Wednesday, December 30, 2015

20 best dishes of 2015

#AMBERxBENU bamboo shoot with black truffle bao
Greedy food folk like me are lucky to eat a lot of good things all the time*, and I'm so very grateful to everyone who makes good food available to us (me!). In no particular order, I'd just like to celebrate 20 very memorable dishes I had (something I started 4 years ago and was supposed to continue annually but didn't - here's 2011 and 2012).

Pololi's poké and Spam musubi at #TCSMarket (they have 3 shops now though if you're in Central, Sheung Wan or Wanchai)
Poké - Pololi, Hong Kong
I'd never had poké before trying Pololi's, and suffice to say it has changed my life forever. I think of it as a chirashi with hyper maxed out explosive flavours (that doesn't make sense, so just go and eat it).

Neighborhood's chocolate palette - half destroyed because we can never wait to dig in
Chocolate palette - Neighborhood, Hong Kong
Quite possibly Hong Kong's best dessert, hands down.

Saint-Honoré at Caprice Bar
Saint-Honoré - Caprice Bar, Hong Kong
Okay, hands not quite down - this and Neighborhood's chocolate palette are probably Hong Kong's desserts of the year. (PS. If you want to know my friend Rachel's top 5 desserts of the year (and you should, because she's the dessert guru), step this way). Caprice Bar now serves lunch and it's like perfect bistro food done by fine dining chefs. Caprice's new (this year) pastry chef Nicolas Lambert is therefore also making the desserts for the Bar's lunch, and the puff pastry at the base of this S-H is baked to such a perfectly dark, dark colour - just pure Maillard bliss.

#AMBERxBENU amadai with umami broth
THE ENTIRE #AMBERxBENU menu - Amber, Hong Kong
Corey Lee from San Francisco's Benu was in town for his book launch and did a one-night guest stint with Amber. I would mostly summarise it as: superbly learned, restrained use of umami. If I had to count each dish I had in this meal separately and put them into this list, the list would be 40 best dishes - that's how amazing it was.

Roast pigeon - ON, Hong Kong
Read the blog post!

Japanese steamed egg with hairy crab roe, VEA
Hairy crab chawanmushi - VEA, Hong Kong
BEST. INVENTION. Hairy crab roe in silky smooth steamed egg! Full album and commentary in the link.

Buddha Jumps Over The Wall
Buddha Jumps Over The Wall (佛跳牆) - Chinese private kitchen on Pottinger Street, Hong Kong
I'd never much liked Chinese dried seafood - I'd always seen abalone, sea cucumber and the like as tasteless things, but this completely changed my mind. The textures were amazing (as one would already have expected) but the way the slow-cooking gave its its flavours and unctuous, sticky mouthfeel - I mean, if this is how all dried seafood is (it isn't, obvs), I want it for every Chinese banquet. (But if you're looking to visit this private kitchen, I'm sorry, you'll need some friends who have been and are in the know about booking!)

Cabbage beurre noisette, Serge et le Phoque
Cabbage beurre noisette - Serge et le Phoque, Hong Kong
Half a head of cabbage, charred on the edges, perfectly caramelised and buttery. So simple and so delicious.

Picklebacks and sliders, Stone Nullah Tavern
Picklebacks and sliders - Stone Nullah Tavern, Hong Kong
Pickle juice and super messy little sliders with cheapo soft rolls. YASSSS

Apricot souffle at The Continental
Apricot souffle - The Continental, Hong Kong
I'm not usually a fan of cooked apricot - it has funny gritty undertones that seem so disjointed from the tartness. But in this souffle a spoonful of cooked apricot (somewhere between jam and puree), it's heaven. The souffle is basically beautiful mouthfuls of warm marshmallow.

Apple tart, Chesa
Apple tart - Chesa, Hong Kong
Flaky, tart, balanced in every sense. Old-school technical perfection.

Nakamura Tokichi
Matcha jelly - Nakamura Tokichi, Hong Kong
Nakamura Tokichi, if you didn't know, is a famous Kyoto matcha company. Its first overseas outlet opened this year in HK and till this day, has queues out the door. The jelly appears in a range of desserts, and to be honest, I don't really care which, because I'm mostly in it for the jelly. That texture - so delicate and... well, floppy, but I assure you, there's a good kind of floppy. It holds itself together like super silken tofu, a little almost-fluid lozenge of coolness, slipping and sliding on your tongue - I can still remember it.

Wah kee pork patty (second dish from bottom)
Wah Kee minced pork patty with mui choi - Hong Kong
Didn't say the dishes had to be from restaurants! HA! I cooked this basic Canto-style meatloaf/patty thing for dinner with preserved veg. Wah Kee is a local pork farm that doesn't use intensive farming practices and breeds Bath pigs. The quality of pork is amazing and in my (Cantonese) opinion, best had steamed with very few condiments in order to really enjoy its flavours. They have a couple of butcher stalls in wet markets, and it's also available pre-packed at Yata Supermarket.

Pressed rib sandwich, Rockwell and Sons
Pressed rib sandwich - Rockwell & Sons, Melbourne
Everything about this sandwich/burger thing was right. The texture of the bun, the ratio of bread to filling, the deliciously tender and juicy (but not so juicy it disintegrates) rib. My Instagram caption was: "That bun was so right I wanted to cry". If you're going to Melbourne, don't you dare miss this.

Pizza Napoletana, La Svolta
Pizza Napoletana - La Svolta, Melbourne
G is a huge pizza fan and when we travelled throughout Campania (the region in which Naples is situated) we ate an awful lot of pretty good ones, but who woulda thunk that Melbourne does it better? (Actually, it's not that hard to believe, LOL). The bases were just brittle and crisp enough on the outside, and the bready bits had beautiful irregular holes within, formed with these moist yet strong gluten structures. Oh my, it was beautiful - I mean, bellissimo. I read that the owners are new-ish immigrants from Italy and the restaurant is called La Svolta ("turn") because they wanted to turn a new leaf or something like that. Good on them. If I'm not mistaken they're part of AVPN (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana).

Chicken carrot at Attica
Chicken carrot - Attica, Melbourne
Looks like a taco, not a taco. It's a slice of carrot on the outside, and pulled chicken inside. Really chicken-y chicken and not the least bit dry. Attica is always full of surprises.

Barbecued wallaby, not barbecued, Brae
Barbecued wallaby, not barbecued - Brae, country Victoria (around 1.5 hrs drive from Melbourne)
So was it barbecued or not barbecued? I won't ruin it for you, but we were shown out back afterwards to see the outdoor grill where it was all made - the property is simply stunning (they now have their own accommodation too) and makes for a lovely country jaunt if you want to get out of Melbourne.

Beef tartare on oyster creme, Little Drop of Poison
Beef tartare on oyster creme - Little Drop of Poison, Eltham (suburban Melbourne)
You know how sometimes how beef can taste sort of metallic? If you like that, then oyster heightens it by about 5 times while smoothing things out with some creaminess. It's awesome. I'd had this beef and oyster combo earlier in the year at Neighbourhood too, and both were excellent, but this marginally wins out for better integration of oyster because of the spreadability of the creme.

Porcini mushroom taglierini - Dish'd, Melbourne
I guess this one requires a bit of explanation. Dish'd is a frozen food brand, Yes, frozen food, and yet if I were served this (it's fresh pasta, yo!) in a restaurant, on proper flatware, I probably wouldn't know. I would tell you that it's pretty damned good pasta (especially in HK where it seems impossible to get a plate for under HK$100...)

Hamburger - Danny's Burgers, Melbourne
The closest thing to Shake Shack I've had in the southern hemisphere. The night I ordered it was for the whole crew, so we ordered 50 burgers. I think we broke them and the cooks definitely hate me.

That's all folks, wishing you a delicious 2016!

* Gluttony may not be a sin, but it doesn't hurt to help others less fortunate. I'd like to take the opportunity to plug some of Hong Kong's food charities, an important part of the food equation in Hong Kong. They all make it very easy for you to volunteer and donate, such as Feeding Hong Kong, which has a very well-run "bread run" programme, as well as Foodlink and Food Angel.

1 comment:

  1. I'm from Malaysia and I've been trying to scout for places to eat in Hong Kong for my visit in March. This list of places will definitely help. Thanks for the tips!