Sunday, February 23, 2014

Madam S'ate (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

After two disappointing experiences with Restaurant Week (Yu Lei and Azure), I was reluctant to sign up for my third but at the end, I decided to give it one more try. This time, our target was Madam S'ate located at the civic centre of the Elements Shopping Mall.   

Like its sister restaurant Madam Sixty Ate in Wanchai, Madam S'ate offers a wide variety of French inspired dishes in a chic bistro-style setting.

During Restaurant week, every participating restaurant will submit a pre-fixe menu consisting of their most sought after signature dishes. At Madam S'ate, their 3-course lunch set is reasonably priced at $248.

Our first starter was a classic French onion soup straight from the oven. The onion taste was so rich! The only blemish was the shortage of soup and a little too much onion (5/10).

Then we had a beautifully presented smoked salmon tartine with capers, dill and radish (6.5/10).

Roasted barramundi with white onion puree, artichokes and tapenade was next. I liked the texture of the barramundi but thought the poached artichokes and onion puree were even better (5/10).

Our second main course was a glazed beef cheek, roasted beets, pickled onions and mustard. From the color of the beef cheek, it looked as if it's been charcoal grilled. 

The beef cheek was very tender with the roasted beetroot and pickled onion working well as a balance to the richness of the meat (5.5/10). 

I had mixed feeling with the two desserts. The first one, a cherry profiterole with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate was a little boring (4/10).

More successful was this one with winter berries, crème fraiche, pistachio sablee and French meringue. Very refreshing and not too sweet at all (6/10).

This was one of my better experience with Restaurant Week. All the dishes were of a consistent level.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop R0009, Roof Deck, Civic Square, Elements Shopping Mall, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon Station, TST, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Kowloon
Tel: +852 2537-7555  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Royal Plaza Hotel Cake Shop (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

It wasn't long ago when Mongkok was a known desert for high-quality cake shops. But those dog days were over now. With the recent opening of A la Folie Pâtisserie and Royal Plaza Hotel Cake Shop in Grand Century Plaza, things are finally looking up for dessert lovers in Mongkok!

While we were in the neigbourhood, we decided to pay the newly opened Royal Plaza Hotel Cake Shop a visit. Though we were not particularly impressed with the selection, we were absolutely delighted with the "Buy 2 get 1 free" offer.

Despite an appearance that was unspectacular and uninviting, the Lemon hazelnut praline cake scored big on taste and texture. The combination of a silky smooth hazelnut mousse and a spongy pistachio praline cake was too much to resist.

Comparing to the previous Lemon hazelnut praline, this wild strawberry cheese mousse cake looked so much more appealing and was equally delicious. An exterior of chocolate and wild strawberry, combining with a light cheese mousse and a strawberry jelly, was another exciting choice.

Looks could be deceiving and once again that proved to be the case. We had high hopes for this beautifully presented salty caramel Bailey dome but it turned out to be just average. 

I thought the coffee flavor was way too overpowering even for the salty caramel and bailey (which was a little hard to believe).

I thought these were better than what A la Folie Pâtisserie had to offer. Hurry and visit the Royal Plaza Hotel Cake Shop while the "Buy 2 get 1 free" promotion is still on!

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$
Address: Royal Plaza Hotel, 193 Prince Edward Road West, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Mongkok East
Tel:+852 2622-6256 

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

NamDaeMoon One Korean Restaurant (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Kimberly Street has slowly become the "Little Korea" of Kowloon in recent years with many Korean restaurants and grocery stores opened in the neighborhood. But despite the rise of all the trendy restaurants and cafes here, the more traditional NamDaeMoon One Korean Restaurant remains one of the best dining option available.

Meet my favorite kimchi fried rice in the city. Perfect proportion of kimchi and the spiciness was just right.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: G/F Everglory Center, 1B Kimberly Street, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel:+852 2723-2028 

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Swissbeck (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Following our delightful lunch at 238 Restaurant in Sheung Wan, we took a slow walk back to Soho and there we realized that we had unfinished business to take care of - to continue our quest for the perfect cronut in Hong Kong.

Swissbeck is one of the few local bakeries who is supplying cronuts to the market at the moment. Theirs, for copyright purposes, are named "rohnut".

For a relatively small bakery store, Swissbeck sure carries quite a wide variety of "rohnuts". Apart from the usual flavors such as original, strawberry and chocolate, they also have white chocolate, double chocolate, lemon, fresh fruit etc.

We ended up taking the "valentine's day special" which was a heart-shaped cronut with peach and custard in the middle. 

But that was quite disappointing considering that it tasted more like a doughnut injected with cream and fresh fruit. The crisp and buttery layers that we were all accustomed to seeing from a croissant were totally missing. 

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: $$$
Address: 23 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Hong Kong 
Tel:+852 2618-9531 

238 Restaurant (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

A few days ago, I was chilling at home and randomly going through a magazine when a story of a new restaurant caught my eyes. It turned out to be more than just a story about a new restaurant in town. It's a love story.

The story belonged to Chef Patrick and his wife Anne. It outlined their first meeting in a restaurant where they used to work back home in the Netherlands. They eventually became lovers and later husband and wife. After spending most of their lives in their native country, they were ready for a new chapter in their lives making a move to Hong Kong and opening 238 Restaurant in Sheung Wan.

The husband-wife team followed the same approach which has made them successful back home - Chef Patrick working his magic behind the stove while Anne directed traffic in the dining room.

There was only one change - their cuisine. At 238 Restaurant, Chef Patrick is no longer serving his patented haute cuisine. Instead he's making ‘tapas style’ French dishes with European influences. 

Yes French tapas. On the menu, expect to find Chef Patrick's signature dish - creamy lobster soup with seafood among other house specialties, all with more than reasonable prices. And you would love the generous portions too!

This afternoon, we decided to kick things off with the bitterballen, one of Holland's favorite snacks. Stewed beef perfectly deep fried and served with a bowl of Dutch mustard ($50). That was an ideal way to start lunch (7.5/10)!

The crispy texture and buttery taste reminded us a lot of the Spanish croquettes. 

After a lovely snack, a couple of the tapas-size starters were next. First up was this homemade goose liver pâté, served with crispy bread and fruit marmalade ($90). The goose liver pâté came with a generous portion and it was perfect to go with the plum puree (7/10).

Less impressive was the smoked salmon roll with salad and ginger vinaigrette ($80) (5/10).

The 3-course lunch set was highly recommended and it came with a bargain price of only $125. 

Out of the three starters available, we had the green salad with poached fish and curry dressing (4/10).

For main course, we had this pan seared halibut with red sweet pepper and onion which was nothing short of brilliant. The halibut fillet was seared to a nice golden-brown color giving it a perfect balance of flavor, texture and color (7/10).

Most European restaurants tended to serve very simple dessert (such as ice-cream) for their set lunch but not here at 238. On this particular afternoon, we had a caramel waffle cake with caramel mousse that was very fulfilling.

I liked the waffle cake for its rich cinnamon flavor (who could resist cinnamon!?) and the marshmallow-like texture of the caramel mousse was simply irresistible.

Good hearty food and great value for money. 238 Restaurant is a great find in a district desperately needing a culinary superstar. And 238 might just become one some day.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$
Address: 238 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Hong Kong 
Tel:+852 2517-7322 

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Fatamorgana (Rome, ITALY) ★★★★☆

For a city where gelateria outnumbers ATM machines, Rome is certainly a paradise for gelato lovers. However, quantity does not necessarily translate into quality so choosing your gelateria can be tricky.

During our stay in Rome, we were on a two-gelato per day pace but none of the shops we tried was impressive enough for us to return for a second time until we ran into Fatamorgana.

Fatamorgana serves all natural gluten-free gelatos. They are dedicated to using the best natural ingredients without any thickeners, coagulants, preservatives and food colouring. And if that's not enough for you, they offer 20-30 different flavors, from the "old school" pistachio to funky ones like basilico, noci e miele (Basil, walnuts and honey) and panacea (mint, ginseng and almond milk).

If you are a tourist like us, then there's more good news for you. This top artisanal gelato brand has opened a new outlet near the Spanish Steps on via Laurina.

Rumors had "Basil, walnuts and honey" as their best seller but after my conversation with the staff here, I was having second thoughts. 

I was told that it tasted more like pesto sauce and after sampling a small spoonful of it, I concurred.

If you are into more creamy and milky gelatos like me, then you would love the pere belle helene (belle helene pear) and Bacio del Principe (“kiss of the prince”) which is a mix of gianduja and hazelnut.

Food Rating: 7.5/10
Price: $$
Address: Via Laurina, 10, 00187 Rome, Italy
Closest Metro Station: Spagna
Tel: +39 06 32652238

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Il Pagliaccio (Rome, ITALY) ★★★☆☆

Rome, also known as The Eternal City, is so much more than a city with the famous Colosseum, Spanish Steps and Pantheon. From the culinary standpoint, there's a lot going on if you have time to dig deeper. 

As soon as we learned about the holiday closure of the great Heinz Beck's La Pergola, we started going over our backup plans and came across Ristorante Il Pagliaccio.

Located in a quiet street in the heart of Renaissance Rome next to the stylish Via Giulia, Ristorante Il Pagliaccio (the clown) offers a vibrant Roman cuisine with strong Mediterranean and Asian influences.

Born in France with his Italian Calabrian origin, owner-chef Anthony Genovese was raised in Côte d'Azur where he discovered his early interest and instincts in the Mediterranean cuisine. The well traveled chef later made stops at Monaco, Nice, Tokyo, London and Malaysia before returning to Italy to open the 28-seat Il Pagliaccio in 2003. The restaurant was an instant hit and has been a 2-star Michelin restaurant since 2009.

Despite an exterior that looked unattractive and "down to earth", it was a totally different world inside. The dining room offers a very cozy and inviting ambiance to fully enjoy Chef Genovese's extraordinary cuisine. 

There were a few types of bread served but we liked these ones the most. The spice powder on top gave these bread very unique flavors.

Amuse bouche was a simple shrimp salad with veal, white beans, radish and leeks (5/10).


The lunch sets offers a little better value for money but we elected to go for the a la carte menu to give us more variety. For starter, I had the crab meat served with a sophisticated salsify ice-cream, apple and mint.

The crab meat had great textures and it was nicely complemented by the salsify ice-cream which was sweet and flavorful. What a superb start it was (8/10)!


Our other starter was an oyster sashimi interestingly matched with burrata cheese, lychee foam and tapioca. Talk about the marriage of western and Asian cuisine, this had to be one of the classic examples and Chef Genovese was certainly not afraid to incorporate all these into the same dish (7/10).

Chef Genovese loves to mix and match different spices and he utilized that skill beautifully in preparing the next dish - roasted pigeon breast and legs. The exotic spices helped to enhance the flavors of the pigeon and I loved the rest of the dish that included carrot cream, endive, vinegar and scent of cocoa (8/10).


The rack of lamb was also wonderfully prepared with tobacco powder and then served with roman broccoli and vegetable sponge (7.5/10).

A bowl of cous cous came separately to go with the lamb.


We were too full to tackle any dessert from in-house pastry chef Marion Lichtle but looking at this beautifully presented petite fours, we knew desserts would be great too.

Chef Genovese's cuisine is very innovative and unique. His ability to use a wide variety of exotic spices has added another dimension to this culinary experience. The only reason it didn't score 5 stars in our dining experience was largely due to a team of complacent waiting staff. 

Sitting at the corner of the restaurant, we felt a bit stranded for the majority of the afternoon. None of the staff came up to check on us unless they were bringing food over and the overall experience was cold and inattentive.

Food Rating: 8/10
Price: €€€
Address: Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 129/a, 00186 Roma, Italy
Closest Metro Station: N/A

Tel: +39 06 6880 9595