Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pierre Hermé (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

Holiday season has finally arrived at Pierre Hermé with the "Picasso of Pastry" launching the holiday macarons collection in recent weeks. Before heading to the Pierre Hermé boutique at Gateway, we decided to do a quick "market research" around Harbour City first. 



We stopped by the newly opened Fauchon and then Ladurée to check out the crowd and the verdict was clear - Pierre Hermé was by far the most popular one out of the three.



Out of the five new winter flavors, we have decided to ditch the Agape (Lemon and Gingerbread) and go with the remaining four new flavors - Truffle Blanche & Noisette (White truffle & roasted Piedmont hazelnut slivers), Chocolat & Foie Gras (self explanatory), Infiniment Marron Glaze (Candied chestnut) and lastly PX (Pedro Ximenez & Steeperd Sultanas).




The highly anticipated White Truffle was definitely worth the hype. Using some of the finest white truffles from Alba and blending them nicely with Piedmont hazelnut, that was heaven!

I thought the Chocolate & Foie Gras and Pedro Ximenez were also excellent choices. Less successful was the chestnut in my opinion.




Food Rating: 8/10
Price: $$$$
Address: Shop 2410, Level 2, Gateway Arcade, Harbour City, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2155-3866
Website: www.pierreherme.com/hk


Friday, December 27, 2013

Wagyu Takumi (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

For the first time since the launch of the Michelin Guide in Hong Kong, there was no major surprise or controversy in the selection. As many expected, Caprice dropped out of the three-star selection following the departure of executive chef Vincent Thierry but the void was immediately filled by Demon Chef Alvin Leung's Bo Innovation and Chef Yoshitake's Sushi Shikon. 

Perhaps the lone surprise came from Wagyu Takumi, a new Japanese-French fusion restaurant who made its debut with 2 stars.



Wagyu Takumi is one of three restaurants opened by the Lai Sun Group on the ground floor of the Oakhill apartment complex, the other 2 being high-end Japanese restaurants with different specialties. Mitsuro Konishi, the executive chef of Wagyu Takumi, is a veteran in the business having worked in France at Taillevent as well as L'Atelier Joel Robuchon in Tokyo. He's particularly adept in incorporating Japanese ingredients into his French cooking.

Booking during the Christmas season was surprisingly trickier than expected. We were told by the reservation staff that they were closed on certain dates around Christmas. On other days where they were open, they couldn't guarantee our booking unless at least 1 group had already signed up and made an advance payment. That was odd but luckily we were able to find an afternoon with one confirmed booking.



Lunch started off brilliantly with a lovely barley risotto with seasonal mushrooms. It was a classy and well thought dish showing a lot of poise from Chef Konishi. The barley had great depth of flavors and it worked beautifully with the assorted mushrooms (8/10).




A crispy horsehead fish was our fish course and it reminded us of a similar dish we had at Liberty Private Works not too long ago. Again it was an excellent dish. The horsehead dish, pan fried to golden colors, was sitting on a parsnip purée with fresh tomato sauce sprinkled all over. The tomato sauce provided just enough to match the sweetness of the horsehead fish (7.5/10).



Charcoal grilled wagyu tenderloin and braised beef tongue were served with a port wine sauce. I haven't had such a tender and flavorful beef tongue for ages. It was pure joy! The charcoal grilled Japanese Hida-gyu beef tenderloin was equally mouthwatering. I could really see why charcoal grilled beef is a house specialty here (8/10).



Less flashy was dessert, a white chocolate mousse with strawberry and pistachio ice-cream. Nothing wrong with this dish at all but I guess we have set the bar a little higher now after the previous dishes (5/10). 



It was a wonderful display of talent by Chef Konishi but lunch cost a whopping $888 for 4-course (The only other at lunch was a 6-course tasting menu at $1380). Comparing to the lights of Caprice, Amber and L'Atelier Joel Robuchon, I thought it's totally overpriced.

Food Rating: 8/10
Price: $$$$$
Address: G/F The Oakhill, 28 Wood Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Wanchai
Tel: +852 2574-1299
Website: www.ginsai.com.hk/en/wagyu-takumi


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Shang Palace 香宮 (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

My sister was in town for Christmas and following my struggles to find a decent western restaurant for lunch, we ended up picking a Chinese restaurant. A weird decision indeed considering that for a western holiday like Christmas, it just felt natural to have a western meal all the time. But this was not just any Chinese restaurant. The ageless Shang Palace (香宮) has been around for decades and in recent years, they've been one of the favorites of the Michelin guys.  



I've always picked Summer Palace (夏宮) over Shang Palace due to convenience from work so it's been a while since I last came here. Still looked very much the same with very minor tinkering here and there.



Steamed shrimp dumplings ($68) - the four of us shared a nice steamed shrimp dumpling to kick things off. This was a pretty good start (6/10).



Steamed rice flour rolls with shrimp ($80) - I thought it was OK but for that price, it gotta have a little more shrimps in there (5/10).



Steamed scallop dumplings ($68) - The diced scallops were fine but the wrapper had a bit too much spinach or asparagus flavor which was taking something away from the sweetness of the scallops. I could definitely do without this dish (4/10).



Baked abalone puff with minced chicken ($72 per piece) - A house specialty here but again failed to impress me. The pastry was a little too thick for my liking (4.5/10).



Baked barbecued pork buns ($48) - This was a decent dish. The baked buns were soft and spongy with a nice and warm BBQ pork filling but still not overly impressive (5.5/10).



Smoked bean curd skin rolls filled with carrots and black mushrooms ($80) - It actually tasted a little better than it looked (some of the bean curd skins were burnt). Forget about the presentation, it was another alright choice (5.5/10).



Braised E-fu noodles and lobster with black truffle ($388) - We had trouble picking a fried rice and fried noodle from the bunch and since most of us like lobster, we went with this choice.

Unfortunately, the noodles were a lot more soupy than we expected. Quite honestly, I didn't like the fact that they've thrown in all the expensive ingredients like lobster and black truffle just to make it more "premium". The flavors were fine but again nothing spectacular (4.5/10).



Summer Palace's chilled sago cream with mango and pomelo ($48) has always been my personal favorite so of course I had to check out this one here. Very refreshing. Not bad (6.5/10).



I have to say, this was one of the more disappointing lunch I've had in recent memory. So much for the two Michelin stars.


Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: 64 Mody Road, Lower Level I Kowloon Shangrila Hotel, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui East
Tel: +852 2733-8754
Website: www.shangri-la.com/hongkong/kowloonshangrila/dining/restaurants/shang-palace/


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Le Salon de Thé de Joël Robuchon - Elements (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

What exactly was taking them so long!? 

With all the success Le Salon de Thé de Joël Robuchon and L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon have enjoyed over the years, one would think that they would be opening branches all over Hong Kong like 7-11s but they have chosen to stay put all these years. Until the end of 2013, they finally exploded for two brand new locations, doubling their number of branches in Hong Kong.




Unlike the IFC branch which was just opened 3 months ago, the Elements branch is a lot more spacious. Taking over the space previously occupied by H&M, the restaurant boasts a similar "Robuchon" color tone with lush red leather chairs and black marble tables.

Instead of the usual haute cuisine which has made Joël Robuchon establishments famous, the menu here is largely composed of comfort food including salad, burger, sandwich and pasta. 

 

First up was my cheese burger with homemade French fries. The beef patty was made with Kagoshima beef and it was so juicy.



I was really looking forward to their crepes. Out of the 5-6 different crepes, we ordered the seafood crepe with crab meat, mussels, squid and egg with a small green salad on the side.

But as it turned out, it was our most disappointing dish. Our crepe was very dry and I thought it desperately needed a sauce to hold everything together.



Our final dish was supposed to be a black cod fish but our server came back and told us they were "out of stock" so we had to scramble for an alternative. 

At the end, we opted for the fried rice cake with creamy taleggio cheese, baby spinach and Parma ham. It was beautifully presented and I thought it was a solid pick as well.



Many years ago, this "casual dining" concept by Joël Robuchon was already available in Japan and I liked it a lot. It's a nice change of pace from the fine dining we got so used to seeing from the master chef but they had to improve on the design of some of these dishes to be successful in Hong Kong.


Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 1020B, First Level Elements, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Kowloon
Tel: +852 2351-6678
Website: http://robuchon.hk/
 


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Ladurée (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

Holiday season around Christmas and new year is often the best time for patisserie to showcase their latest creations. This year, the team from Ladurée is bringing us four new flavors including chestnut, chocolate kalamansi, milk chocolate passion fruit coconut and praline just in time for Christmas.



Of course, I had to get myself a small box just to satisfy my curiosity. 




Out of the four new flavors, I only got the chocolate Kalamansi which I thought was okay but not exciting comparing to the Christmas creations by Pierre Hermé. The rest are some of my favorite flavors from Ladurée such as Pink pepper, gingerbread, pistachio, soft caramel with sea salt and marshmallow chocolate coconut.



With the opening of the Ladurée tea room in Causeway, the lineup here at the Gateway seemed to thin out considerably.


Food Rating: 6.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 3224, 3/F, Gateway Arcade, Harbour City, 17 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2175-5028



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Sunday, December 22, 2013

A la Folie Pâtisserie (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★☆☆☆

December has been a real busy month for us. A lot of friends and family are in town and we have been so busy catching up. Tonight is really one of the few nights we are not heading out for dinner. Instead we are just having family dinner at home and as a self-proclaimed foodie, I decided to get a little dessert for everybody as a treat.

All of a sudden, A la Folie Patisserie came to mind.

I read about this place from the web a while ago and the buzz largely came from their executive pastry chef Kato Tomohiko who used to work for the Roppongi Grand Hyatt hotel in Japan at a similar position. He's a highly regarded talent who is famous for combining French pastries with his Japanese roots.



"A la Folie" stands for "Madness" and if my very limited French serves me well enough, it's often used to describe the most intense love (almost to a point of madness?). Unfortunately, out of the 20 different pastries that were freshly made, we could not find one which we were madly in love with.

At the end, we had to randomly pick a few. Meet Rhapsody - a dome shaped white chocolate mousse cake embedded with slow-cooked orange and raspberry in the middle. I thought it was very average.



Lovers' Concerto is a layered peach cake made using three different types of peaches and fluffy sponge cake.

 

Mousse au Chocolat-banane is probably the only one with a passing grade. I liked the caramel coating hugging around the soft hazelnut chocolate mousse and banana bits. This was easily the best of the three.



Despite the disappointing cakes, the macarons were surprisingly good. This earl grey tea flavor was my personal favorite.




If you plan on making a special trip to Mongkok East for A la Folie Patisserie, I say forget about it (Harlan's cake shop at The One is also under the same group and they have almost the same collection.).


Food Rating: 3.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: 2/F Grand Century Place, 193 Prince Edward Road West, Mong Kok, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Mongkok East
Tel: +852 2327-9090
Website: www.jcgroup.hk/restaurants/alafolie/‎


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ham and Sherry (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Jason Atherton and Yenn Wong, the brains behind 22 Ships have teamed up again for a new concept on Ship Street called Ham and Sherry and it's officially open for business this Monday.

Located just a few stores across the street from 22 Ships, Ham and Sherry is a welcome addition to Wanchai's new culinary haven that already features Bo Innovation, Madame Sixty Ate and Akrame. As a fan of 22 Ships, we certainly won't miss the grand opening of its sister store despite the dismal weather, especially when everything is 50% off on the first 2 nights!

With their "no reservation" policy in mind, we arrived half an hour before the official opening time of 6pm and were relieved to find the lineup to be minimal.

 

Ham and Sherry takes a down-to-earth approach with its exterior and interior design highlighted by the traditional Spanish-style tiling. There are approximately 30 seats in the house including the bar and restaurant area.
 


Like 22 Ships, the kitchen takes center stage in the heart of the dining area at Ham and Sherry. The team of three can be seen working diligently behind the scene.



The menu offers 15-20 different tapas and over 50 types of sherry wines. Unfortunately, I had to avoid alcohol this night so decided to opt for this cocktail called "Red cherry yellow cherry".

Then I noticed the "Ham and Sherry" logo for the first time. This was too hilarious!



As a Spanish restaurant known for its Iberico ham, of course we had to start things off with their Chef selection - a mixed board with Iberico Bellota chorizo and Lomo followed by a collection of Jamón Iberico De Bellota (40-48 months), Iberico Paleta (36 months) and Jamón De Teruel (24 Months).

That's fairly good value for money at $200 (half price = $100!).




But more successful were the next two tapas including a paella arancini, or crispy risotto balls with chorizo and served with a pepper pureé and then the goat curd and jamon croquettes.



Next up was a very tasty salt and pepper 'chipirones' served with squid ink aioli. Perfect to go with the sherry wines!



We picked the beetroot salad with red onion, raspberries and crumbled goat cheese out of the three salads but it was nothing special.



Apart from ham, the restaurant offers 7 different types of pan con ("on toast") and we picked this one with gambas and fennel.



Desserts are one of the main strength of 22 Ships but too bad it didn't carry over to Ham and Sherry. We had the creme catalan with berries and crumbed hazelnuts and found it to be a disappointing effort.



Chef Atherton has indicated in one of his interviews that Ham and Sherry will operate more like a “waiting room” for 22 Ships so don't expect the same quality and variety here.


Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: 1-7 Ship Street, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Wanchai
Tel: +852 2555-0628
Website: www.hamandsherry.hk



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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Le Salon de Thé de Joël Robuchon - IFC (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

This is a bit ironic. 

I have had quite a number of high tea experiences over the years when I was vacationing overseas but this afternoon, I am having my very first one in Hong Kong. How odd is that!

Known for its danishes and freshly baked breads, Le Salon de Thé de Joël Robuchon opened its door at the IFC Mall more than 2 months ago with plans for another new branch at the Elements Shopping mall some time around Christmas.

After catching a movie at the IFC, we decided to pay them a quick visit. On a Saturday afternoon, we didn't exactly expect to be seated without much of a wait but fortunately, the wait wasn't that long.

 
 
We immediately went after their famous tea set and it didn't take long to arrive. And yes it was beautifully presented as one would imagine.

On the top deck were some homemade scones with Devonshire clotted cream and strawberry jam.



On the middle deck were a few nicely decorated mini-sandwiches including a Maine lobster and mango sandwich, French-style black truffle sandwich, smoked salmon and salmon egg sandwich and lastly a vegetarian eggplant sandwich.



Of course, my favorites were those placed on the lower deck - macaron ganache, chocolate almond cake, lemon tart, creme brulee, raspberry eclair and some homemade chocolate.



Instead of coffee, I decided to have their signature hot chocolate with 72% Valrhona chocolate which was only available during winter time. 

Once I took a sip of this hot chocolate, I began to realize how much I missed a truly rich and creamy hot chocolate. Too bad this was no comparison to the signature hot chocolates served at Ladurée or Angelina in Paris. 




Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 2045A, Podium Level 2, ifc mall, 8 Financial Street, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Hong Kong Station
Tel:+852 2234-7422
Website: www.robuchon.hk
 


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