Monday, June 29, 2015

Porterhouse by Laris (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

It's been a really busy month for me at work so I haven't got much time to try any of the new restaurants in town. Luckily, among all the newbies, they weren't that many of them that managed to catch my eyes anyways so at least I didn't get too depressed there.

Well, actually there was one that was on my radar screen for a while and I was constantly tracking their soft opening dates up until now. I am talking about Porterhouse by Laris at the new California Tower in Lan Kwai Fong

When Australian Chef David Laris opened his first restaurant in Hong Kong with partner Dining Concepts a few years ago, I was quite impressed with its contemporary cuisine and Mediterranean twist. Unfortunately that didn't work out very well at the end. But he has returned, this time with a modern steakhouse and I couldn't wait to check it out immediately during the opening week.

This is obviously not just a steakhouse. Look at all those fresh seafood at the seafood bar and you know, they are very serious about bringing the best ingredients to their customers.

And Chef Laris himself was here having a small party with his friends.

I can't wait to get started but first some bread served with two types of butter, salted and unsalted with XO sauce. I thought the bread was OK but the butter with XO sauce was quite an interesting experience.

First up for us, a seared diver scallops ($168) with corn purée, sesame and sweet ponzu sauce. While we were ordering, our server had explicitly told us that there was supposed to be just one piece of scallop there. Is the extra piece a special gift from Chef Laris on opening night?

Our server explained that their chef thought the scallops were a little small in size tonight so he decided to throw in an extra piece. Of course, we will gladly take it! But this was by no means small as it has the typical size of a Hokkaido scallop. 

I thought this was a pretty good dish. The scallop was lightly seared and then sprinkled with a little bit of salt. The corn purée, or I would much prefer to describe as corn porridge / polenta, worked very well with the scallop giving it some extra sweetness (5.5/10).

There are three kinds of beef served here, US prime beef, Cape Grim Tasmanian grass-fed from Australia and Japanese A4 wagyu. It was the Heritage Linz USDA Prime beef tenderloin (8oz) ($398) that we ended up ordering. Truffle butter was extra ($38).

It was served pink as promised.

Our server didn't waste any time bringing along different types of salt and mustard for us. I had the pink salt from Himalayas and it was a very good match with the tenderloin. I thought the meat had good flavor and was reasonably tender and juicy. And the grill has given it a little smokey flavor which was always welcomed (5/10).

More seafood to come, this time it was the lobster risotto with sage butter, fine herbs ($228). More butter!?

This was very creamy with lots of lobster in it. Thought they could have made the risotto a little more cheesy and with more herbs just to make it more flavorful but definitely not bad (5.5/10).


We had an afternoon tea about an hour ago so didn't have enough room to accommodate dessert at this point. So just a small marshmallow as petite four before we left.

I really like the ambiance here. Very modern and stylish. Service was excellent right from the start and despite totally outnumbering the number of customers (just 4 tables on this night), the staff did well to back off and gave everybody more privacy whenever they can. In terms of food, we didn't get the chance to sample many dishes and the ones that we did try were pretty good with generous portions. Needless to say, we would most definitely come back soon.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: 7/F California Tower, 30-36 D'Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central
Tel: +852 2522-6366

Gradini Ristorante E Bar Italiano (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

Let's get the record straight here. Gradini Ristorante E Bar Italiano didn't exactly fly under my radar screen all this time. As a matter of fact, I have been drooling over the pictures of Chef Giovanni Greggio's highly touted Maine lobster tagliolini and roasted lamb rack for quite some time but somehow I never followed up on making this trip.

After nearly a year since its opening, I finally got the chance to come for a quick visit, although this time there will be no Maine lobster tagliolini or roasted lamb rack on the agenda I'm afraid. Instead, it will be scones, snacks and English breakfast tea serving on the fly. 

For someone who's not keen on afternoon teas, this was like a quantum leap for me - my second afternoon tea this week. But with this relaxing ambiance, I knew I could probably sit here all day. 

This has to be one of the biggest steals in the history of afternoon tea. A $288 for two deal that features a three-tier tea set as well as exquisite tea and coffee of your choice. Combining that with the ambiance, that was a huge huge bargain.

The top tier of the rack features some small savory nibbles including classic spring rolls, parma ham brioche and smoked salmon toast. That was alright.

Afternoon tea without scorn? Not a chance.

It was nice to see that the bar has decided to pay homage to Hong Kong culture by adding a bit of old-time Hong Kong to the mix. Look at those cute little egg waffles, one of the all-time street favorites and certainly my favorite. Very fluffy and delish. 

On the bottom of the pile, there were some tiramisu and panna cotta. I loooovvvve tiramisu and panna cotta!!!!!

Meet my classico tiramisu del pasticcere, with layers of savoiardi biscuit flavor, espresso and aramatto, and topped with mascarpone cream and cacao. That was sinful.

I had the English breakfast tea as my afternoon tea.

The more I looked at The Pottinger, the more I felt in love with this place. Of course it never hurt to have three quality restaurants in the premise too. Yes I will be back very soon.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: G/F The Pottinger, 74 Queen's Road Central, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central / Hong Kong Station
Tel: +852 2308-3088
Website: Link

Saturday, June 27, 2015

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

It's been a while since I last visited my favorite pastry shop in town so I was eager to find out what's new at Passion this weekend.

It was around 2:30pm in the afternoon and the place was packed with French food lovers as usual. Of course the crowd didn't stop me from wiggling my way to the counter and checked out the "goods".

And I ended up choosing these two gems.

Vanilla and Lemon - it had to be at least the fourth or fifth time I am having this. Still love the contrast between the vanilla and lemon.

The texture was absolutely perfect and the combination of vanilla mousse and lemon cream was so sinfully delicious!

Jasmine and cassis - one of the latest creations here. Didn't expect such good results having jasmine tea and cassis together. The cassis flavor was very refreshing but yet not too overpowering for the jasmine tea. Very nice.

Passion is a place I could always count on for exquisite French pastries and more. Would most definitely come back in the not-so-distant future.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
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

Goobne (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★☆☆☆

I was getting a little tired of Korean fried chicken this week. Had way too many of those back in Seoul last month and later when we came back to Hong Kong. I needed a lighter version with a lot less oil to stay healthy and that was when I ran into Goobne.

Goobne is a Korean chain that has been quite popular back home and this branch at the Hart was their first shop in Hong Kong.

Goobne takes pride as a Korean restaurant that specializes in oven roasted chicken. They offer 8 different flavors including Sichuan, black pepper, BBQ hot and the Goobne Original ($148) is supposed to be their best seller.

I was a little less adventurous today so I went with the Goobne Original to go. Wow, look at that nice packing. That was very neat but I wasn't particularly happy with them charging me $15 extra for it.

Well, it was a lot less oily than the typical Korean fried chicken. That's for sure. Nothing wrong to be eating healthy and the texture of the meat was pretty tender as well. The only knock was the flavors, not as strong as one would expect for any Korean chicken. That was slightly disappointing.

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: $$$
Address: 2/F, 4 Hart Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui / East Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2311-0001 

Brick Lane (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

When Brick Lane first opened on Blenheim Avenue back in June 2011, it already created a few buzz around the city. As one of the grand daddy of all-day breakfast in Hong Kong, the restaurant also specializes in other hearty British dishes including egg benedicts and fish n chips. But as someone who's not particularly into all-day breakfast, I must confess I've only been here a couple of times and as I recalled, I went with their pasta on both occasions. So my apologies for not being able to comment on their breakfast I am afraid. 

This was one of the few times that I found myself in TST during breakfast hour and I decided to come in here for a quick peek. But as soon as I sat down, the place quickly filled out and by the time I started enjoying my food, there were already more than a dozen customers waiting outside under the heat. So I was feeling pretty good about arriving early.

Back to my breakfast for a moment. I ended up passing on their all-day breakfast and egg benedict once again (sorry). And no pasta for me this time although the mushroom angel hair with truffle cream sauce did look tempting to me. This time, it was their fish n chips getting the call.

I thought the crispy beer batter was seriously good. The sole fillet was OK. I still can't find a place in Hong Kong with a killer fish n chips which is kinda disappointing. If anybody knows, please leave me a message.

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: G/F, 2 Blenheim Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui East
Tel: +852 2736-8893

La Station (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Yesterday I saw some pictures of La Station, a new coffee shop on Queen's Road East on a friend's Facebook and the place (and its coffee) simply looked amazing. So instead of drooling over those pictures, I decided to drop by for a quick coffee before work this morning.

After some online research, I finally realized that La Station is the first flagship coffee shop from the folks behind Confectioner Paul Lafayet. They are dipping into the coffee business just for the love of coffee.

I love the train station theme here. Felt a lot like we are really inside a terminal somewhere in Europe. And when you look up, there's this "arrival and departure board" but instead of arrival and departure time, you see all the different drinks and corresponding prices. Very neatly done! 


Of course, it doesn't hurt to have the winner of the recent Hong Kong Grand Barista Championship on hand to man the coffee counter too. Despite not being a coffee fan, I thought I ought to try one of their drinks out and a simple iced latte seemed like the obvious choice for me.

This was pretty good stuff. Managed to wake me up in time for the morning meeting! 

It was a little earlier for dessert so I took a pass on the lemon tarts and the rest of sweet stuff much to the dismay of my sweet tooth and just went with a croissant with mixed grains and nuts. This was quite nice too, not as buttery or flaky as most croissants. My dietitian should be happy with that.

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: G/F, 247 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Wanchai
Tel: +852 2868-2100

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Spade by Lassana (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

June has been a slow month for restaurant openings and after visiting Atelier Vivanda early this month, I am pretty much left with Porterhouse by Laris on my agenda. With a relatively empty schedule in the rest of June, I figure I better dig a little deeper and that's when I came up with Spade by Lassana. Located in the Domain Mall in Yau Tong, Spade by Lassana is a coffee cafe doubling as a cake shop. 

Their latest creation, according to the staff, is this crème brûlée cheesecake ($78). Looks like a cheesecake with a Japanese twist.

It has a very rich cheesy flavor with a pretty smooth texture. Love the classic crème brûlée glaze to give it a little more bite.

I would definitely come back for this although it's a little far from where I usually hang out.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop G28, G/F, The Domain, 38 Ko Chiu Road, Yau Tong, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Yau Tong
Tel: +852 2346-0828
Website: Link


Monday, June 15, 2015

Tim Ho Wan @IFC (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Tim Ho Wan (添好運) is one restaurant in the city that I always have trouble understanding the hype. Is it really worth the waiting time? A lot of people said their flagship store at Sham Shui Po is the best out of the bunch but the IFC branch is probably the easiest one to access.

Rumors had that their "Big four heavenly king dim sum" are all must-try here so we decided to check them out one by one. Baked bun with BBQ pork - came with 3 big pieces and it's pretty good.

The bun was very spongy. Very tasty although there's still improvement there for the BBQ pork. Nevertheless, very good, perhaps the best dish we've tried.

Secondly, we had the pan fried turnip cake. This one was just OK I thought. Crispy on the outside and pretty soft inside but not enough preserved sausage, shrimp among other ingredients.

Steamed egg cake - always my favorite and they've known more than a dozen places who do a much better job than this one. Again just so-so I am afraid.

Vermicelli roll with shrimp - Decent again. Thought the vermicelli roll was soft but not soft enough.

Shrimp dumpling - didn't like the dumpling skin but good portion of bamboo shoot and shrimp there. All in all, OK.

With the baked buns with BBQ pork being the clear winner on this night, I thought the steamed minced pork with preserved vegetables and rice was a close second for me. Love the homemade style and felt like you're eating at home with grandma in the kitchen. Yum.

Still can't figure out the hype.....

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: $$
Address: Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station, Podium Level 1, IFC Mall, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Hong Kong Station
Tel: +852 2332-3078