Saturday, March 28, 2015

Burger Circus (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

I can't exactly recall when was the last time we had a new traditional American diner in Hong Kong. It must have been quite a few years at least. So when I walked past this brand new all-American diner on Hollywood Road, I was determined to give it a shot.

Burger Circus is a classic all-American diner, serving freshly ground and griddled burgers, thick cut fries, house-made desserts and milkshakes. It's conveniently located just underneath the mid-level escalators. 

Burgers, fries and shakes - that's a deadly combo.

...and we love that train carriage themed décor!

There's also a small bar area for anyone in a hurry for a quick bite.

The menu is short and sharp - 10 different types of burgers, several flavors of milkshakes (including my favorite Vanilla as well as salted caramel!), fries, onion rings and a few scrumptious desserts. 

Things got off to a great start thanks to this cherry-topped vanilla milkshake with whipped cream ($58). I am always into those really thick milkshakes but this one was a little too foamy with a smooth but airy texture.


I picked the Circus Burger ($88) for no particular reason. The beef patty was so juicy although the lettuce, tomato and Circus sauce could have been better.

The onion rings ($38) was a good choice over the thick cut fries.

Both the décor and service were excellent. I would definitely come back some other time.

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: 22 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central / Hong Kong Station
Tel: +852 2878-7787


Sunday, March 22, 2015

La Maison du Chocolat (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

La Maison du Chocolat, a luxury chocolatier with boutiques in Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, Seoul, Dubai and Hong Kong, is not just known for its unique chocolate creations but also pretty popular for its delicate pastries and macarons.

Perhaps I have always treated it as a chocolate brand and that probably explained why I've never laid my hands on their pastries or macarons before. May be, just maybe it's time to do so.

The brand's Kowloon Tong branch is a relatively new one and of course, the focal point is their wide selection of handmade chocolate.

I had this Praline pastry ($58), a wonderful creation highlighted by crunchy biscuit with caramelized nuts, praline with crepe dentelle, thin layer of chocolate ganache and light mousse of praline. Very very nutty.

Food Rating: 6.5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: Shop LG2-21, Festival Walk, 80 Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Kowloon Tong
Tel: +852 2363-9211


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Zurriola (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★☆☆☆

My second visit to Zurriola turned out to be a lot less enjoyable than the first time around. The modern Spanish restaurant still boasts a 180° view of Victoria Harbour but following the departure of their opening-day Executive Chef Pedro Samper (to Zafran), things appeared not to be the same anymore.

The kitchen is now in the hands of new Executive Chef Jovi Lee. From what I've read from other bloggers, Chef Lee used to work at various Michelin starred restaurants and he likes to give his Spanish dishes a little French twist.

Some unexpected privacy for us on this Saturday afternoon - we were the only customers!

We started things off with a small nibble, a chicken pea purée with some tomato confit and olive oil powder. Despite the diminutive size, I was quite happy with the combination of flavors (6/10).

I wanted something a little refreshing and went with the prawn tartare with herb salad and roasted orange vinaigrette. But this was not what I had in mind, minced prawn that was half cooked. There was nothing terribly wrong with the taste of the dish but what was questionable was the design and execution behind it (3/10).

Perhaps I was jumping the gun expecting something like the fabulous shrimp tartare I had at La Saison by Jacques Barnachon.

However, mom seemed to be enjoying her mushroom cappuccino with Arabica coffee bean foam. I had a spoonful of it and confirmed that it was indeed a much better choice than my prawn tartare (6/10).

I had the yellow chicken supreme with carrot and honey beans as my main course and it was a pretty decent dish. The chicken was a little lean but I liked the fact that they didn't put too much seasoning there and tried to preserve the natural taste of all the ingredients (5/10).

Mom is a big seafood lover and she certainly loved those tiger prawns with homemade linguini in lemon and butter emulsion. I had mixed feelings with those homemade linguini though as they were a little spongy and perhaps too buttery for my liking (4.5/10).

My mom and I never seemed to agree on anything. Even dessert, we went our separate ways with our own choice. I had the chocolate and cherry with coffee reduction that was well, slightly disappointing (3.5/10).

The raspberry and tarragon with "its own sorbet" was a far better choice and definitely a much much better palate cleanser (6/10). 

It was not a particularly inspiring meal. Mom seemed to like the view here but I was not so sure if I would ever come back again (And I am still unsure.). Without Chef Samper, the food was definitely not what it used to be and I am afraid there are just way too many better choices out there when it comes to modern Spanish cuisine.

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: 18/F, The One, 100 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2253-7111

Friday, March 20, 2015

TWG Tea (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★☆☆☆☆

We all know about TWG Tea as a luxury tea room at the upscale IFC Tower but how does it fare as a cake shop or pâtisserie? I am about to find out tonight.

Apart from a good selection of macarons, they also have a small corner dedicated to their pastries. Some of the more popular ones include their Vanilla Bourbon Mille Feuille, Matcha Mille Feuille and Singapore Surprise. Unfortunately none of those choices were available when we arrived.

So we went for this one. We asked 2 different staff for the name of this cake because there was no label next to it. The first staff looked a little puzzled when we dished out the question and after pausing for a while, she replied that it has no specific name. This was odd. Well, if there's no name, perhaps we did like to know what it was made of so we asked the same staff about the ingredients. Then she started losing her patience with us. She replied, "some sort of chocolate mousse infused with tea...". At that point on, her impatience boiled over and continued questioning us with our motive of knowing what's in it. "Are you looking to order a big cake for an occasion? That's why you asked so many questions?".

I simply told her no but I always like to know what I put into my mouth. That was the end of our conversation. After seeing the frustration on my face, another staff came up and helped ease the situation a bit. She insisted that this cake is called a "Black Forest" cake. Well I guess they know their products better than I do so "Black Forest" cake it is!

Anyways, there was nothing special about this pastry at all. Let's leave it at that.

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: $$$$
Address: Shop 1022-1023, 1/F, Tower One, IFC Mall, 1 Harbour View Street, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Hong Kong Station
Tel: +852 2796-2828

Bungalow (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

As a diehard fan of modern French cuisine, I was very upbeat with the opening of Bungalow who took over the space formerly occupied by Socialito on Wyndham Street. I have every reason to be excited. Bungalow has the backing of Privé Group who is also behind culinary gem, NUR and they have brought in young head chef Steve Chou with an impressive pedigree. Chef Chou hails from two of New York City’s renowned one Michelin-starred restaurants, Public and The Modern and is known for his bold and unconventional approach. That's enough incentive for us to pay a quick visit.

Branding itself as a supper club, Bungalow works as a tastefully intimate French restaurant at dinner but turns into a glittering nightclub late at night.

Chef Chou's menu is a haven for anyone seeking a casual French fare - 10 nicely prepared appetizers to go with another dozen exciting entrées that cover a wide variety of choices.

The first appetizer to catch my eyes was the hamachi ($188), a dish that was perhaps drawing inspiration from Jean Georges' famous tuna ribbons. It was a pretty refreshing start although I thought the supporting cast of garlic horseradish pureé, fennel and shiso could have done a little better job (5/10).

My favorite dish of the night was the duck ravioli ($188) which was stuffed with duck confit, duck breast and foie gras and finished with a flavorful truffle foam, oyster mushrooms and artichoke chips atop (7/10).

The ravioli was pretty nice one with very soft filling.

Roasted Hokkaido scallops with baby asparagus, corn and tomato confit ($268) was next and look at the size of those
Hokkaido scallops!

The XXL sized Hokkaido scallops were beautiful to watch and absolutely mouthwatering to taste. I thought the corn sauce was a fairly good complement to the sweetness of the scallops but better seasoning was needed here (perhaps some salt would do the trick) (6.5/10).

Chicken roulade ($248) was probably the most disappointing dish of the evening. The roulade, made of
brined dark meat chicken, was actually not bad but the pool of Spätzle and mustard jus underneath was way too flavorful and overpowering (4/10).

The emptiness of the dining room took something away from this otherwise comforting dining experience (It's weird having all eyes on us!). The most encouraging part of all was the fact it didn't cost us an arm and a leg (about $400 per head) which was a bit rare in Hong Kong these days.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 2, G/F, The Centrium, 60 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central
Tel: +852 2623-7868

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Island Gourmet (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

With the massive influx of quality pâtisserie to the city in recent years, Island Gourmet, once one of the most prominent cake shops, has quietly slipped down the pecking order.

We have spent countless afternoon chatting with friends and family here but it's all in the past now.

It's been a while since I last visited their cake shop so I felt slightly "obligated" to bring home some "souvenir".

But at 6pm, there were just not much available other than mille feuille, éclair, cheesecake, tiramisu and black forest cake so I ended up going with this Matcha cake ($40).

I thought the texture on the bottom was quite pleasant with green tea mousse and sesame biscuits working well together but the cherry jelly and yuzu cream on top were a tad too sour and powerful for my liking.

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: 5/F, Island Shangri-La Hong Kong, Admiralty, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Admiralty
Tel: +852 2820-8550
Website: Link

Hong Kong, cafe, deli, dessert, patisserie, pastry, cake

Friday, March 13, 2015

Passion by Gérard Dubois on Mody Road (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

I was strolling in Central last week when I came across Passion by Gérard Dubois's new shop at Lyndhurst Tower. A quick look inside revealed that they have just launched a couple of new pastries that looked rather promising. 

Unfortunately, I was on my way to an important meeting and I guess it will be impolite to bring along some dessert without offering them to my meeting partners. So I ended up waiting another week. This time it was their Mody Road shop that I managed to find time to pay a quick visit. 

I knew exactly what I was looking for so I wasted no time asking for my server to wrap things up for me.

All for Red ($41), 5.5/10 
I thought "All for Red" refers to a football team slogan (Liverpool?) but in fact it is a mousse cake with a raspberry theme. 

The bright red cube was a collection of raspberry compote, cream, mousse and dacquoise. Fairly nice but the texture could have been a little more firm.

Earl grey and pear ($41), 6.5/10

Very lovely fragrance coming from the earl grey tea mousse which was coupled with chocolate and poached pear. I liked this one more.

The thing I like about Passion by Gérard Dubois is that they always come up with something new every 2-3 months. That was never the case for Paul LaFayet, Le Salon De Thé de Joël Robuchon and other pastry stores. No wonder it's slowly shooting up the ranks on my list.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop A, G/F Lyton Building, 32 – 48 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui / Tsim Sha Tsui East
Tel: +852 2721-1866

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Bo Innovation (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

I have always admitted that I am a fan of Alvin Leung's Xtreme Chinese cuisine ever since my first experience with it back in 2008. The cuisine itself has evolved a lot over the years and I am thrilled to see that it has finally reached the elite 3-star status in recent years.

But since the opening of MIC Kitchen in Kwun Tong, I have been leaning towards the casual "sister" in favor of the chef's flagship restaurant, Bo Innovation. It has nothing to do with its location and more to do with the atmosphere and ambiance. So I guess this trip back to Bo is really long overdue.

I couldn't exactly recall what the dining room looked like last time I visited but the current setting takes a nice "East meets West" approach, which is somewhat indicative of the chef's cuisine.

Traditional Chinese elements are everywhere in the dining area from the décor to the tableware.

There are two set menus available at lunch hour - a simpler 3-course set (HK$430) and a more sophisticated 8-course degustation menu (HK$730). I was a little pressed with time so I simply went with the shorter menu.

I certainly didn't expect to be so impressed (or shocked) even before my starter arrived. And why not, bread coming in a paper bag in the form of a Chinese egg waffle, one of my all-time favorite street food. The waffle was slightly sweet and they have added their own twist by putting in ham from the Yunnan Province as well as some spring onion.

Not the best Chinese egg waffle I ever had but nevertheless interesting.

The first dish of the day was the knock-out punch I was looking for - langoustine covered with a thick salty duck egg sauce, topped with an English mustard foam and served nicely with black truffle and different textures of cauliflower (including risotto/cous cous, pickled and purée).

The presentation was adorable and even better was the taste with the duck egg sauce and mustard foam bringing out the best from the langoustine (7.5/10).

I was struggling to decide between the suckling pig and pigeon but at the end, a voice inside me whistled "pork". OK.

It was a pretty delectable piece of suckling pig. Tender and juicy. I thought they would do a little more with the seasoning but a simple
pork jus did most of the work (7/10).

The dessert of the day was tofu mousse cake with black soy bean milk flavored ice-cream and fried bean curd. I like the crispy flakes they put on the bottom that worked quite well with the rest of the dish (6.5/10).

Unfortunately, there was no spherification or anything molecular in this shorter menu. Sounds like a return visit at dinner time is on the tap.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: $$$$
Address: Shop 13, 2/F, J Residence, 60 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Wanchai
Tel: +852 2850-8371
S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants: 97th (2014)
S. Pellegrino Asia's 50 Best Restaurants: 28th (2015)

Hong Kong, Alvin Leung, Devil Chef, restaurant, Xtreme Chinese, molecular, Asia 50 Best, Michelin, 3, star