Monday, November 17, 2008

White truffle season!

note 14.03.2009: I do apologise - this has been sitting in my drafts folder for a fair few months, but as we will be sans truffes for a good chunk of the coming year, I suddenly felt compelled to complete this as a belated tribute to my last truffle meal of the season...

'Tis the season to be jolly lala lala la la la la la!

We told our home away from home resto Borgo to call us when they were flying one in, and a few days later, voila, we were summoned.

It was like having a truffle dinner at home, sans washing up and the pressure of thinking we might destroy it with our hit and miss cooking.

The dishes were totally simple and homely. With an ingredient like truffle, simplicity is the key. Nothing could be as much a waste as having delicious but forceful flavours compete on the palate.

Yes, that is a potato chip in my truffled caesar. Do try this at home!

Brilliant poached egg on baguette with truffle cream, prosciutto and loads of mmmmtruffle

Interesting, mostly because of the kaiseki-esque presentation - but not the best dish of grilled veg. The Japanese potato has been smothered with shavings.

Classic - truffle & cream pasta

Wine #1 of the night - Cascina Bruciata barbaresco 2000. Not spectacular, but very adequate for our down-to-earth dinner and I do believe Piedmontese vini go best with the white truffles from that region, like a lot of other food/wine pairings.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

e_ting's Australasia's top 20

Following my harsh criticism of the Miele Guide, I decided to make my own Asia's top 20 list. Actually I don't know if I can come up with 20. I'm going to cheat and put Australia in too... And I can't really rank them... I tried, but there were like 5 in 8th place... I guess that means that they are all absolutely essential. There are so many more that I would like to have put in. Here's to hoping that one day, I will write my own food guide.

So, here goes, in alphabetical order:

Amber, Hong Kong
Bing Sheng, Guangzhou
Da Dong, Beijing
Du Xiao Yue, Taipei
Gaddi's, Hong Kong
Gang Nan Chu Zi, Shenzhen
Grossi Cellar Bar, Melbourne
Grossi Florentino, Melbourne
Isetan depachika, Tokyo
Jacques Reymond, Melbourne
Ji Cun, Guangzhou
Kwei tiao hawker stall behind YWCA, Penang
Le Normandie, Bangkok
Maisen, Tokyo
MBK Food Court (not the international one), Bangkok
Ming Court, Hong Kong
Pork knuckle braised in sweet soy sauce stall, Sukhumvit Soi 8, Bangkok
Sarti, Melbourne
Tsukiji - random sushi place, Tokyo
Zhang Sheng Ji, Shanghai

Monday, November 03, 2008

Miele Guide released: Asia's top 20 restaurants

The Miele Guide has been released. The publisher is Ate Media, helmed by Chubby Hubby Aun Koh and wife Tan Su-Lyn. It's supposed to be an "authoritative" guide on Asian restaurants. Interesting choice of word. I've rambled on about my thoughts on the voting/selection process already, and in short I don't think the guide is very representative of Asia's 'best' restaurants (a slippery word in itself), but anyway, here are their top 20, and my commentary (if any):

1. Iggy's, Singapore
I've personally not been, but have made my parents (the very people who have made me a passionate foodie, no less), who were in Singapore a few months back, try it on my behalf. Both came back sorely disappointed and said it was nothing compared to Amber (Landmark Mandarin HK) or Le Normandie (Oriental Bangkok). An unofficial forum post on Chowhound indicated a change of chefs earlier this year.

2. L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Hong Kong
Been several times, dinner is good, lunch is pretty hopeless, especially for the price, but it's not my pick for HK's top Mod Euro/Mod French restaurant...

3. Les Amis, Singapore
Amusing that two Singa restos made it into the top 3, anything to do with the origin/publishers of the Guide?

4. Gunthers, Singapore
Another Singa resto...

5. Mozaic, Bali
Never been, but many sources indicate that the quality plummets dramatically if the head chef is not in.

6. Robuchon a Galera, Macau
First resto that I am in total agreement with.

7. Garibaldi, Singapore
Singapore... yet again...

8. Yung Kee, Hong Kong
Can you get better roast geese elsewhere in Asia? Yes. Can you find a more famous roast goose restaurant in Asia? Probably not.

9. Hutong, Hong Kong
Apparently foodies who voted forgive the bad (very, very, very, bad) service for the excellent food. I'm less forgiving, personally. But that's because I'm a bitter person.

10. Antonio's Fine Dining, Phillippines
I'm ashamed at how ignorant and uninformed I am. I'd never heard of this restaurant prior to seeing this list.

11. Caprice, Hong Kong
See my thoughts here.

12. Zuma, Hong Kong
Hello? Japanese-ish food in Hong Kong... I don't get it.

13. L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Tokyo
So, it was graced by Michelin...

14. Bukhara, India
Never been, but arguably the most talked abou restaurant in India.

15. Grissini, Hong Kong
I strongly dislike it. Period.

16. Nobu, Hong Kong
Another Japanese-ish place in Hong Kong. Hmm, makes me think Japan wasn't even in the running (but it was. Bizarre.
I like their lunchtime bento boxes; don't really like having dinner there. I'd go, but it's not top 20 in my books.

17. M on the Bund, Shanghai
Never been. I usually don't have enough time in Shanghai to get bored of Shanghainese food. Shang food is probably my favourite Chinese cuisine, so naturally I fill up on it as much as possible while in town...

18. Fook Lam Moon, Hong Kong
A Hong Kong classic. Not my favourite, but I understand how it should/could be in Asia's top 20.

19. Zanotti Il Ristorante Italiano, Bangkok
Certainly not a personal 'must', but good if you are in town and sick of Thai (how could you?) I suppose. Give me a gapow moo, som tum or sweet soy braised pig's knuckle on rice instead anyday.

20. Kyubey, Tokyo
Ugh, so predictable. I don't know if it's overhyped cause I've never been, but something makesme think that some people who voted had never actually been to eat there and just chose it cause they recognised the name.

Actually that could have been the case for many of these places.

The people who produced/published the guide are prepared for the list to be controversial, but I didn't expect this...

One of my main no-no's about this guide was that only large cities were sampled to represent the whole country, e.g. only HK, Macau, Beijing and Shanghai represented China (actually maybe only BJ and SH did and HK & Macau were on their own? No matter) - how about Guangzhou, Chongqing, Suzhou etc., that are also home to spectacular restaurants? From what I've read from their website I found no proper justification.

I also wonder who the target market is - to me, it seems like it's not Asian residents but visitors to Asia, which renders it similar to a Lonely Planet guidebook for silly tourists. If you were creating a guide, would you want it to be the Lonely Planet of your category? I wouldn't, but maybe they would, because after all, LP sells heaps. If this is their aim, the irony is that only a scanty few of the their top 20 serve local cuisine. I can't help but lead myself to the conclusion that this guide is for scared, non-Asian tourists with quite a bit of money. Not my type of guide, but I this is undoubtedly a big market...

I've commented already on the, in my mind, disproportionate number of Singaporean restaurants that made it... Can anyone explain it? I love Singapore for its hawker food, and I don't think HK would be worthy of that many in the top 20 either. Can't really get my head around it apart from publisher's/voting population bias (since the guide is published by a Singaporean company I suppose the voting would have been more widely known/more talked about in Singapore, hence more residents from that region - who of course would be most familiar with their city's cuisine - would have voted). Democracy is indeed a flawed affair.

The Hong Kong Michelin Guide will be coming out soon too, so it'll be interesting to compare these two "international" views on Asia/HK. (Oh, and the Mobil Guide is out for HK too, but... it's the Mobil Guide...)

Lastly, I think the happiest person is Joel Robuchon, who's sitting at three of the top 20 restos in Asia. And he's not even Asian. Felicitations, Monsieur Robuchon~

P.S. I think this has inspired me to write my own 'Asian Top 20'... so until next time folks...