Thursday, December 04, 2014

25 Plus Plus: Sun Wah Cafe

Egg tart at Sun Wah Cafe
If you want to know what 25 Plus Plus is about, click here.

I don't get out to Cheung Sha Wan much, but if I needed a reason, Sun Wah Cafe 新華茶餐廳 would be a good one. Their egg tart is one of the best flaky ones I've had in Hong Kong. Baked in-house, the trays sell out almost as soon as they reach the front of the shop, so you're almost always assured of a warm one.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

25 Plus Plus: Cheung Hing Coffee Shop

As you might know, I've been writing a column called 25+ for the South China Morning Post's 48 Hours Magazine for a while now. The column features one restaurant a week that's over 25 years old. Basically I go in and ask old-timers (where possible), or second, third generation operators about the past, present and maybe future of the restaurant.

The column is pretty short, and sometimes I get really interesting stories and details from the interviewees that won't all fit into the column, so I thought I'd share my notes here, instead of having them sit in my notebook as illegible scribbles... Hope you enjoy them as much I enjoy speaking to these folks. I'm filing these posts under 25 Plus Plus.

This is an extension of the 25+ column about Cheung Hing Coffee Shop.

The lovely refurbished Cheung Hing Coffee Shop, on the ground floor of a beautiful building built in 1950; expensive car illegally parked outside. So Hong Kong.
Just a couple of years ago, Cheung Hing Coffee Shop 祥興咖啡室 was a rundown cha chaan teng that people wanted to love but just couldn't, because the food was awful and the place was falling apart. When I called to schedule an interview, the lady in charge wanted to make sure I knew it was under new ownership now - indeed I did, and I was desperate to know the story. Some of my favourite stories for 25+ have been small businesses taken over by people with a vision - it's heartening to know that Hong Kong's heritage will not die out completely in my lifetime.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Don't Trust Food Blog Reviews (and Reviews in general)

Oh hey, look, a sensationalist title. (Edit 21/11/2014: If you read it and went, "oh yeah, of course, I agree" and can't be bothered to read the rest of this post, shame on you for not realising the obvious issue in my use of the title (ie. you are reading a food blog) and I beg of you, save yourself some embarrassment and jump to "media literacy" issues below).

Let's take a step back from that title - I don't mean all media and all bloggers - I just needed your attention*.

If you're reading this post, I'm guessing you spend some time on the internet. Perhaps you read blogs, follow some folks on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. No? Well, at least you Google right?

Some websites/blogs/magazines are now "reviewing" almost exclusively about free meals. I have a problem with that. In Buzzfeed/Huffingpost/2014 internet style, let me make a listicle. (Yes, a rant is coming. Reader beware.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

NUR - More Than Bearable Lightness of Being

Oyster - NUR Feast menu, June 2014
(Sorry about the punny title. I couldn't help it... #notsorry)

This is going to be another one of those posts with photos collated from several meals at NUR, which I currently have a restaurant crush on.

NUR is completely different to anything that's available in HK. It's not solely "organic" for the sake of it, and although often touted as "new Nordic", it's not a wholesale import, or carbon copy (thank goodness) of nouveau Scandinavian/Noma-esque cuisine.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Ho Lee Fook - Where is Chinese Food Going?

Wagyu shortrib with green shallot kimchi, jalapeno puree, at Ho Lee Fook
Yes, yes, the restaurant's name is intentional.

That's basically what Ho Lee Fook is about - tongue in cheek, not too serious, funky Chinese food. It's not a throwback to Chinatown Chinese (like Fu Lu Shou), but I'd say its an example of the evolution of Chinese cuisine.

Monday, November 03, 2014

#crazyhashtag40HKDaDay and an easy way to be a food volunteer in Hong Kong

#crazyhashtag40HKD dinner, $20
A few of us food-loving people who like to call ourselves #crazyhashtagfoodies decided to try spending no more than HK$40 a day on food. This is around the amount that those below the poverty line have to spend daily.

Us "foodies" are the type of people who spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about what to eat for our next meal, rather than worrying about if we'll have a next meal at all. I'm saying this not to boast, but to emphasise that we're the fortunate ones. Hong Kong has the greatest gap between rich and poor in the world, and that fact does not make me proud of the city I was born in.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Introducing the Sizzle & Fry Show

Just a quick one to say that I'm hosting a brand new web TV show with chef, F&B pro and Empire Media CEO Jason Black, called the Sizzle and Fry Show. The show looks at issues in the F&B industry in Hong Kong, from reviewer's ethics, the point of organic certification, to staff shortages and more. We have some fun bits like prank calls, cooking and "Up Close and Personal" chats with HK's top chefs too. It's not like most F&B shows where people eat stuff and say "Mmm, yum!" because you need pretty models to do that, and I'm clearly not a pretty model.

Here's the first episode on reviews and reviewers, where we have Adele Wong (HK Magazine), Johannes Pong (fabulous freelance reviewer & more), Susan Jung (SCMP) and Kelvin Ho (HK Epicurus blog) answer our questions about how they review, what it's like in HK and how they think it should be done. One of my favourite topics as you might have noticed.

You'll find the rest of the episodes (full shows) on Empire Media's website or on the Youtube channel. You can also keep up to date with new uploads (every Thursday) and other news on the Facebook Page. Feel free to comment and send us feedback!

A HUGE thank you to wonderful ethical, sustainable clothing e-retailer A Boy Named Sue for my amazing outfits and Hollywood Hair for my hair and make-up!

Carbone - Old School Birthday Feast

Veal parmesan at Carbone
The jetsetters among you will know that Carbone is a cult New York restaurant. There, it's had mixed reviews, and when I tweeted about it opening in Hong Kong, I immediately got replies about how expensive it's perceived to be. Plus, I've learned to be wary of "big name" restaurant imports into HK these days, so I didn't expect much of Carbone, until some trusty pals went to check it out - in general they had pretty good things to say, so I put it on my to-try list.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Tokyo notes - Buying and tasting whisk(e)y

Ichiro's Malt Chichibu French Oak Single Cask #2357 (photo from Isetan blog)
Just a super quick post to remind myself (and to share with you) to always visit the alcohol section in the basement of Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The main reason, aside from its rather reasonable selection of wines (reasonably priced if you compare them to HK, but then again, HK is ridic), is the whisk(e)y selection and tasting bar. Yes, a bar in a department store.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Woods - A Cook's Cocktails

The Caprese at The Woods
If you follow me on Instagram (I thank you), you'll have noticed I've been at The Woods quite a bit these past few weeks. As my friend J quite aptly put it, "I know that place is like your office now..." (I will admit to having held more than one work-related meeting there, ahem). It soft opened in June by the three Chow sisters, and Victoria*, the youngest, is the one behind the drinks & food.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Legends of Cantonese cuisine - Jiang Taishi and Pearl Kong Chen

Mrs Pearl Kong Chen (third from left) at Kin's Kitchen in April this year.

A while back, I was commissioned to write a short piece on Jiang Taishi 江太史, a legendary figure in the relatively contemporary history of Cantonese cuisine. The piece was drafted and never published, and on this sad day of the passing of Jiang's granddaughter, Mrs. Pearl Kong Chen 江獻珠, a culinary figure in her own right, I was reminded to share what I learned.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Singapore - The Most Incomplete Guide Ever

Hainanese curry rice with pork chops, fried egg, braised pork and veg, in Tiong Bahru
I lied in the title. Not only is this incomplete, it's not even a guide - just a quick itinerary/rundown of what I did, ate, and tips on how to get around, get a SIM card, where I stayed and stuff. This post is probably more for my dementia-prone self than you. Also, I think this is about my 6th visit to Singapore, and I was largely travelling alone, so don't judge me for not eating chilli crab, laksa, chai tow kway etc.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Upper Modern Bistro - Almost There

Upper Modern Bistro - beauty without the pretence
Let's start with the obvious: the pedigree of the restaurant. The chef is Philippe Orrico, most recently of St George at Hullet House, but his CV notably includes a big chunk working for Pierre Gagnaire. He was initially brought to Hong Kong to open Pierre at the Mandarin Oriental. Another notable addition to the team is Jeremy Evrard, formerly manager of then-three-Michelin-starred Caprice at Four Seasons Hong Kong, and known particularly for his expertise in cheese.

The restaurant world (well in fact, the world itself) seems much more predictable when you see it in terms of evolution à la Darwin. El Bulli spawned a bunch of modernist, Spanish-inflected avant-garde-ists, Noma has led to a clutch of clean-lined, new Nordic, locavore philosophers in kitchens around the world.

Looking at Hong Kong - in the 1990s and early 2000s, we had hotels and groups importing good chefs from around the world - Bombana at the old Ritz, L'Atelier de JR (owned by Lisboa), and the various chefs coming through Gaddi's and Petrus, and to this day, I'd say hotels are still the ones with enough muscle and hiring expertise to bring the right people into Hong Kong.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Eater Hong Kong Heatmap - 11 Hot New Hong Kong Restaurants

Eater Hong Kong Heatmap June 2014
My biannual submission to is out! I included 11 places, but as usual, Hong Kong has seen a ton of new openings in the past six months.

Some that I didn't add were: Sushi To & The Penthouse (Harlan Goldstein's incredible magic trick of opening two restaurants at once), Cocotte (juicy PR scandal alert!), Check-In Taipei, Brew Bros Coffee, N1 Coffee & Co., 18 Grams (new branch in Sheung Wan), % Arabica (new branch in PMQ), Little Burro (new branch in Sheung Wan), Ping Pong 129 (because it's a bar), Holytan, China Tang (too fancy for its own good), The Envoy (opened just after my deadline), Corner Kitchen Cafe (reopening), Lokali, Mama San, Unar Coffee (TST Star Ferry branch), Mavericks (Pui O), The Woods (bar, just opened),  Nocturne (bar), Zen Too, Madam S'Ate, Naked...

There's lots coming soon this summer too:
Ho Lee Fook, Stack, Jamie's Italian, Vasco, Isono, Bread Street Kitchen... Keep an eye on the fabulous coming soon page on HK Tatler Dining.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mott 32 - Not Just a Pretty Face

"Pata negra" pork, dried chilli, peanut
Maximal Concepts has been on a bit of a roll. In the past few months, they've opened Fish & Meat, Stockton and Mott 32 - the latter is the group's first foray into Chinese food. Situated deep down in the basement of the Standard Chartered Bank Building in Central, I was hoping the location's previous incarnation would have been something super sexy like a bank vault, alas, it just used to be another (less interesting) Chinese restaurant. The decor is pretty sexy though - 50s industrial meets old Shanghai, with a bit of prohibition moodiness, realised by Joyce Wang. It makes for a great cocktail bar in addition to being a serious restaurant.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Giando - Convention Eats

Linguini with shrimp and crabmeat
Looking for good eats around the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) is a bit like trying to find a good soy sauce in Chinatown. There's lots of soy sauce, just none of them are really worth their salt (literally).

The Centre itself is a bit of a lost cause when it comes to food (if I had to choose, I would go to the cafe in the lobby - at least they have semi-decent sandwiches and drinkable (albeit very milky) coffee - but if you're looking for a proper meal, and the Grand Hyatt is too, well, grand, then you're stuck for choices.

About 3-5 minutes walk from the Grand Hyatt, through the garden and overpass, you'll come to Fenwick Pier and the Fleet Arcade (where I keep hearing you can buy cheap magazines from the US ships that come in, but I've never verified that claim). Inside, where Vero used to be, is Giando, an Italian restaurant opened by ex-Gaia Group exec chef, Gianni Caprioli.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Le Salon de Thé de Joël Robuchon - Afternoon Tea So Fancy, Wah

Tiered afternoon tea at Salon de The de Joel Robuchon - so dainty, so fancy, wah
This is a gonna be a pretty short post because there isn't much to report about the JR afternoon tea at the Elements branch. The food is perfectly fine. In fact, it's all very well done, and I rather liked the cranberry scones, although they could be a) a bit larger, b) less dense, and c) warm.

Can I just add that the matte black tiers are chic, but when you remove a moist sandwich or pastry from it, it leaves a greasy smudge. Not so chic. Clearly, the person who designed it has never touched food.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Accidental Cantonese Bak Chor Mee - In The Mood For Noodles

My Cantonese-ified bak chor mee - a vegetarian version with eggplant
So I received in the mail a hefty box of Kang Kang noodles (thanks, Catchon, and no, this is not a sponsored post) and to be honest, I'm not a natural noodle fan. I don't hate them, they're just not the kind of carb I can have all the time, I have to be in the "mood"*. I was going through the box - kway teow, silver needle noodles, Hokkien yellow noodles - nope, nope, nope, not feeling it - and then I saw Hokkien flat noodles and ding! ding! ding! I felt like having 濕炒 (sup chao, or wet-fry. Sounds yuck in English but basically a stir-fry with a heavier "wetter" gravy).

I found some pork mince in my fridge, and pictured a glossy coffee-hued gravy, so I dug out my dried shiitakes, some dried morel crumbs and Mrs. So's mushroom sauce, and oh, vegetarian oyster sauce, which tastes nothing like oyster sauce but more like hyper-concentrated mushrooms with the consistency of oyster sauce. As I was cooking, I found it all a little too savoury, so I added a couple of glugs of dark Chinkiang (Zhenjiang) vinegar and finished it off with palm sugar, Chiuchow chilli sauce and black & white pepper.

It was delicious - and I feel weird about saying this about my own cooking, because I'm not exactly a genius cook (which is why I like restaurants... maybe?) and almost immediately after eating it I realised that I was, in fact, subconsciously trying to recreate bak chor mee.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Seventh Son - Cantonese Perfection

Dim sum at Seventh Son is perfection
Cantonese food is what I grew up on, and as I get older, I find myself appreciating it more and more, and having less tolerance for bad versions (am I going to end up one of those grumpy old people?).

I've been to Seventh Son about a dozen times since they opened last year, mostly for lunch (dim sum), but a few times for dinner too, and it has quickly become a firm favourite. There have been so few Chinese openings of note recently and I'm only too happy to have found a new, reliable standby.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dynasty 8, Macau - Decent Dim Sum

Ham shui gok 鹹水角 at Dynasty 8, Conrad Macau
The title says it all. The dim sum at Dynasty 8 was decent. Out of the six things we had, one was excellent (rice paper rolls with barbecued pork), one was good (flaky chicken pastries), three were ok (har gow, ham shui gok, fried sesame balls with custard), and one was weird (soup dumplings), but ok. There's really no need to read past the jump, but if you must...

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Tasting Room by Galliot, Macau

Smoked egg with black winter truffle at The Tasting Room by Gaillot, Macau
Macau, Asia's try-hard attempt at Las Vegas, has seemed to serve a certain function in Hongkonger's vacationing habits that isn't dissimilar to its American counterpart. It's not the first time I'd been to Macau for hen's nights (that's a bachelorette party, non-Aussies) and big birthday bashes. The latter was the purpose of this trip, and this meal at The Tasting Room, and at the risk of sounding like a spoiled brat, we'd all been to Robuchon and wanted to try something different. Plus, it was about time to test run our expensive handbags on different bag stools... I kid.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Eating in Longyearbyen, Svalbard - The Northernmost Restaurants in the World

Yes, snowshoeing in Longyearbyen made me hungry, but the vast emptiness made me hungrier.
There's a certain hunger that strikes when you're in the Arctic Circle, 78 degrees north of the equator and about 1000km from the nearest decent-sized city (Tromsø). It has nothing to do with rumbles, caloric intake, or staying warm, rather, it's a hunger brought on by a subtle but unshakable sense of anxiety of being in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and being completely useless in fending for yourself should anything happen.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Hot Pot at Da Hong Pao

Pic from Da Hong Pao (sorry)
In its simplest form, all you need for hot pot (or steamboat, or Chinese fondue) is stock, or even water, and whatever ingredients you want to (and are able to) cook quickly in soup. It was always something I'd had at home - after all, you can spend less, and buy better ingredients. However, being in Hong Kong, where you can nary do a u-turn in your own apartment, having friends over for hotpot is quite a challenge, let alone having the space to prep everything and spread it all out.