams and a touch of sour cream.  A clever twist to the usual made for a light start despite the creamy look.

Both menus were good in their own right, which was why it took a while to decide since there was stuff on both menus which were exciting.

Tiger shrimps jelly, roe sauce, Oscietra caviar, flowers, green apple
It sounded a little more exciting on the menu but certainly was a visually captivating starter.  Perhaps I didn't care for too much mousse.  But loved the sweet freshness of the shrimps.  Unbeatable.

Salmon lightly cooked, roasted cauliflower and puree with grenobloise sauce
Perfectly cooked salmon.  Enough said.

Thin tomatoes soup, pan seared tomatoes with balsamic vinegar and pesto sauce
This was probably the least exciting in the tasting menu.  It wasn't bad but it didn't do much for me except perhaps lighten my palate and prep me for the veal ahead.

Veal in 2 ways, the sweetbreads and the round, carrots, pearl onions, summer black truffle in brunoise, veal sauce
The winner in the tasting menu has got to be the veal.  Rightly recommended to be had in the pink, this was a truly good piece of meat.  Tender, fragrant and full of flavor despite its youth.  Even though I'm not a fan of carrot, the understated accompaniments did allow the veal to come through.  Perfect.

French cheese platter
The cheeses were actually very good.  But I was pretty up to my eyeballs in food.  I might have preferred some dried fruit to lighten things up but again, the baguettes were too good to resist.  Oh well, so I left half of everything.  Sigh..

Overall, I thought the signature menu was a little more put together despite the lower price.

Slow cooked egg, frog legs poached, garlic cream and watercress sauce
Perfectly cooked frog legs.  Everything else was just a bonus.  Surprisingly light despite all of the cream and egg bound together.

English peas veloute, crispy bread, lemon ginger olive oil and roasted peas
Great base stock and what awesome crispy bread.  Given what we've been spoilt with to start, can't say we were surprised.

Scallops steamed, bacon and leeks confit, leeks emulsion
Great execution but I just prefer scallops done this way to have a little sear to it.

Pigeon lightly roasted, port and red wine sauce, potatoes, brussels sprouts and herbs
This was the winner in the signature.  You can't see it from the picture but there was added sauce underneath reminiscent of a solidified mushroom soup which was pretty astounding.

Mango dessert in 3 ways served with vanilla ice cream
Other than a perfectly naturally sweet and ripe mango, this wasn't terribly exciting as far as desserts go. The base cake was a tad dry but produce saved the day.  Where did they get the mangoes from??

Petit fours - blueberry macaron
This was so blue that my tongue was still blue hours later.  Playful way to end, befitting the restaurant's theme.  It also matched the blue plush chairs.  Great ending to a great story.  Definitely a sequel to this one.

6/F, Tiffan Tower
199 Wanchai Road
Wan Chai
Tel: +852-2573 7288