Friday, December 30, 2016

Tin Lung Heen 天龍軒 (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★★

My good friend, Agent-I is back in town and she brought some good news with her confirming that she would be moving back to Hong Kong sometime in 2017. That's very good news coz finally, I will get my partner in crime back for all these new restaurant openings in town.

Last time the two of us met up, it was about 2 months ago when I visited Singapore and she treated me to a very nice lunch at National Kitchen by Violet Oon, so I thought I should return the favor and pick one of my favorite restaurants in Hong Kong to treat her this time around. This would be my second visit to the two Michelin starred Tin Lung Heen (天龍軒) this month and I know I can count on them to deliver for me once again.

Baked barbecued pork and pineapple bun with crispy crust (酥皮焗叉燒菠蘿包) ($90) - One of the many signature dishes here and it never disappoints. The soft and crispy crust was very nice. Agent-I said the filling was good but tasted a little "funny".

Underneath the pillowy bun was a savory but slightly sweet filling of BBQ roast pork. That's pretty standard but what separated Tin Lung Heen's version with others was the pineapple compote which brought a bit of acidity to the table. It does taste a little "funny" with the added acidity but in a pretty good way.

Soup dumpling with fish maw and bamboo fungus in supreme stock (龍軒瑤柱花膠灌湯餃) ($115) - This has recently become my favorite dim sum here largely because of the flavorful broth. The generous portion of fish maw and bamboo fungus was more than welcome and I was glad I ordered this for the both of us.

Baked abalone puff with roasted goose and dried bonito (木魚燒鵝鮑魚酥) ($138) - The braised abalone and flaky puff were perfectly matched with a layer of finely diced roast goose. The rich abalone sauce was a nice touch and I love the dried bonito on top for a bit of contrasting bite and flavor. Very nice.

Steamed rice roll with bamboo fungus and assorted vegetables (竹笙羅漢上素腸粉) ($96) - Simple but very tasty. A lot of Chinese restaurants tried to add black truffle to this to make it more "premium" but I like it simple.

Fried rice with diced abalone, duck and shrimp wrapped in lotus leaf (鮑粒荷葉飯) ($99) - The only disappointment of the afternoon came from our fried rice. A lack of flavors coming from the lotus leaf made this a little one-dimensional.

I didn't book the table under my name (and through my usual source) so I didn't get the usual "royal treatment". So, just a standard sweet treat of cookies and Chinese puddings before we settled the bill.

Food Rating: 7.5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: 102/F, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Kowloon
Tel: +852 2263-2270

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Mammy Pancake 媽咪雞蛋仔 (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

It's been a while since I last visited Mammy Pancake (媽咪雞蛋仔), an eggette specialty snack shop who has arguably some of the most innovative eggette flavors in the city. Thanks to the Michelin Guide who has recognized them as one of the best local street food 2 years in a roll, they can now be found pretty much anywhere in Hong Kong. 

I found myself walking past the K11 shopping mall this evening and thought I should drop by for something sweet.

I had the sweet potato eggettes ($26) last time I was here and thought they were pretty darn good.

But even better were the chocolate chip eggettes ($22). The chocolate lava combining so well with the eggettes. Yummy.....

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $
Address: G/F, Carnarvon Mansion, 8-12 Carnarvon Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Big Bang Don 爆丼屋 (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

There are a lot of things we Hongkongers are very good at and one of those is queuing up for food. It's one of those things we're born with - will and patience.

I must admit, I HATE lining up outside restaurants for hours. I would much prefer to re-visit the place again in a few months when people start realizing that it's not hip to dine there anymore. But today, I found myself in uncharted waters here queuing up in front of a relatively new restaurant in Mongkok called Big Bang Don (爆丼屋) who's famous for their giant sashimi rice bowl I was told. And we were finally in after waiting for a good 45 minutes.

Scallops and salmon roe don (帆立貝三文魚籽盛丼) ($168) - Not bad but I was expecting both quality and quantity here in which case, it kind of failed to deliver both at the same time.

Three-coloured sea urchin don (三色海膽盛丼) ($238) - Well, this was pretty much why we waited for 45 minutes in the first place. The three colours refer to three different types of fresh sea urchin coming from Hokkaido, Korea and Canada. The portion was really big and could easily serve 2 to 3 people.

This was fairly nice as the sea urchin was creamy and flavorful. But it was a little heavy to take this down almost all by myself. 

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 8, G/F, 50 Soy Street, Mongkok, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Mongkok
Tel: +852 2332-2918

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★★

After hanging out with family and friends for much of the festive holiday, I decided to take things a little slowly today. A late lunch just between the three of us was what I had in mind. I was trying hard to decide between Uncle Robuchon and chef Bombana but once I heard about L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon's children policy, it was pretty clear that 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana would be the one we would be visiting this afternoon.

The good thing about chef Bombana's festive menu is that everything from starter to dessert is a simple choice between two selections. I think I can handle that.

Lunch started off brightly with the first starter of the afternoon, crispy langoustine. This tasted a little like our famous Chinese dish, salted egg yolk prawn (黃金蝦) with the sweet little langoustine tightly coated with something like salty egg yolk on the outside. The citrus anchovy dressing was a very impressive addition to the mix and the small winter vegetable salad did well to balance the richness of the langoustine. Very nice start.

The second starter turned out to be even better than my crispy langoustine. This beautifully decorated dish featuring Belon oyster and golden Beluga caviar was wonderfully complemented by a bit of Hokkaido crab meat and the seasoning with citrus and tarragon was simply ingenious.

For our pasta dish, we both went with their homemade maccheroni with blue lobster ragout and sea urchin. If you're looking for a perfect pasta in the city, you're looking at it right now. The bite of the maccheroni was absolutely perfect and the richness of the blue lobster and sea urchin proved to be the perfect match with the al dente pasta.

My meat course was Mayura beef tenderloin, served medium with beef cheek jus, artichoke, baby asparagus and an evil black truffle mash (not as evil as the one from Uncle Robuchon though). I thought the beef was grilled to absolute perfection and the rich beef cheek jus provided the picture-perfect finishing touch. This was really succulent and mouthwatering.

Equally impressive was the baby lamb from Pyrenees, served two ways with aromatic herbs, black olive, barley and vegetables. This was another masterpiece.

I was a little curious with how they do with their desserts because based on their track records (OK, it's my personal experience), things have been a little inconsistent. But I was glad to report that those inconsistencies were a thing of the past now.

The first of our two desserts was one for the chestnut lovers, with chestnut cake, chantilly and marron gelato. Pretty good.

The warm cherry tart with roasted cherries, chantilly and pistachio gelato was another solid offering. I particularly enjoyed the contrasting flavors and temperatures between the warm cherries and pistachio gelato.

I thought chef Bombana would be busy shaving white truffles in one of his overseas restaurants during Christmas but obviously I was wrong. He jokingly told me how BIG my nugget was getting and as usual, we shared a few laughs together.

Food Rating: 8.5/10
Price: $$$$$
Address: Shop 202, Landmark Alexandra, 18 Chater Road, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central
Tel: +852 2537-8859
S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants: 86th (2016)
S. Pellegrino Asia's 50 Best Restaurants: 13th (2016)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Hotshot at The Pulse (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

I used to come to Repulse Bay a lot in the past so this was a nice nostalgic trip down memory lane for me. With all the recent development around the area, I could hardly recognize this place anymore but one thing I do remember very well is the lovely beach. Before we start hitting the beach, it's time to check out The Pulse and explore our lunch options.

We stumbled upon Hotshot, a new American diner with a super chilled and surf-meets-skate vibe.

There's a very nice gallery of surfboards at the corner of the restaurant.

Also in the middle of the restaurant was a giant Kaws-like sculpture that had me thinking about Bibo.

Nantucket lobster roll ($180) - Kicking things off with a detox salad was the initial plan but who could resist a tasty lobster roll with large lumps of lobster meat anyways. This was pretty decent and I like the acidity and spicy kick from the olive oil, lemon and espelette pepper instead of the usual buttery flavors (boring!).

Waffle and southside chicken ($150) - The mix of poultry, waffle and honey mustard got me thinking about Duck and Waffle's namesake dish which we had the pleasure of enjoying just a few months ago. This, of course, was slightly different with the Southern fried free-range chicken replacing the duck leg confit. Pretty nice especially after I poured in lots of honey mustard and maple syrup.

Carbonara fettuccine ($85) - The timeless combo of eggs, cream, cheese and bacon never fails to impress. The portion was a little small to share among the five of us though.

Grilled Cowboy rib eye steak ($280) - The star of the afternoon without a question. Very lovely smokey flavors coming from the rib eye and the meat was perfectly tender and juicy.

It came with a small salad and some tomatoes, potatoes on the side. Excellent choice for sharing among the group.

Outrageous onion rings (+$30) - No way were we leaving an American diner without some good old fashioned onion rings.

For those of you who hate the thick and fudgy shakes, Hotshot has the perfect solution for you as theirs tend to be a little more foamy (Left: Vanilla & caramel; Right: Chocolate, cookies and cream).

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: G/F, Shop 114-115, The Pulse Repulse Bay, 28 Beach Road, Repulse Bay, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: N/A
Tel: +852 2515-1661

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Skye Rooftop Bar and Restaurant (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

I had a little bit of a late start deciding where to go for our Christmas celebration. By the time I started waking up to smell the coffee, all my favorite spots were already fully booked so I had to reach out for my contingency plan. Skye rooftop bar and restaurant was initially not on my radar screen for this festive season but a mix-up with Spiga allowed it to creep in last minute.

We were here about 3 months ago when they first opened and I just fell in love the view here. Too bad the weather today wasn't all that great.

My little pumpkin seemed to love it too.

Pressed foie gras terrine - Starting off our festive lunch was foie gras terrine served with foie maple filo pastry on top and Sauternes sorbet on the side. This was a really clever dish with the filo pastry, duck skin crumble and Sauternes sorbet providing all kinds of different textures and temperatures to the mix. Very nice start.

Barbecued miso Hokkaido scallops - I love miso glazed scallops and they've certainly got a good one here. Like the way the seaweed gremolata and salsify sticks there to balance the richness of barbecued scallops. Very nice.

Char grilled fillet of black Angus beef - Good smokey flavors coming from the chargrilled black Angus beef. The truffled mashed potatoes was decent but with the garlic snails on top, they managed to make it a little extra special.

Roast pork belly - Probably one of the least successful dish on the afternoon. The supporting cast of bacon and hazelnut brussels sprouts, spiced parsnip purée and cider pork jus was actually not bad but the pork belly was nowhere near juicy or tender enough for my liking. Like everybody else, I love my roast pork belly to be incredibly moist with golden crunchy crackling and this one just failed to meet both criteria.

Mont blanc - Hidden underneath the chestnut cream vermicelli was almond crumble and chantilly. Not bad.

Pavé of 70% Guanaja Valrhona chocolate - Somehow they decided to serve this on a tiny little plate which had been used for our bread. Interesting idea (It looked kind of weird sitting next to the mont blanc which was served on a huge plate).

Anyways, thought the salted popcorn ice-cream actually tasted a little better than the chocolate cake, which was supposed to be the centerpiece of this dessert?

After the strong start with two very nice starters (foie gras terrine and scallops), there was a bit of a drop-off with our main dishes and it carried over to our desserts. Still I thought it was a pretty enjoyable meal largely results of the excellent service and incredible view (from the bar). I will definitely come back some other time.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: 27/F, Park Lane Hotel, 310 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Causeway Bay
Tel: +852 2839-3327

Saturday, December 24, 2016

10 of The Best Cafés and Dessert Spots in Itaewon Seoul (2016)

Itaewon (梨泰院) is best known for its diversified culture with a wide variety of shops, bars, cafés and restaurants from different countries coming together in harmony. So that by itself becomes a great reason why the area has become one of the best places to look for trendy cafés and dessert spots in the city. Here is a list of my favorite cafés and dessert spots in Itaewon that are not to be missed if you happen to be spending time in the area.

Passion 5
Passion 5 is a space that combines a bakery, chocolate shop and gelateria all under the same roof. While their bread, chocolate and macarons are all something to die for, their calling card has always been their Japanese influenced pastries that are some of the most instagram worthy desserts in Seoul. Check out their snow white apple cake and more to make your trip to Itaewon even more memorable.

Address: 272 Itaewon-ro, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 2-6207-1029

Lady M Patisserie
If you're a Lady M fan like us, a trip to their Itaewon outpost is simply mandatory. What separates Lady M Korea with the rest of their branches in Asia is the fact that they have got the largest selection of mille crêpes around. For those of you who're tired of their original, green tea and strawberry flavors, come try out other intriguing options like tiramisu, cookie and cream etc. which are currently not available in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Address: 127 Itaewon 1(il)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 02-792-7707

Glamorous Penguins
Tucked away at a little back alley off the main road near Hangangjin station, Glamorous Penguin is a small café with a big heart. They're very serious about their coffee and homemade cakes. Often making headlines are their red velvet cakes and carrot cakes which are some of the best ones in the business but if you happen to be in love with chiffon cakes, then you definitely can't go wrong with their earl grey chiffon cake, which is one of my personal favorites.

Address: 743-41, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 070-7793-7178

While freakshakes didn't exactly catch fire in Seoul like many expected,they did make their presence felt. When it comes to the funkiest shakes in the city, O'Shake is definitely on the top of the list. Try their nutella double shake and oreo double shake which are two of the naughtiest shakes you can find in Itaewon and Seoul.

Address: 49 Itaewon-ro 27ga-gil, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 02-792-5429

A hidden gem on hilly Hoenamu-ro, Maillet is run by a husband-and-wife team who studied together at the Institute Paul Bocuse in Lyon. While Maillet will never win you over with their small number of selection, they will impress you with their quality of French pastries which are as authentic as it gets in Seoul.

(Note: Maillet has recently relocated to Banpo-dong in September 2016.)

Address: 212-57 Itaewon 2(i)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 2749-1411

Frank's flagship store in Itaewon is not the easiest of all places to find but once you manage to locate it, you will be amazed with what they've got in store for you. Their popular rainbow series, including the rainbow roll cake, is what put them on the map in the first place. They are freshly made twice a day (12:30 and 16:30) and often sold out within 15 to 30 minutes so adjust your schedule accordingly!

Address: 258-228 Itaewon(2)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 70-8156-5459

ÉCLAIR by garuharu

Even before L'Éclair de Génie started making their expansion to Asia, éclairs with colorful toppings and fancy flavors are already available in Seoul courtesy of ÉCLAIR by garuharu. Opened in June 2014, this dessert spot on Gyeongnidan Street continues to dazzle locals and tourists with their growing list of innovative éclairs which includes hazelnut praline, coconut & mango and more.

Address: 247-9 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 2-337-8090

Lilikoi Patisserie
Lilikoi Patisserie is a little dessert café near Gyeongnidan Street that sells cute little desserts, pastries, sorbets and shakes. Like many Seoul eateries, they got a shot in the arm from their feature in the popular show "Tasty Road". Be warned about their choux pastry because all the wonderful fillings would most certainly lure you back for more.

Address: 656 Itaewon 2(i)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 070-8884-3344

Gontran Cherrier Artisan Boulanger
From Tokyo to Seoul, Gontran Cherrier is slowly building up a reputation as one of my best young French baker in the business. With their Itaewon branch, they have one of their biggest cafés in the city serving up their always popular bakery, pastries and drinks Parisian style.

Address: 1/F, Hannam Building, 737-37 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 02-796-9416

Kiss The Tiramisu
The famous tiramisu ice-cream shop from Hongdae has recently opened in buzzy Itaewon serving up their signature ice-cream made with fresh mascarpone cheese, fresh milk ice cream, lady finger crumbs and espresso in their elegant gold-rimmed wine glass. On top of their usual take-away option, they also have 3 little bar tables available for dine-in customers.

Address: 723 Itaewon 2(i)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tel: +82 02-796-9416

Other travel tips in Seoul:

(Also see: 10 of The Best Cafés and Dessert Spots in Hongdae Seoul)

(Also see: 10 of The Best Cafés and Dessert Spots in Sinsa Seoul)

(Also see: 10 of The Best Cafés and Dessert Spots in Banpodong Seoul)

How to get there:
Take Subway Line 6 Noksapyeong, Itaewon or Hangangjin station.