Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Pawn (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Restaurants serving hearty British cuisine have always been rare commodities in Hong Kong but the recently opened, The Pawn, is poised to change that perception in a hurry.

On paper, the Pawn certainly has what it takes. They have assembled an excellent team with a proven track record. Executive chef, Dave Tamlyn, served as an apprentice to Marco Pierre White, who was best known for mentoring the famous Gordon Ramsay and their pastry chef has trained at The Wolseley, which has one of the most difficult tables to get in London.

Another impressive selling points are the location and ambience. The restaurant is centrally located among the busy street of Hennessy Road and is easily accessible by walk from anywhere in Wanchai. And if you like historical architecture, this will definitely be your cup of tea. The restaurant is housed in a nicely restored heritage building which used to be a century old pawn shop. If you are not shy of winds and rains, you can pick a table on the outdoor terrace overlooking the heart of Wanchai.

The interior is tastefully decorated with a colonial twist as well. As we all know, 'space' is somewhat of a luxury when it comes to restaurants in Wanchai. For most restaurants that cannot afford the spacing, tables are often scrambled together making it very difficult for one not to overhear their neighbours' conversation. But you certainly won't see it here at the Pawn. Privacy is almost guaranteed, as the tables are nicely separated with reasonable distance from each other.

We arrived at the restaurant a little bit late for lunch so we were starving the moment we sat down. Looking over my shoulder, I saw a gentleman having fish and chips. Two large pieces of fish fillet, deep fried to golden colour, yet not oily in texture. I was tempted to give it a try but too bad we were having an important meeting in the afternoon and I decided to order something of a lighter variety so I won't be falling asleep during the meeting.

Shrimp soup with dill, 6/10
A carbon copy of your average lobster bisque. Very strong in flavour and it was served with two small pieces of toasts.

Pork loin, 5/10
The pork loin looked a bit rough in texture but it actually tasted better than it looked. The dish was served with a special gravy sauce, potato and purple onion.

Whisky ice cream, 5/10
At first, it tasted like whisky on a rock (probably because it just came straight out of the frigate) but when the ice cream started to melt and soften, it had gotten better. Nevertheless, the taste of whisky was a bit too strong for our liking.

It was a pleasant dining experience. Both my friend and I concurred that the food could use some improvement but the atmosphere probably warranted some extra marks here and there. I would certainly recommend this place without reservation.

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: $$$
Address: 2/F, 62 Johnston Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Wanchai
Tel: +852 2866-3444

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Sabah Malaysian Cuisine (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

It was my Big-headed cousin's wedding tonight and he's throwing a banquet in Wanchai for all of us. For once, i was actually early so instead of sitting at the banquet hall all by myself, I decided to go to one of my favorite Malaysian restaurant for a quick snack first.

There are only two Malaysian/Singaporean restaurants I trust in Hong Kong - Satay Inn and Sabah. But getting a table at Sabah has always been tricky especially we don't have advance booking. Luckily this time, I walked in a little before 6pm so I was fortunate enough to get a table.

Fried kway teow - This is done the traditional way with flat noodles, prawns, fish cakes, Chinese sausages and bean sprouts. The spiciness was about right for me. Delish~

Fried carrot cake - Probably second only to Satay Inn's fried carrot cake. There were a lot of stuff in there including egg, prawns etc. in fact almost more than the carrot cakes!

I was a bit too full after this meal with the BIG banquet ahead but man, it's really well worth it. 

Food Rating: 6.5/10
Price: $$
Address: 98-108 Jaffe Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Wanchai
Tel: +852 2143-6626

Sunday, October 17, 2010

M On the Bund (Shanghai, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

I started the habit of visiting M on the Bund nearly a decade ago when my then-job required me to see a particular client in Shanghai on a regular basis. In all honesty, I was never a huge admirer of the food or service there but the stunning view of the Bund was too good to turn down.

The restaurant specifies in modern European cuisine. Prices are considerably reasonable but the service level sometimes leaves something to be desired. On this particular occasion, we were here for a late night snack and the hostess kept reminding us that we must at least order a main course although it was already 10pm. That was a bit annoying. If they were so keen on limiting customers to at least one main course, they should tag on a minimum charge.

We were granted a nice table on the outdoor patio with a spectacular postcard view of the Bund and as promised, we did order a main course.

While the view was nothing short of sensational, the same cannot be said about the food on this night. There was a certain degree of inconsistency displayed in a few of our dishes.

My seared scallops on cauliflower puree with spiced cauliflower and pine nuts was the best dish of the night but my main course, fried frog's leg with spinach risotto was rather unorthodox and disappointing.

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Address: Five on the Bund, 7/F, 20 Guangdong Lu, Shanghai, China
Closest Metro Station: None
Tel: +86 21 6350 9988

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Jesse Restaurant (Shanghai, CHINA) ★★★★★

We were that close to walking out of the door without even trying one single dish here at Jesse (or Jishi) when we found out that they have messed up our reservation. But we were persistent and after sending out our best negotiator, we finally got ourselves a table after a long long wait.

You should have probably heard it by now - there's an "old" Jesse and a new one as well as Xintiandi. But if you are looking for a hearty and authentic Shanghaiese cuisine, then the old Jesse at Tian Ping Road is where you want to be.

Tucked away at a quiet neighbourhood in Xujaihui, the Original (Old) Jesse might not garner the same attention as its sibling at Xintiandi but the food here is certainly to die for.

After a hardworking day at the Shanghai World Expo, everyone was so beat up to a point where we could easily fall asleep on these wooden chairs, that despite sitting elbow-to-elbow together. But when our first dish arrived, everyone were lighting up like little kids seeing candies. 

Jishi's salted chicken, 7/10
Most often when we were having Shanghaiese food, we would start things off with a dish of drunken chicken prized for the nice wine flavor. But this time we decided to change things around a bit and picked Jishi's salted chicken.

For whatever reason, the chicken in Shanghai has always tasted better. Perhaps it's free-range chicken.

Braised wheat bean (Ko-Fu), 10/10
I always like this particular starter but this one tasted sooooo much better. The bean curds served as small sponges here and after absorbing the signature sauce and mixing well with different types of mushrooms, the!

Bean curd roll in a chicken broth, 5/10
This was a dish recommended by the manager here. Told us it's quite popular here but we found it to be just average.

Stir Fried Long Beans, 9/10
Another common dish in the Shanghai cuisine, it couldn't get any perfecter than this!

Stir fried river shrimps, 9/10
Don't know how they managed to find such small river shrimps and even managed to remove the shells neatly one by one. Those were very sweet and tasty.

Jishi's signature fried rice, 10/10
Talked about saving the best for last, the signature fried rice certainly left a long lasting impression on us. Yes it was a little oily but it was just too delicious to turn away from.

It felt a lot like having glutinous rice too.

Food Rating: 10/10
Price: ¥¥¥
Address: 41 Tian Ping Road, Shanghai, China
Closest Metro Station: None
T: + 82 21 6282-9260

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stiller's Restaurant (Shanghai, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Stefan Stiller was our radar screen ever since his days at Club Shanghai and Mimosa Supper Club but we never did get the chance to try his innovative cuisine there. We were glad that we finally did get that chance at his latest venture at the Cool Docks.

The Stiller's restaurant was located on the 7/F of Building 13 at the Cool Docks and it has a decent view of the Bund. Chef Stiller himself was on hand this night directing traffic in the open kitchen.

We ordered some of his signature dishes including the opera cake of foie gras and tuna variation (tuna three ways) along with other main dishes (ravioli, seabass etc) to share among the four of us. However, apart from the opera cake, the rest of them were rather disappointing. If it's any consolation, the presentation did score fairly high marks.

Perhaps we have set the bar a bit too high. Luckily for us though, Shanghai does have some new intriguing options. Next up, Mr and Mrs Bund.

The restaurant and cooking school are located on the
6th and 7th floor.

The view of the Bund from the restaurant.

Signature dish - Cake of foie gras, black truffle
and spiced pineapple (6/10).


Tuna variation - ahi tuna, tuna mousse & tuna tartar

Ravioli with braised beef cheek (4/10).

Food Rating: 4/10
Address: The Cool Docks Building 13, 6/F and 7/F, Shanghai, China
Closest Metro Station: None

Hyatt on the Bund (Shanghai, CHINA)

Hyatt on the Bund is one of celebrities' favorite in Shanghai and the place to see and be seen. Strategically located on the banks of the Huang Pu River at the northern end of the Bund, this brand new hotel offers stunning views of the Bund and Pudong and is just a quick 10-minute walk to the Chen Yi Square (陳毅広場) and famous Nanjing pedestrian street.

At first, I thought the hotel was a bit to the north side of the city centre; thus making the walking tour a little inconvenient but after receiving a fantastic corporate deal on their "Bund View" room, it was difficult to say no.

The moment we walked into our "Bund View" room, we knew we have made the right decision. The view of the Bund and Pudong was totally jaw dropping.

It's as close to the Bund as it gets without getting drowned! Waking up every morning to this picturesque view simply made our 5-day stay that much more enjoyable.

And the view simply got better at night with the glittering light show on the other side of the harbour.

Not only does the hotel's executive lounge serves up very good breakfast in the morning, it's also open throughout the day for complimentary snacks and finger food. Trust me, it's like a buffet here.

Apart from the parade of snacks including spring roll, cheese tart, macaroon etc etc, all the soft drinks and bottled water are complimentary. Talk about being treated like a VIP.

We've stayed at many luxury 5-star hotels in mainland China over the years and disappointingly, many of them tried too hard to put in an oriental twist, or an "east meets west" kind of design which more often than not, fails miserably in execution. What separated Hyatt on the Bund with the rest of the competition in Shanghai, was that it managed to stick with the design basics and a contemporary approach.

This is not just a luxury 5-star hotel in Shanghai. It's THE best hotel in the city by a country mile

Rating: ❤❤❤❤❤
Price: €€€€
Address: 199 Huang Pu Road, Shanghai, China
Tel: +86 21 6393-1234

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Amber (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

Amber is probably my second favorite fine dining restaurant in Hong Kong, right behind Caprice (Who else?). Led by Culinary Director Richard Ekkebus, Amber never fails to impress us with their contemporary interpretation of classic French dishes.

The two Michelin-starred restaurant also has the contemporary décor to match its cuisine. Elegant yet not too flashy. No wonder it's becoming a fixture in the Michelin guide and World's 50 best restaurants.

We quickly found ourselves right in the middle of the action with our first amuse bouche but the chestnut panna cotta was slightly off the mark (3/10).

Though our second amuse bouche, their signature foie gras lollipops more than made up for it (8/10).

Amber always has one of the best foie gras terrines in Hong Kong and that would be my choice for starter on this day.

I really enjoyed the silky smooth foie gras terrine but the passion fruit jelly had a little bit too much acidity (5/10).

Poached line-caught cod fish with what looked like onion crumble on top was served on a pool of green peas. It was an enjoyable dish but one that would not be considered as overly impressive (6/10).

I didn't bring my camera along with me so bear with me on this out-of-focus picture of my beef tenderloin.

Trust me on this one. It was nothing to write home about (5/10).

Dessert was slim picking and I had the dark chocolate tart with banana sorbet.

Not a big fan of dark and bitter chocolate (4/10).

I have had much better days dining at Amber on different occasions in the past. This was not very indicative of what this kitchen is capable of.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: $$$$
Address: 15 Queen's Road, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, The Landmark, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central
Tel: +852 2132-0066
S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants: 90th (2010)