Friday, April 20, 2018

10 Shanghai 十里洋場 (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Everyone got a bit lazy to come up with a place for dinner tonight. Since I was already in Causeway Bay to pick up my camera from the repair shop, I thought let's keep it simple and just have dinner in the area and that's when 10 Shanghai (十里洋場)'s name came up.

We were just here about a month ago. Personally, I found their snacks and dim sums pretty good but there were a number of improvement areas to be addressed (noise, service...etc).

It's great to finally activate my camera off DL (disabled list). I got so tired of taking photos using my iPhone, especially those food pictures from up close. The quality just wasn't up to par.

Smoked soft-boiled eggs with black truffle pearl (黑松露珍珠燻溏心蛋) ($48) - I lovvve soft-boiled eggs smoked with tea leaves. It's one of my favorite dish from Shanghainese cuisine.

These ones really looked good on paper with black truffle pearls in the mix but I thought the truffle flavor was a bit light. On the other hand, they were a little heavy-handed with the white pepper powder. Not very tasty and I blame it on the seasoning which they failed to get right.

Deep-fried sweet and sour mandarin fish with pine nuts (翠珠魚花 - 松子魚) ($268) - Beautifully plated and well portioned. The mandarin fish was pretty delicious and it provided good value for money as well. Easily the best dish of the night.

Braised chicken and shrimp dumplings in chicken consommé (濃湯砂鍋雲吞雞 - 半份) ($198) - I noticed it read "rich consommé" in the Chinese translation there which I didn't pay much attention to at the time of ordering. But this was really strong and overpowering. Most of us needed to drink a few cups of water to get the taste out of our mouth.

The braised chicken was pretty nice though, especially after absorbing all the flavors from the rich broth.

Traditional braised pork balls in brown sauce (張大千紅燒獅子頭) ($128) - I love Lion's Head and frankly, this was quite decent. Interestingly, the brown sauce was not the same thick sauce I got accustomed to over the years. Personally, I won't mind a bit more seasoning (such as a thicker sauce) coz after all, that's what Shanghainese cuisine is all about - 濃油赤醬.

Spinach with purple sweet potato and matsutake in chicken broth (紫薯松茸浸菠菜) ($118) - Love the chicken broth which was mild and spot on, yet gave the spinach, purple sweet potato and matsutake enough to work with.

Signature steamed xiao long bao (金牌小籠包) ($65) - A freebie from a HSBC promotion. Not bad.

Stir-fried glutinous rice cake with shredded pork and shepherd's purse (薺菜肉絲炒年糕) ($108) - Another hearty dish which everyone enjoyed a lot including my little one.

I thought the kitchen had a pretty inconsistent night. We got some dishes which were heavily seasoned (but shouldn't have been) while others were noticeably under-seasoned (like the Lion's Head).

But despite the inconsistent performance, I was quite happy to see some major improvements from the service team. The lady who took care of us was amazing throughout the night. So, at least, they got one thing right since our last visit.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 101, Lee Garden Two, 28 Yun Ping Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Causeway Bay
Tel: +852 2338-5500

ZUC.CCH.ERO (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

ZUC.CCH.ERO is a dessert bar which I have been keeping a close eye on ever since its opening more than 3 years ago. I have heard a lot of mixed reviews about them over the years but the fact that there aren't that many dessert cafes who specialize in molecular sweets in Hong Kong gave me every reason to give it a go.

I sure like what I've seen from ZUC.CCH.ERO based on the photos posted on Facebook and Instagram but I'm not going to judge them prematurely without trying at least a few of their desserts.

Rolex Ball ($100) - A play on the popular chilled mango cream with sago and pomelo (楊枝金露).

Inside the sugar ball were fresh mango, pomelo and grapefruit, along with mango foam, sago and liquid nitrogen milk ice cream. So, yes it did have all the ingredients from a chilled mango cream with sago and pomelo. The various temperatures and textures also made it somewhat interesting. However, a couple of blemishes. For starters, the sugar ball was a little too hard to munch on. And from the presentation point of view, they're not making it look good because the sphere was too thick to see the ingredients in the middle (according to the photo on the menu, it's almost transparent so you can see all the fillings in the middle).

To sum it up, there's nothing really wrong with the flavors just that the execution was slightly off.

Snow White ($118) - Fairly similar to the previous dessert except this one came with a scoop of yuzu sorbet inside the apple shaped sugar ball. Underneath that were apple crumble, caramel cinnamon apple and small pieces of cheesecake.

This was a fairly busy dish with a lot of flavors which were working individually rather than coming together.

Molten earl grey ($70) - This has the making of a fairly good dessert but the flavors from the earl grey lava tart were a little too light for me. I did like the tofu ice-cream with brown sugar tuile which should have complemented a rich and powerful earl grey flavor but unfortunately, that was missing in action.

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Room 1802-3, 18/F, Bartlock Centre, 3 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Causeway Bay
Tel: +852 3427-9828

Thursday, April 19, 2018

10 of The Best Cafés and Dessert Spots in Itaewon Seoul (2018)

Itaewon (梨泰院) is an area in Yongsan-gu just south of Myeongdong which is famous for its diversified culture. With its wide variety of trendy shops, bars, cafés and restaurants from different countries all over the world, it's not surprising that it has quietly become a hot landing spot for some of the city's top cafés and dessert spots. To save you time and effort, here is a list of my favorite cafés and dessert spots in Itaewon that are not to be missed.

Mont St. Clair
An import directly from Tokyo, Mont St. Clair should be a household name to those who are familiar with the Japanese dessert scene. Chef-owner Hironobu Tsujiguchi (辻口博啟) is an award-winning pâtissier and chocolatier, who represented Japan on a number of occasions in the international stage. With his new venture in Seoul, he's bringing with him some of his best known signature creations including C'est la Vie, a hexagon shaped white chocolate mousse cake.

Address: 112-3 Bogwang-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 2-749-0660

Passion 5
Passion 5 is a space that combines a bakery, cake shop, chocolatier and gelateria all under the same roof. While their bread, chocolate and macarons are all something to die for, their calling card has always been their Japanese influenced pastries that are some of the most instagram worthy desserts in Seoul. Check out their snow white apple cake and more to make your trip to Itaewon even more memorable.

Address: 272 Itaewon-ro, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 2-6207-1029

White Veil
While Lady M no longer has its presence in Seoul, long-time fans should be relieved that they can still get the same caliber of mille crêpes in Itaewon (at the very same location as the old Lady M Itaewon). For those who have grown tired of Lady M's original mille crêpes, come check out White Veil's extensive lineup of mille crêpes including tiramisu, marron, coconut and, cookie and cream.

Address: 127 Itaewon 1(il)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 02-792-7707

Glamorous Penguins
Tucked away at a little back alley off the main road near Hangangjin station, Glamorous Penguin is a small café with a big heart. They're very serious about their coffee and homemade cakes. Often making headlines are their red velvet cakes and carrot cakes which are some of the best ones in the business but if you happen to be in love with chiffon cakes, then you definitely can't go wrong with their earl grey chiffon cake, which is one of my personal favorites.

Address: 743-41, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 070-7793-7178

Mafia Dessert
Situated on hilly Noksapyeong-daero 40-gil, Mafia Dessert is a popular dessert café that always draws a big crowd especially on the weekend. They are very famous for their signature tiramisu although I personally prefer their mille feuille and chocolate fondue cake with ice cream a bit more just for the fact that they're always on point.

Address: 451-7, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 02-1688-5166

Frank's flagship store in Itaewon is not the easiest of all places to find but once you manage to locate it, you will be amazed with what they've got in store for you. They have a lot of outstanding items on their dessert menu but it was their acclaimed rainbow series, including the popular rainbow roll cake that put them on the map. Their rainbow roll cakes are freshly made twice a day (I was told 12:30 and 16:30) and normally gone within 15 to 30 minutes so adjust your travel plans accordingly!

Address: 258-228 Itaewon(2)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 70-8156-5459

ÉCLAIR by garuharu

Even before L'Éclair de Génie started making their expansion to Asia, éclairs with colorful toppings and fancy flavors are already available in Seoul courtesy of ÉCLAIR by garuharu. Opened in June 2014, this dessert spot on Gyeongnidan Street continues to dazzle locals and tourists with their growing list of innovative éclairs which currently includes hazelnut praline, coconut & mango and more.

Address: 247-9 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 2-337-8090

Situated again on trendy Gyeongnidan Street (where else in Itaewon), Bakehouse is best known as a popular artisan bakery hidden in the basement level of a small complex but few are aware of the fact that they also have a cozy little dessert café on the ground floor. On top of the warm and inviting vibe, those with a sweet tooth will absolutely love their chiffon cakes (my favorites are their walnut banana and chocolate crunch chiffon) and strawberry souffle. 

Address: 1/F 251-63, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 02-796-7563

Sugar Lane
Back in May 2016, Sugar Lane became the first dessert shop in Seoul to focus on meringue desserts. Since then, they have evolved into more of a dessert bar that offers a wider variety of desserts including the always popular creme brulee and tiramisu. My personal favorite here is their pavlova with shaved pistachio which is both light and delicate.

Address: 341-6 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 02-790-5333

Gelati Gelati
Since taking over the space previously occupied by fellow artisanal gelateria Bastille, Gelati Gelati has quietly filled the void in Itaewon which was desperately missing a modern ice-cream parlour. Gelato lovers will always find a good mix of traditional and contemporary flavors here with crowd pleasers such as tiramisu, royal milk tea and salted peanut caramel but those who are more adventurous will find their rice and honey chestnut flavors even more pleasing.

Address: 118-19, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 02-790-3281

How to get there:
Take Subway Line 6 to Noksapyeong, Itaewon or Hangangjin station.