Saturday, May 30, 2015

Jamie's Italian at Harbour City (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

With the success of the first Jamie's Italian in Hong Kong, it came with very little surprise that the celebrity chef has decided to open its second branch across the harbour. Picking Harbour City was a smart choice too. I looked it as a great marketing move that bodes well to attract tourists and will eventually help them set their sights to opening in Mainland China in the very near future.




I must say, I like this Tsim Sha Tsui branch much more than the Causeway Bay one. It's much more airy and lively contrary to the dark and uninviting interior in Causeway Bay.

Again they've got graffiti walls everywhere although with a slightly different theme. No more
dragon and "pearl on the island", thank goodness.



The best part about coming here for the second time was that I didn't have to go through the food menu again. Even before I arrived, I knew exactly what I would be getting - and that's all the dishes I didn't order last time around! 



Italian spiced chicken wings ($75), 4/10
Free-range wings with a smoked and spicy tomato sauce. I'm a sucker for chicken wings. Just gimme a dozen of them any day. But this was just decent and I thought the seasoning was a little too heavy.




Portobello mushroom fritti ($68), 6/10
Crispy breadcrumbed portobello mushrooms served with a garlicky mayo. I love portobello mushrooms too and this was very good. Lovely bite with the crispy breadcrumbs and the portobello mushrooms were soft and spongy as always. It was nicely complemented by a homemade garlic mayo.




Chicken Caesar salad ($148), 5/10
A nicely presented chicken Caesar with crisp romaine lettuce, roasted chicken breast and crunchy croutons in a creamy lemon dressing. Not bad.



Porcini Fettuccine ($158), 5/10
I was really looking forward to the two pastas, both of which were not on our radar screen last August.


First up was the porcini fettuccine. I thought the texture of the fettucine was nice but the flavors were slightly too complicated with mascarpone, garlic, white wine, lemon gremolata, parmesan and herbs all having a hand in it. That's a lot of stuff in there!



Fresh Crab Spaghettini ($155), 5/10
Our server warned us about the crab spaghettini when she was taking our order. She said it would taste substantially "salty" coz the chefs would be cooking the pasta along with the fresh sea water from the fresh crab meat.


Indeed it was salty and heavy flavored. Of course, the capers, chilli, fennel, parsley, anchovies and lemon all had a little something to do with it.



Fiorentina pizza ($158), 5/10

As our server explained, this is one of the 6 Jamie's Italian in the world with a pizza oven and not even the Causeway Bay branch has pizza on this menu. That being said, it would be unwise not to try one of their 4 pizzas.


The "Hong Kong Hot" pizza with tomato, cheddar cheese, fennel, salami, spicy meatballs, chillies and buffalo mozzarella was the natural choice but with everybody claiming to be on diet, we opted for a vegetarian pizza instead. Lemony ricotta, buffalo mozzarella, free-range egg, spinach, broccoli and anchovies rounded out the toppings of this reasonably good pizza.
 


Chocolate, pear and honeycomb pavlova ($68), 5.5/10
Despite our disastrous experience last time, I thought dessert was much better this time around. Of course we did well to dance around some of their offerings including tiramisu.


For those of us in need of something refreshing, we found our comfort zone with this chocolate, pear and honeycomb pavlova which has the wonderful combination of light meringue, poached pear, whipped mascarpone, honeycomb and a drizzle of dark chocolate.



Lemon meringue cheesecake ($68), 5/10
Others wanted something a little more heavy and went with the mascarpone and lemon cheesecake topped with Italian meringue, lemon curd and mixed berry compote. Again not bad. The layers of lemon and meringue worked fairly well together and neither one was too dominant for the other. 


 

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 412, Level 4, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 3758-3333
Website: www.jamieoliver.com/italian/hongkong


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Patisserie Uriwari 瓜破 (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

This was the second time in two months I came calling Patisserie Uriwari. Still remembered last month, I had my very first experience with this online cake shop and it was one that had made a strong impression on me. Thought their cake was solid although the one we picked carried a little too much acidity. 

So I decided to give them another chance for redemption, this one for mom's birthday. Mom has always been a huge fan of chestnut cakes but I wasn't going to give her the same stuff year in and year out. 

My pick this time was Uriwari's special Saki (咲) cake which was their "feature" cake for Mother's Day this year. I thought the size was perfect ($248) and all the ingredients had the making of a super refreshing cake (except caramel?).



And it turned out to be almost perfect. In the middle of it was a layer of delicate caramel mousse sandwiched between layers of pear mousse, pear jelly, pear compote and cinnamon flavored cake. The caramel mousse which was surprisingly light, was working wonder with the refreshing pear mousse, jelly and pear cubes creating a symphony of contrasting textures and flavors for our palates. Mom was definitely a happy camper after having almost half of the cake all by herself!



Note: There's a 5% discount for orders picked up at the Kwai Hing MTR station. Perfect if you're traveling by MTR! 


Food Rating: 7/10
Price: $$$
Address: Room 1408, Block C, Wah Tat Industrial Center, 8-10 Wah Sing Street, Kwai Chung, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2135-6705
Website: www.uriwari.hk


Gelatina Mok Yi Kei (Macau, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Even the most casual fan of Macau knows Rua da Cunha in Taipa is the place to be for some of the best known street foods in the city. Situated in the heart of old Taipa, Gelatina Mok Yi Kei (莫義記) is probably one of the most famous one of the bunch offering some of the most exciting ice-cream flavors one could imagine.



There are about 20 different flavors of ice-cream and jelly available here including durian ice cream, bird's nest (燕窩) ice-cream, sawdust pudding etc.



Of course, we had to sample their best sellers - durian ice cream and sawdust pudding. Silky smooth and pretty delish although the portion was a little small for MOP20 a piece.





Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: 9A Rua da Cunha, Vila de Taipa, Macau
Tel: +853 6669-5194


Monday, May 25, 2015

The Eight at Grand Lisboa (Macau, CHINA) ★★★★★

Instead of collecting dust at home during the Vesak Day long weekend, we elected to embark on a journey to collect stars in the city of Dreams and it was a decision that has kept our stomach happy so far (with the exception of the "Chef Thomas Bühner" lunch at Vida Rica). We have another gem in The Eight waiting for us that would put our grand total to six stars this afternoon. 



The Eight is the luxurious Chinese restaurant at Grand Lisboa Hotel and the one and only 3-star Michelin establishment in the city that serves Chinese cuisine. After going through the sliding door, we finally made it to the spacious dining room where stunning black and red colors set the tone for us in dramatic fashion.



They have a very comprehensive menu here so we had to spend a fair amount of time on it. Soon after we placed our orders, a small amuse bouche including two small nibbles was ready for prime time - chilled abalone with yuzu jelly and minced pork tart with diced vegetables. 

What a lovely start this was! The abalone was of course the star here. Very rich flavor with just the perfect texture. Love the yuzu jelly with that refreshing mix of sweetness, bitterness and acidity to go with the abalone (7/10). 



Our palates were ready for action at this point and first up were the steamed dumplings with lobster, black truffle and asparagus (黑松露翡翠龍蝦餃). This was a pretty nice start. Really enjoyed the pleasant truffle aroma coming from the dumplings. Couldn't exactly tell whether the wrapper for the dumpling was made with asparagus or spinach but it helped to give the dish a little extra kick (6.5/10).



Of course, we had to lay our hands on their signature dim sum - puff pastry with abalone, morel mushrooms and diced chicken (原隻鮑魚羊肚菌雞粒酥). An entire piece of abalone, which was served lukewarm, sat on top of a puff pastry with diced chicken, morel mushrooms and a very delicate sauce. This was one dish that would definitely water your mouth in a hurry (8/10).



This one looked really good on paper - deep fried egg white foams with Iberico pork and black truffle (高力松露黑豚肉). Most of us should be familiar with the sweet version of this from the Shanghainese cuisine which most often than not has red bean paste and sometimes banana in the middle (高力豆沙). They have thrown in a western twist by using Iberico pork and black truffle which was quite clever in their own rights. 



It came with a pretty interesting texture - very light and soft on the outside (like a very soft bean curd) but somehow it still felt slightly weird as a savory dish (6/10).



We had a little too much food to eat on this trip so we decided not to consume any more meat on this afternoon. Just a simple poached vegetables with lily bulbs and birch seeds (百合杞子浸時蔬) to stay healthy and also wrap things up before dessert (5/10).



Dessert was roasted almond tea with bird's nest (燕窩杏仁
), one of my personal favorites (7/10).



They're no longer serving Portuguese egg tarts as their petite four. This time a beautiful rose shaped coconut pudding (or panna cotta) with mung beans with some bird's nest and gold foil on top. Very elegant.



The second part of the petite four was a small cup of sweet tea which our server chose to call "concentrated tea" (濃). Thought it tasted a lot like the Malaysian Teh tarik (literally 'pulled tea' 馬拉紅茶) with lots of sugar. Very nice. I was almost tempted to ask for a second cup.



It was an excellent dining experience as they went above and beyond to deliver us a mix of outstanding food and high-quality service. I would not hesitate to rank it right up there with some of Hong Kong's heavy hitters including Spring Moon (Peninsula), Lung King Heen (Four Seasons) and Tin Lung Heen (Ritz Carlton).

Food Rating: 7.5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: Grand Lisboa Hotel Macau, Avenida de Lisboa, Macau, Macau
Tel: +853 8803-7788
Website: www.grandlisboa.com/en/food_and_beverage/index_id_1.html


Lord Stow's Bakery & Café (Macau, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Like Cafe Tai Lei Loi Kei, Lord Stow's Bakery & Café (安德魯餅店) has always been very high on every tourist's hit list. But nestled deep in Coloane village in the southern part of Macau, this famous café just might not be the easiest place to locate especially for first timers in the city so it's certainly worthawhile to consider the alternative plan - a visit to their outpost inside The Venetian Resort.



This little café is situated right next to the "canal" where we could see all the gondolas going up and down the water.



After a 10-minute wait, finally it was our turn to put our hands around these iconic snacks. I haven't had Lord Stow's egg tarts (or pastel de nata being the more proper term for it) for a while now so I didn't realize that it's costing MOP$10 a piece these days. 



This was very good. A little better than what Margaret's had to offer in my opinion but I thought Pastéis de Belém still has the best pastel de nata in the world hands down.




Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$
Address: 870, Mask Street, Level 3, The Grand Canal Shoppes, The Venetian Macao Resort Hotel, Estrada do Istmo, Coloane-Taipa, Macau
Tel: +853 2886-6889
Website: www.lordstow.com


 

Restaurant Vida Rica (Macau, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

This was supposed to be the reason of our Macau trip. Despite a 3-year absence in Macau, I was never keen to go back until I read about Chef Thomas Bühner's guest appearance at Mandarin Oriental's Vida Rica one day.

I have been a fan of Chef Bühner for years. In fact even came close to knocking on his restaurant's (La Vie, Osnabrück) doors on a couple of occasions while I was visiting Germany but every time we missed out due to the restaurant's summer closure.


For those who wants to know more about Chef Bühner, well he's one of the most celebrated German chefs in the world. Gault Millau “Chef of the Year” in 2006, a Relais & Chateaux “Grand Chef” in 2009, and 3-star Michelin chef in 2012. He has pretty much done it all.

This marked my first visit to Vida Rica and I couldn't say I wasn't slightly disappointed with my first impression.




As the fine dining restaurant of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Macau, I was expecting a more glamorous setting with a touch of luxury but this looked more like a bar with black as the only predominant color. 

To make matters worse, we were seated in a small dining area right next to a large group. Imagine having 15-20 people laughing and shouting in front of you when all you want is a little bit of quietness to enjoy your meal. Obviously the vast majority of them were pretty excited about this lunch but who won't? Perhaps the restaurant should have given them a private room not just for the sake of this group but also for the poor folks sitting right by them? (There were kids in the group as well, a little rare to see in fine dining events.)



Anyways, we started on the wrong foot and it never really seemed to recover from there.


Let's get back to the tasting menu. It was supposed to be a 5-course set but as it turned out, the first course was just an amuse bouche. It's a foie gras panna cotta with foie gras mousse served underneath a layer of coca cola jelly and lemon granite. Looked very good on paper but the execution was a little off (4.5/10).



After the lone nibble, our starter was ready to be served. Can't wait to get my hands on this caramelized king prawn with seaweed and different textures of shallot, including shallot ice cream, purée, meringue and poached shallot. I am not really a shallot fan but I was impressed with all the various textures of shallot coming together, particularly the shallot ice cream which surprisingly worked well with the king prawn.


 

This ended up to be a king shrimp done two ways with the second dish coming as a dumpling simmered in a light shrimp broth. This tasted a lot like a har gow (蝦餃), one of the more popular Chinese dim sum in the world. A slightly peculiar move pairing it with the shrimp dumpling in my opinion (5.5/10).




Next up was our fish course - a Japanese cod-fish confit in olive oil with broccoli couscous, chicken pea, mud crab, North Sea grey shrimp and Iberico ham. That's a lot of ingredients in there!



Our server poured a bit of chicken consommé on the side to enhance the flavors which was nice considering that the cod fish had nothing but olive oil flavor. But if it's any consolation, I thought the texture of the cod was actually fine.



Here's another peculiar move (after the hau gow) serving the cod fish with a steamed bun that was stuffed with mud crab meat. This "West meets East" thing is obviously not working for us (4/10).

 

Meat course was an Australian wagyu rib-eye steak served with banana plantain chips, white beans,
mashed sweet potatoes, apricot purée, tamarind sauce and pimento. This couldn't possibly be a dish plated by a 3-star Michelin chef's kitchen, right? It looked unorganized and a bit messy.

Taste-wise, I thought it was a fine dish, just that I've expected so much more right from the start (4.5/10).



Turned out the best dish of the afternoon belonged to our dessert - marinated baby pineapple with coriander, white chocolate and sake granite. 




The white chocolate cube was the star here and we just loved that coriander flavor oozing out from the middle. The sake granite, crushed walnuts and pineapple combined to create a lovely symphony of contrasting flavors and textures (7/10).

Unfortunately too little too late now. 



A raspberry themed petite fours before we settled the bill.



I thought the staff at Vida Rica was a bit overwhelmed by this event as they had trouble performing at a Michelin starred level. The explanation of each course was rough and obviously not conducted in a manner one would expect from any fine dining experience.

And finally about the food itself. I recalled right after the wagyu, we were shaking our heads in disbelief. This was probably a menu designed by Chef Thomas Bühner but its execution has prompted us to believe that it's not prepared by someone totally familiar with it (perhaps by the chefs here at Restaurant Vida Rica? Who knows?). A disappointing experience without a question.


Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Mandarin Oriental Macau, Avenida Dr Sun Yat Sen, Macau
Tel: +853 8805-8918
Website: www.mandarinoriental.com/macau/fine-dining/vida-rica-restaurant


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Albergue 1601 (Macau, CHINA) ★★★★☆

Ranked among the best Portuguese restaurants in Macau including CNN Travel's 5 top spots for Macanese and Portuguese cuisine, Albergue 1601 has always been considered a great destination for a casual dinner vintage style. The restaurant is housed inside one of the most storied premise in the city called Albergue SCM which was once known as ‘Shelter of the Poor’ and the ‘Old Ladies House’ (婆仔屋). The place also served a lot of different purposes in its long history including time as an orphanage. But nowadays, it's becoming a cultural hub for local art and creative design exhibitions.

Situated at a quiet corner of Calcada da Igreja de S. Lazaro (瘋堂斜巷), Albergue SCM features a small courtyard and two century-old Portuguese buildings where Restaurant Albergue 1601 is located. 



The two-storey restaurant is a very popular destination for tourists.



The waiting room on the ground floor still features a vintage look with wooden doors, throwback style leather sofa and classic chandeliers.

 

On the second floor, a much more spacious dining area is divided into smaller rooms, each with a slightly different theme.




There are many signature dishes from Albergue 1601's kitchen and their salted codfish cakes (5 pc) (MOP73) are definitely on top of that list.



Crispy on the outside, moist and delicate inside. Perfect especially for a potato freak like me.



I looovvve the Portuguese style duck rice and Albergue 1601 has one of the best (MOP138) in the city.



They are serving it in a traditional clay pot which helps to keep the rice hot and moist. Love the spicy sausage and look at those duck meat in the middle. Absolutely mouthwatering although slightly heavy if you're just sharing it between two people.




Roasted suckling pig (1 quarter) (MOP228) is another house specialty here but my advice is not to bother with it. Love the special flavors from the herbs but a little too much fat in my opinion.



Of course, we had to end it the way we usually did, with their sawdust frozen pudding (MOP78). Unlike other sawdust puddings in Macau, this one feels a lot more like having ice cream. Still one of the best in the business. 



The picturesque St. Lazarus District is home to many historic landmarks in the city, which is the reason why it's attracting so much attention from the photography lovers these days.





Both the St. Lazarus District and Restaurant Albergue 1601 are not to be missed for anyone visiting Macau for the first time, or second, third time.....


Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$
Address: 8 Calcada da Igreja de S. Lazaro, Macau
Tel: +853 2836-1601
Website: www.albergue1601.com