Saturday, February 28, 2015

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

From time to time, I like to re-visit some of the cake shops that failed to make an early impression on me and give them a chance for redemption. Today, it's A la Folie Pâtisserie's turn to make good on their second try.

In case you haven't heard, A la Folie Pâtisserie is a cozy café and patisserie situated in the newly renovated MOKO (or Grand Century Plaza as they previously called it). Apart from their Japanese influenced pastries, the little café is also offering a small selection of salad, burgers and french toasts for a limited time.

Their hottest item has got to be the Sexy Lady, featuring creamy chocolate truffle wrapping around delectable raspberry sauce that was cooked in balsamic vinegar. It became the talk of town after local
comedian Jim Chim Sui-man (詹瑞文) bought one for actress Charlene Choi (蔡卓妍)'s birthday.

But I decided to go a different direction starting with Le Matcha ($42) which features a nice blend of Valrhona chocolate, cointreau syrup, green tea and soy beans.

A la Folie Pâtisserie's Milk Tea Opera ($40) strikes a good balance of flavors between milk tea and coffee. It's a little sweeter than a typical opera cake but I like the eight layers creating a very
satisfying bite.

This was way better than last time. I certainly won't mind coming back some other time.

Food Rating: 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

Hong Kong, Kowloon, cafe, dessert, patisserie, French, pastry, cake, Japanese

Mistral (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Located in the basement level of the InterContinental Grand Stanford Hotel, The Mistral is a modern Italian restaurant with a contemporary touch. This marked my first return visit since they underwent a facelift back in April 2014. The refurbished dining room now sports a contemporary yet cozy look. 

They have a new chef de cuisine Samuele Baudoino at the helm too. Well not exactly new but I haven't been there in 2014 so in that sense, he's new. I decided to check out his former experience online. Turns out he made his move to InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong from Four Seasons Resort Bali last year. Reports also indicate that he has a strong emphasis with the use of the freshest Italian ingredients.

The set lunch includes an all-you-can-eat antipasto bar. I thought they ought to do something with the amount of vegetables and salad available. Definitely not enough variety there.

They tried to make up for it in the ham section with all kinds of parma ham. Ox tongue, roasted beef etc. were also in the mix.

As seen here, not what you would consider a fabulous selection of food.

We got to pick one main dish from the choice of pasta, pizza, meat and fish and mom didn't hesitate to jump on their pasta - linguine tossed with clams in white wine sauce. I tried a little bit of that and thought it was a little bland and slightly overcooked.

As always, I often made the right choice with my main dish and that proved to be the case again! My oven baked monkfish with tomatoes, black olives and capers Livornese style grilled polenta absolutely rocked~

Like the antipasto bar, the dessert bar was slightly disappointing as well.

The panna cotta was probably the only decent choice.

Got all the time in the world to enjoy this cup of tea before we settled the bill.

For the same price, there are plenty of better options available in Tsim Sha Tsui alone, Osteria (at Holiday Inn) and Yamm (Miramar Hotel) just to name a couple.

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: $$$
Address: B2/F, InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong, 70 Mody Road, Tim Sha Tsui East, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui East
Tel: +852 2731-2870
Website: Link

Friday, February 27, 2015

La Table de Patrick (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★☆☆☆

After a year of absence from Restaurant Week, I jumped back onto the bandwagon this week after learning all the major changes taking place in 2015. 

In the past, restaurants could choose from one of three categories (A - Budget, B - Moderate and C - Splurge) and their lunch/dinner sets will be priced according to the chosen category. Unfortunately most restaurants would end up picking Category B and C with their slightly overpriced menus. At that point in time, I decided not to engage in any more Restaurant Week promotions ever again

At the end of 2014, changes were finally underway. They changed the format to two categories and this year, they go one step further by slashing the prices. Take lunch for example - prices for Category A/B are now down from $158/$248 to $118/$198 respectively. On top of that, more than 100 restaurants are rumored to be participating this time around, including Michelin starred The Principal, which is one of my favorite dining places. Enough reasons for me to re-consider? You bet.

There are a number of participating restaurants who have been on my radar screen and I ended up going with La Table de Patrick of all places on my first try.  

Chef Patrick Goubier is really no stranger to us. From his fine dining French restaurant on Peel Street, to his deli on Star Street and most recent Chez Patrick Restaurant on Queen's Road, we were "not-so-frequent" customers. Now, he's taking his gag back to Central, this time in a private kitchen (私房菜) setting at an old commercial building on Cochrane Street.

La Table de Patrick is perched on the sixth floor of the premise. They do have elevators here (thank goodness they do).

The interior is exactly what you would expect from a private kitchen. Small but nicely decorated. Chef Patrick was on hand and as always he came around to say hi a few times over the course of our meal.

There was no amuse bouche so we went straight to the first course of the four-course dinner. First up for us was a ravioli of ratte potatoes that was stuffed with foie gras and truffles. Underneath the ravioli was a bed of wild mushroom. 

That was a really special dish. I love the different flavors harmonizing each other perfectly. The Jerusalem artichoke sauce was particularly intriguing in balancing out the richness of the foie gras and truffles (7.5/10).

But things began to fall apart from here. The second course, a creamy sea urchin custard with home dashi jelly was neither creamy nor tasting like jelly. In fact, it was more like a lukewarm lobster bisque with sea urchin (3.5/10).

For main course, there were two choices. The first one was grilled red tuna served with sweet and sour apple marmalade.

I actually thought that the red tuna wasn't all that bad but the squid-ink pasta underneath it was very disappointing. The sweet and sour apple marmalade (which was more sour than sweet) was also a peculiar choice to go with the tuna (4/10).

Even less successful was the New Zealand venison fillet with a morello kirsch gravy (3.5/10).

Dessert was a very simple hazelnut and ricotta cake with poached pear and chocolate sauce. I gave them some marks for the nice presentation but the taste was uninspiring (4/10).

My experiences with Chez Patrick (deli and restaurant) weren't exactly the best ones over the years. I do give them full marks for bouncing back time after time but this one at La Table de Patrick was just another disappointment. For me, inconsistency has always been an issue here. With such a good starter (ravioli) kicking things off, it's difficult to imagine how the rest of the meal could fall flat like it did.

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: $$$
Address: 6/F, Cheung Hing Commercial Building, 37-43 Cochrane Street, Central , Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central / Hong Kong Station
Tel: +852 2541-1401

Hong Kong, Central, French, restaurant, private kitchen, fine dining

Angelina (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

It was a lot of fun going through Timeout Hong Kong's top 30 dishes of 2014 but I was a little down to find out that I only managed to hit one third of these dishes.  

One of the dishes (or pastries) mentioned on the list was Angelina's Cheesecake Abricot and I thought I better went to check it out after work this afternoon.

Cheesecake Abricot, 5/10
A thin layer of apricot confit was topped with a foamy, marshmallow-like cream cheese and finished with crunchy shortbread and madeleine biscuit on the bottom. Not bad but I was expecting a little more. Perhaps a flavored cream cheese (yuzu?) would do a better job in bringing out the best of the apricot confit?

Vendôme, 5/10
This was a combination of crunchy lemon biscuit, wild strawberry confit and nougat praline mousse in a white chocolate dome. The mousse was silky mousse but again something seemed to be missing here - something with a little more acidity might have done the trick, perhaps a wild strawberry compote instead of the confit which was a tad too sweet in my opinion.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Angelina, 3/F, Lane Crawford, IFC Mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Hong Kong Station
Tel: +852 3188-0842

Hong Kong, cafe, dessert, patisserie, French, pastry, cake, IFC

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Royal Touch Bakery Café by Carolyn Robb (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

After making its debut in Hong Kong during Harbour City’s Chocolate Trail 2015 back in January, The Royal Touch by Carolyn Robb finally opened its doors at the Ocean Terminal prior to the Chinese New Year.

In case you haven't heard, The Royal Touch is a brand created by Carolyn Robb who was the former executive chef to Prince Charles for 11 years. This new bakery café will feature some dishes from the royal recipes including Prince William's favourite chocolate biscuit cake which was also used as his wedding cake (called Groom's cake) in 2011.

Apart from the famous Groom's cake, other British specialties such as the "Royal Tea Set" and scorns will also feature prominently in the "tea" menu. 

....and cupcakes of course, how can we forget them?


As for the food menu, it looked surprisingly similar to Angelina's with comfort food being the main theme (think soup, salad, sandwich, pasta and risotto). Unfortunately, I was a little tied up this afternoon or else I would be comfortably sitting here enjoying their tea set.

If it's any consolation, I did pick something from the pastry corner. This Lychee and rose was perfect for the new year holidays because it's dressed almost like a red pocket! (Hope it's bringing good luck to me or my belly.)

It's surprisingly smooth and delicate although I was slightly disappointed with the lack of lychee and rose flavor.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: G02, G/F, Ocean Terminal Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 3188-8086

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Patisserie accueil (Osaka, JAPAN) ★★★★☆

My quest for a hearty French patisserie in Osaka has brought me to the west side of Shinsaibashi (心斎橋), an area more known for its residential buildings than its shopping. Patisserie accueil (パティスリー アクイユ), sandwiched between the Nishiohashi and Yotsubashi subway stations, was the place I was looking for. After a late start, I was just happy to arrive at the patisserie slightly before their closing time of 7pm (A little early for a pastry shop, don't you think?).

It's a cozy little cake shop which I am hesitant to declare as French.

  It's French at heart but the Japanese twist (matcha, red beans etc.) was undeniable.

What are you looking at?

I had my share of Japanese influenced pastries on this trip already so I decided to get something "less Japanese" this time.

Bananier (¥450), I thought was a good way to start - caramel, chocolate, banana and walnuts. I knew caramel and chocolate would click but the way both of them worked with the banana compote was just beautiful.

The lovely waitress was nice enough to offer me a warm cup of water and a complimentary snowball cookie. That was very nice of her. Only if she speaks a little more English, I would have asked her to have a photo together with me.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: ¥¥¥
Address: 1 Chome-17-18 Kitahorie, Nishi Ward, Osaka, Japan 大阪府大阪市西区北堀江1-17-18 102
Closest Metro Station: Yotsubashi / Nishiohashi
Tel: +81 (0)6-6533-2313

L'Embellir Naoto Kishimoto (Kyoto, JAPAN) ★★★★☆

I know good restaurants are everywhere in Kyoto, even in the most unlikely locations but I never imagine one hidden behind the walls of Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社), one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto with more than 1350 years of history.

L'Embellir Naoto Kishimoto is the restaurant I'm talking about and it could very easily be overlooked since it shared the same entrance with other tenants in a place called Nakamurarō (中村楼).

The place, just on the edge of Maruyama Park (圓山公園) right outside the entrance of Yasaka Shrine, has a host of different restaurants including a Japanese tea salon and kappo-style restaurant.

L'Embellir Naoto Kishimoto Nakamurarō, the younger sister of the restaurant under the same name in Aoyama Tokyo, opened its door here back in 2014. Both branches have been a 1-star Michelin restaurant since 2015 and the current head chef in Kyoto is Hideaki Mori, a pretty young chef who has trained in L'Asseiette Champenoise and Michel Bras Toya.

This is a very elegant dining room with a lovely view to the courtyard of the shrine. The venue is not particularly big but can comfortably seat around 30-40 diners at the same time.

Our lunch started off with a small egg nog. Inside the eggshell was savory egg soup with shredded bread and clams.

That was pretty good.

Next, we were shown a dish with all kinds of seasonal vegetables including variations of turnip and radish (I can never tell between turnip and radish) prepared and baked with sea salt.

Our servers took it away momentarily to plate them properly with our first dish - pan seared sweetbread.

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of sweetbread but I will make an exception for this perfectly seared sweetbread which was both rich and flavorful. A nice job by the vegetables to offset the richness of the sweetbread there.

My fish course was pan fried sawara fish, or Japanese Spanish mackerel. This was a beautiful dish with a symphony of flavors coming from a sauce made with sea urchin and egg yolk, a crab foam, champagne mushrooms, lily bulbs and edible flowers. Very nice.

The final course before dessert was Kyoto beef served on a very intense vegetable broth. I thought the chef did an incredible job picking two parts of the beef, breast and leg, for this dish to showcase two very different textures and flavors. It was also an impressive display of very precise cooking and matching the beef with mustard cream, vegetable jelly, carrots, bean sprout purée and celery bacon foam was an excellent choice to bring out the best of the Kyoto beef.

We wanted the journey to keep on going but unfortunately, we were down to our last dish, which was a deconstructed tiramisu with masala wine, ladyfinger biscuit, mascarpone cheese cream and coffee ice-cream. This looked very simple but again, they used the different textures and flavors to dazzle our taste buds.

Following that wonderful culinary journey, time to sit back and enjoy a cup of warm tea.

We were then served a small glass of iced sweet potato vinegar.....

.....along with our petite fours (walnut cake, matcha mochi etc.).

Kyoto doesn't have the wealth of high-profile fine-dining restaurants like Tokyo does but if you're willing to dig a little deeper, there are in fact some really outstanding places like L'Embellir Naoto Kishimoto waiting for your discovery.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: ¥¥¥
Address: Gion Yasaka Shrine Torii, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0074, Kyoto, Japan
Closest Metro Station: Gion-Shijo
Tel: +81 75-551-7386