Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Salted Pig (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

With all the success of the Salted Pig in Central, it came with very little surprise that Shore Hospitality decided it's the right time to open its second branch across the harbour.

Apart from the news on the expansion to Knutsford Terrace, Tsim Sha Tsui, the group also announced the appointment of their new executive chef Anthony Fletcher, formerly of the Pawn in Wanchai. Well-travelled Chef Fletcher brings global diversity to a revamped menu that promises variety and fresh seasonal ingredients.

The interior design of this brand new outpost was largely inspired by the old-English style farmhouse concept. I thought the wooden furniture, colorful stools and modern hanging lamps all contributed very well to the cozy ambience.

As a pork centric restaurant, it's only fitting that the wall painting also uses these little piggies as its theme.  

Right before the start of our dinner, a mocktail to cool myself down. Meet my Kiwi Amour.

We ordered three appetizers to share and the Sticky Bourbon Chicken Wings happened to be the first dish to arrive. Garnished with ginger, watermelon and spring onion, the chicken wings reminded me a little bit of buffalo wings but less spicy and sour.

The city has gone wild with tapas fever in recent years and Chef Fletcher and company wasted no time putting some Spanish flavors into their new menu. 

The Acorn-fed Black Pig included five pieces of lightly breaded manchego croquettes with Spanish acorn-fed Iberico ham. Dip one in their special smoked chilli aioli, buckle up and enjoy.

And yes, they have brought their signature dish, bacon wrapped scallops here as well. Each scallop was perfectly seared and wrapped around by a crispy slice of bacon before finally placed on top of a pool of sweet peas. That was delicious.

Our main course, a roasted Duroc pork chop, was almost as good. I found the cinnamon sauce with roasted apple and beer pickled onions particularly enjoyable.  

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$
Address: G/F, No. 1 Knutsford Terrace, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2367 0990

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Le Jardin de Joël Robuchon (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★★

It has always been a two-headed race for Hong Kong's best French restaurant between Caprice and Joël Robuchon but that is slated to change with the imminent departure of Chef Vincent Thierry from Caprice to the "Land of Smiles". Are we going to see an one-horse race down the stretch? We are about to find out very soon.

I read an interesting article the other day comparing these two famed restaurants with two of Hollywood's best actresses - Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow. The writer describes
L’Atelier as "dark, moody and sexy", something that reminded him of Angelina Jolie. At the same time, Caprice is "bright, elegant and glamorous" like Gwyneth Paltrow. Very interesting comparison.

Today, it was Angelina Jolie getting the call.

The Joël Robuchon flagship restaurant in Hong Kong is split into three sections: L’Atelier, where diners circle around an open kitchen; Le Jardin, a beautiful and elegant dining room; and The Terrace, an outdoor patio connecting to Le Jardin. 

As always, we walked past the L’Atelier, a dark and sexy room decorated with red velvet and dark marble, into a much brighter and formal dining area in Le Jardin.

Joël Robuchon Hong Kong is currently led by executive chef Olivier Elzer who used to work under his mentor, the great Eric Briffard (Executive chef of Le Cinq Paris). After moving to Asia in 2009, he started working for Pierre Gagnaire’s prestigious Pierre. In 2011, he made the move to L'atelier de Joël Robuchon helping the restaurant to its third Michelin star. 

Amuse bouche was short and sharp - a French pea soup with pancetta ham foam (left) and smoked salmon tartare with peppers, avocado cream and wasabi (right).

All four of us ended up having the same appetizer to start the menu - an air dried wagyu beef ham with bruccio goat cheese, peach, bell pepper confit and crispy focaccia (7/10).

Joël Robuchon's restaurants often have some of the best fricassee recipes in the business and this one with Maine lobster, spelt risotto and lobster coral emulsion ranked right on top among the best of them (8.5/10).

Less successful was the roasted Iberico pork loin glazed with "teriyaki" sauce, mixed herbs
mushroom condiments (5/10).

The rolled saddles of rabbit were the most flavorful dishes of this meal and it was nicely complemented by herbs, cannelloni with button mushrooms and French green beans for a perfect balance (7/10).

Red miso braised veal cheek with summer vegetables and polenta was juicy and had a beautifully tender texture (6.5/10).

The peach jelly and verbena scented peach compote with honey ice-cream was a fairly refreshing choice for dessert (6.5/10).

This one was a little too plain and simple - apricot compote with cinnamon cream and vanilla ice-cream (5/10).

But if I had to pick all over again, I would still pick the dessert trolley. Great value as I got to choose three items out of the trolley. 

I thought the chocolate tart was alright and much better was the mango mille feuille. But the shot with passion fruit mousse, orange liqueur and citrus was simply unreal (9/10).

A nice cup of coffee.....

The usual petite fours and we left with very happy stomachs once again.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: $$$$
Address: Shop 315 & 401, The Landmark, Central, Hong Kong

Closest Metro Station: Central
Tel: +852 2166-9000

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants: 23rd (2013)

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Serge et Le Phoque (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

It has been a relatively quiet year in the dining scene of Hong Kong but whispers from around the world revealed that a dream team from Paris is about to launch a new casual fine dining restaurant near the very busy Wanchai market. This team of Parisian "hospitality experts" includes Frederic Peneau (formerly of Le Chateaubriand, Paris) and two star Michelin chef Christophe Pelé (formerly of La Bigarrade, Paris) who will be joining forces for the first time in their first-ever venture in Hong Kong.

The restaurant is tentatively named "Serge et Le Phoque" which literally means Serge and the seal in French and is scheduled for a soft opening on 15 August for 3 nights. Then the team will shut it down for a couple of weeks and re-group for the official launch in early September.

I started looking up the words "Serge et Le Phoque" from the web but couldn't find any match. One website suggested that it's the title of a children's book in French. I guess I would never find out the true meaning behind it.

But what I am about to find out is how well the team performs during the 3-day period of its soft opening after successfully securing a table on the third night.

We arrived roughly around 7:30pm but the kitchen did not seem to be ready to serve. And it looks as if the restaurant itself is not ready for opening anytime soon. The tables were yet to be painted properly, the paints on the wall were still wet...

Like his previous venture at La Bigarrade, chef Christophe Pelé prepared a surprise menu consisting of six to eight courses based on what's fresh at the market.

The first amuse bouche was a chilled soup of green pea, seaweed, yuzu and some sort of dried fish. I liked their idea of serving up soup in a Chinese tea cup.

Right before our first starter, a second and final amuse bouche of foie gras terrine topped by a thin slice of mango was served. The finishing touch was provided by a little dash of sea salt and Sichuan pepper on top.

I did enjoy the sushi-like presentation and the taste was very unique. The foie gras cube with tofu-like texture was particularly intriguing although it didn't bear the usual strong flavor of foie gras.

Our dinner officially started with a seafood course comprising of a razor clam and another smaller clam. It was poached perfectly and served with crispy cauliflower, yuzu, dill and some acid juice (6.5/10).

Next up was a tiger prawn nicely complemented by some smoked ham, green peas and fresh wasabi (6/10).

Less successful was the next course of squid with sausage, bok choy and black fungus.

I didn't like this dish at all. The squid was as chewy as chewing gum and I thought it didn't mesh well with the rest of the ingredients (2.5/10).   

Lamb loin was our last main course before dessert. After being slowly cooked to medium rare, the loin of lamb was served with sweet corns and anchovy before finally finished with a pool of squid ink sauce (5/10).

Looking at my neighbors' lamb loin, I thought mine was a tad undercooked but there's no denying how soft and tender it tasted (but it could have been better).

Following our main courses, we had a little bit of cheese which were already prepared on a plate for us. There were two types of delicious cheeses from the French Alps and a small portion of goat cheese to follow (5/10).

A cocktail drink that tasted like citrus juice to cool off our palates before dessert.

The pastry chef probably hasn't reported to work so nothing sophisticated at the moment, starting with a cup of lemon cream atop with a thin layer of cucumber jelly (again in a Chinese tea cup).

I will let you decide what you think about this and the rest of the dessert (No more ratings!).

Peach with caramel sauce, citrus.

Chocolate mousse with bitter alcohol jelly


There is definitely market for a casual dining restaurant in Hong Kong that serves up hearty French bistro food. I am really looking forward to what Serge et Le Phoque will transpire into the next few weeks. But for the time being, this is a work in progress and definitely not ready for prime time.

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: B2, Tower 1 The Zenith, 3 Wanchai Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 5465 2000 
Closest Metro Station: Wanchai

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Azure (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★☆☆☆

We have waited merely 7 years for our second visit to Azure but after this one, I am not sure if I'd be back after another 7 years. The combination of average food and poor service is never the prelude to success in attracting customers.

We didn't think of Azure out of the blue. It's the promotion from Restaurant Week that served as a reminder and to pay tribune to this annual festivity, we decided to give Azure another go.

Just like most restaurants did for Restaurant Week, they have prepared a specific lunch or dinner menu for us. Ironically, the dishes involved were more or less the same ones we had here 7 years ago. How crazy was that!?

Pan seared foie gras, 4/10
We started with a pan seared foie gras served on a home-made brioche with truffle and sherry soaked raisin velouté. It was a very small slice of foie gras and for a moment, we thought it was our amuse bouche!

In all honesty, the foie gras actually tasted fairly good. I thought it was seared almost perfectly to a point where it melted in our mouth. The raisin velouté provided some good complements to the taste as well but the portion was really embarrassing.

Lobster linguini, 7.5/10
Like the pan seared foie gras, I had the lobster linguini last time around too.

As the menu suggested, it was an "al dente" linguini with a lobster bisque cream sauce, parmesan cheese and rocket lettuce. The lobster bisque was very thick and flavorful, giving the linguini a great deal of depth and flavors. This was a very enjoyable dish.

Roasted duck "re-designed", 5/10
The "re-designed" roasted duck was really nothing new. It was a duck course served in two ways - first, as a duck confit and it came with two spring rolls of duck meat, foie gras and pineapple. It was finished with a plum foam and cucumber sweet relish.

The word "re-designed" suggested something far more innovative and unique but serving duck in a spring roll was nothing out of the ordinary. In fact we just had a similar dish 2 weeks ago at MC Kitchen (by Demon Chef Alvin Leung) that tasted much better.

Black and white sesame crème brûlée, 2/10 
I suggest them to get a new pastry chef because other than the petite four, the presentation of the two desserts didn't look professional at all.

Our first dessert was a black and white sesame crème brûlée served with mixed berries. I must confess that the crème brûlée did not taste badly but the presentation was way off!

How could they use two "soy sauce" dishes from Chinese restaurants for their crème brûlée?

Chocolate trio, 1.5/10
The second dessert was a trio of chocolate desserts consisting of milk chocolate, dark chocolate and amaretto terrine, served with a spoon of white chocolate. While the first two components of this dish were just average, the latter which was a spoon of white chocolate hugely disappointed me. I think it tasted more like a frosty coconut sorbet which has just melted. And it tasted awful.

They did okay with the main courses but the rest of this lunch was largely forgettable. The service team also gave me every impression that they were not well trained and not eager to serve. I really have trouble convincing myself to come back.

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: $$$
Address: 29/F & 30/F Hotel LKF, 33 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Nishiki Yakitori (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★★

All of a sudden, I found myself craving for yakitori after my most recent visit to Yardbird. But after all, I am not living in Tokyo, so good yakitori places are tough to come by. Then I read about Nishiki on a magazine. 

Nishiki has been around for more than 20 years but remains one of the best kept secrets in the culinary scene of Hong Kong. Hidden in the 1/F arcade of the Regal Hotel Kowloon in Tsim Sha Tsui East, Nishiki is primarily a robatayaki (literally "fireside-cooking") restaurant where different types of skewers are grilled right in front of you in a theatrical style.

I love to sit at the bar area because it's a very interactive process. You get to see the star chefs in action and how each skewer is prepared.

I was really starving so before taking on any skewers, a nice bowl of fried sweet bean curd udon with soup first. That bean curd was so sweet (6/10)~

Onto the "main courses" we go, first up - minced chicken meat roll with shiso. I haven't had shiso for ages and this provided flashbacks to some of the best dishes I had from the past.

As always, it's difficult to describe the taste of shiso (taste like herbs, citrus and/or mint combined???). But who cares as long as it meshed well with the minced chicken (8/10).

I had the beef tongue next and it was fairly tender and juicy. For a moment, I thought I was having pork belly (6.5/10).

This was probably not what my doctor would have ordered for me - super high cholesterol but it was one of my all-time favorites. Unfortunately it was slightly off the mark and I thought it could use a little improvement (4/10).

I was really looking forward to their minced chicken meat sausage, one of the house specialties  here and it certainly lived up to expectation. The minced chicken sausage has great texture but even better was the "House Special" sauce made with secret recipe (7.5/10).

But the star of the night had to be their oyster bacon roll, another house specialty. Although a little oily, it was every bit as good as advertised.

The oysters were roasted to perfect golden colors and enriched by the crispy bacon wrapping around them. Absolutely mouthwatering. It just couldn't get any better than this (10/10)!

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: $$
Address: 1/F, Regal Kowloon Hotel, 71 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui East
Tel: +852 2723-8660

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