Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Second Draft (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

After not setting foot in Tai Hang for almost the entire 2016, I was hoping to make it two in a roll following a pretty successful outing at Warren last week. This time around, my destination is Second Draft, a neighborhood gastropub just recently opened on the ground floor of a modern condo building in Tai Hang and I have recruited my buddy V as my partner in crime for this one.

I told myself I already had enough of East-meets-West cuisine this year but Second Draft was a little difficult to pass up because it's the brainchild of two of the rising stars in the local culinary scene - May Chow of Little Bao fame and James Ling from The Ale Project. 

Just about everybody in the city (including myself) is very much into the good old Hong Kong theme these days so unsurprisingly, Second Draft also went with this approach of a crossover between a colonial style beer pub and local cha chaan teng.

I must admit, I like this decor a lot. The nostalgic vibe has added something a little extra for the overall dining experience.

This is my first taste of the locally brewed "Young Master" craft beer (少爺麥啤) and I have to say, I'm pretty amazed with the wide variety of flavors they have to offer. V and I had a long discussion on which one to pick and these ones all came across our mind.

  • In The Mood for Spring / 花釀年華
    • Flavor: Earthy
    • What's special about it: Jasmine, Chrysanthemum and Osmanthus 
  • Mo’ Mo’ Wit / 夏日麼麼啤
    • Flavor: Spicy
    • What's special about it: Chen Pei (陳皮), Housemade 5 spice blend
  • Fussy Peachkin Man
    • Flavor: Fruity
    • What's special about it: Pumpkins, Peaches, 5 spices, Condensed Milk

But soon I realized that I wasn't really all that adventurous when it comes to beer so I ended up taking one of their most popular one which is the Young Master Classic.

Second Draft's food menu mainly focuses on East-meets-west dishes that are meant to be shared but before we got into that, we decided to kick things off with some snacks first. 

Inked croquettes with squid ink and dried oysters ($28/pc) was their modern take on the Spanish croquettes but with a local twist.

It was finished with a chimichurri sauce on top. Pretty nice.

Next up was Mapo Burrata ($138), a dish that was often seen on magazines and social media whenever they talked about this gastropub.

I was mighty impressed with the burrata that was soft, rich and buttery at the same time. But I had no idea how well it would work with pork "mapo" ragout until I had the very first bite. That was almost like a marriage made in heaven. The only knock was the slightly over-seasoned pork ragout which was tasty but a bit too spicy.

Unfortunately, our main dishes didn't follow up strong like the appetizers. I like the Chinese spin on the braised octopus and pork belly ($148) with the nam-yu sauce (南乳醬) and pickled garlic but the combination of flavors fell a little short of our expectation.

Flower crab pasta ($198) was supposed to be the highlight of the night. The gastropub's own version of carbonara was inspired by the Shanghainese imitation crab (賽螃蟹), featuring flower crab meat, egg white, egg yolk, thick Shanghainese noodles and a creamy butter sauce.

Like the actual Shanghainese imitation crab dish, a raw egg yolk was placed on top and we were instructed to mix everything together well, including the special black vinegar that was provided on the side.

I thought the acidity from the black vinegar was a fine touch to the dish, contrasting well with the rich and creamy pasta but there's just not enough flower crab meat in there to make it fully work (Not enough texture in the mix).

There were no desserts available on the menu except for chocolate, vanilla and milk-tea ice-creams which we gladly declined. So we quickly settled the bill and took a short walk to Fortress Hill for our favorite Chinese desserts.

It was another fine East-meets-West experience but this theme (Fish School, Kasa, The Drunken Pot, Sohofama just to name a few here) is beginning to get a little overused (and boring) these days. Like I said during the start of this post, I think I had enough of this by now. It's time to start another trend.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: G/F, Little Tai Hang, 98 Tung Lo Wan Rd, Causeway Bay, Tai Hang, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tin Hau
Tel: +852 2656-0232

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Triple O's (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

I have to give Triple O's a lot of credit for coming up with all these new milkshake flavors every other month. Following the success of their mint and coconut milkshakes, they just recently launched another one last week - Pineapple milkshake! 

This is basically crushed pineapple and vanilla ice-cream. Very nice tropical theme for the summer! 

Price: $$$
Address: Shop G004, G/F, Elements, 1 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Kowloon Station
Tel: +852 2889-1000

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Dalloyau Le Café (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

After a pretty happy meal at the new Café Deco, I realized that I still got some unfinished business in Tsim Sha Tsui, and that being a visit to the new Dalloyau Le Café at the Harbour City.

Their truffle ice-cream has become quite a social media sensation in the last little while. For whatever reason, I have yet to lay my hands on one of these so while I'm in the neighborhood, I thought I should get this out of the way.

They have three different flavors ($50 each) to choose from - truffle original, truffle chocolate and twist (truffle original+truffle chocolate). To ensure that I get to taste both flavors, original and chocolate, I decided to go with the twist.

Wow, the truffle flavor was so rich and addictive. No wonder my nugget also wants a lick.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 3220, Level 3, Gateway Arcade, Harbour City, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 3185-8330

Cafe Deco @The ONE (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Starting in September, you don't have to climb up to the Peak to catch Cafe Deco anymore. The storied restaurant has recently moved out of the Peak Galleria due to renovations ending a successful run of 22 years which has seen it becoming one of the most iconic restaurants there. Its new landing spot does not quite have the same stunning view but at least, it's right in the heart of the city.

Taking over the space previously known as Tapagria and Zurriola, Cafe Deco officially opened its door early this month on the 20th floor of The One in Tsim Sha Tsui. Yes, the view is not as up high as it used to be but still pretty amazing from here.

Like Cafe Deco at the Peak, their new establishment at The One also features the same global inspired menu with a good mix of western and Asian flavors. Apart from their a la carte menu, their set lunch offers pretty good value-for-money starting with a complimentary salad bar.

But personally, I recommend not to waste too much time here.

Porcini mushroom soup, also part of the set menu, fares much better than anything from the salad bar in my opinion.

Four of us all wanted something light this afternoon and decided to order four (light) dishes to share. The first dish, classic Caesar salad with grilled lemongrass chicken skewer, features some fairly crisp romaine lettuce but I thought the chicken satay was a little off the mark (slightly too chewy).

Octopus carpaccio with chorizo and red capsicum vinaigrette looked really colorful and instagram-worthy but lacks the bite I was hoping for, despite the good balance of flavors.

Better was La Genovese, with Garganelli pasta and topped by Neapolitan beef and onion sauce. I like the texture of the Garganelli in this one.

But there was no question which was the best dish of the afternoon - Nasi goreng (印尼炒飯) with shrimp, spicy chicken wings and fried egg. The rice was moist and perfectly seasoned. Pretty nice.

Two pretty decent dishes versus two pretty average ones. But I'll give them benefit of the doubt because it's Cafe Deco, a restaurant I grew up with as a kid.

Food Rating : 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: 20/F The ONE, 100 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2849-5111

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Warren (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

For the first time in a long long while, I got to rest my brain while someone else decides where to have our dinner gathering. All I need to do is to show up at the right time. That's so nice. Perhaps I should let someone else decide more often.

To be brutally honest, I don't really know Tai Hang all that well, despite it's just in the backyard of Causeway Bay. Neither do I know much about our dinner venue, Warren. All I knew was that, it's a brand new French bistro on the ground floor of The Warren (a residential building presumably).

Turns out Warren wasn't the easiest place to find (even with Google Map) but when I did finally locate this little 15-seater, I was pleasantly surprised with its cozy ambiance which was a little tough to find outside Soho.

We started things off with some homemade bread first.

It was served with some homemade truffle butter. The butter was very aromatic. Not bad.

Between the three appetizers from the set menu, I picked the pan-seared foie gras with mango chutney (tasted a bit like apricot) and port wine sauce. This was nicely done with a little bit of balsamic vinegar and crumbs for the finishing touch.

Next up was French onion soup. I have always been very picky about onion soup but this one surprised me with its sweetness. A quick chat with the restaurant manager revealed that it was the additional chicken stock that has provided the extra sweetness. Very nice.

My main course was salmon confit, supposingly a signature dish here. This turned out to be a fabulous choice for me. The "melt-in-your-mouth" salmon worked wonderfully well with white wine cream sauce and I love the daikon on the side. Very sweet and juicy!

Warren has to be one of the pleasant surprises in 2016 so far. I will definitely try to come back another time to take on their Hokkaido scallops carpaccio and Spanish pork belly. 

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$
Address: Shop 1, G/F, The Warren, 9 Warren Street, Tai Hang, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Causeway Bay / Tin Hau
Tel: +852 2392-5121

The Continental (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

In early August, I was there when chef Joey Sergentakis started taking over the reigns at The Continental for the first time. The new food menu looked pretty encouraging at the time and a second visit was already in my plans. I just didn't envision it happening as soon as next month.  

This time, I'm bringing someone with spoiled taste buds (mom) with me.

After some really good focaccia, lunch formally started with a trio of Spanish octopus that was served with braised lentils and a hazelnut romesco sauce. Everything seemed to be on the right track but I thought the fried octopus (or confit) was a little on the hard side for me.

I like our second starter a lot more. This is a beautifully prepared langoustine on a bed of
squid ink risotto finishing with some lemon zest on top. The langoustine was well-seasoned and had that nice bouncy texture working well with the slightly gluey squid ink risotto.

That was followed by the first main dish, applewood smoked cornish game hen (just thigh and leg) with corn purée, bacon fricassée and chipotle glaze. This was just OK.

More successful was the Icelandic cod fish, slow-cooked and served with Vongole clams, chorizo, cherry tomatoes, cranberry beans and piperade. The piperade was a welcome addition to the dish providing something soupy and flavorful in the mix.

With chef Sergentakis' Greek background, it came with little surprise that we had something Greek for dessert. The Galaktoboureko, or Greek custard pie with crispy phyllo and candied orange was decent but on this day, I was looking for something a little more sweet.

It's been an up-and-down day from the kitchen. Perhaps it's just me but I found the dishes from the a la carte menu (langoustine and cod fish) quite a bit better than those from the set menu. But why the inconsistency!?

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Unit 406, L4, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Admiralty
Tel: +852 2704-5211 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Operetta (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

Operetta is a new modern Italian eatery recently opened on the first floor of the Pacific Place taking up the space previously occupied by Dan Ryan. 

What really caught my eyes about Operetta in the first place is the name of their culinary director, chef Mitsuru Konishi, formerly of 2-star Michelin restaurant Wagyu Takumi which is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. This time, he's teaming up with chef Fabio Sgrò to offer some of the best Italian comfort food including pizza, pasta, charcoal grilled meats and pastries.

I like the fact that they're open at 11:30am which is perfect for someone like me who don't believe in having a big breakfast.

Some bread to start me off while I wait for my appetizer.

From the décor, I thought this is going to be a fine dining restaurant but they're definitely not kidding when they said casual dining. Just look at my appetizer - deep fried chicken wings with sesame seeds and dried chili.

It was a little difficult working on those three chicken wings on such a small plate with my fork and knife. But somehow I managed to "debone" each and every one of them. This was very tasty. The seasoning was a little on the heavy side but I like it especially with the added flavors from the dried chili.

It was a tough call between their artisanal spaghettini and pan fried cod fish but at the end, I decided to go for something from the sea. This was a similar type of black cod fish I had at CIAK In the Kitchen a while ago. They were serving it with a celery root purée and brown butter sauce which was an excellent choice.

The 2-course set was well priced at $260 ($65 to add a dessert). Not too shabby for an upscale Italian restaurant in the heart of Admiralty. I'm already planning to bring mom here on my next visit.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 112, Pacific Place 1/F, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Admiralty
Tel: +852 2115-8080

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Maison on Wellington Street (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

I was doing my occasional café hopping in Central this afternoon when I ran into this small coffee shop called Maison. Looks like they're still doing their soft opening but no harm going in to see what they've got right?

I have to agree with what my friend Fishie said about this place - it looks like a convenience store in Tokyo. The low-profile and simple color scheme coupled with the glass walls; they got me fooled at my first glance too!

Having got a steady diet of caffeine the last few days, I wasn't ready for another sip of coffee for the next little while. Thankfully, they have more than just coffee or tea. Perhaps, a nice cup of frappé will serve me well under this nasty heat.

They've got some pretty "standard" frappés like espresso and banana chocolate (Skinny Monkey they called it) that you will find in most coffee shops. And then, some with Japanese inspirations such as Fujiyama and Summer Matcha, that you don't see very often. But as a peanut butter junkie, their "Hongkie Waffle" ($46) is right up my alley!

Peanut butter, condense milk and organic milk with some crushed peanuts. That's a refreshing boost to help chill out during this blistering summer day.

Price: $$$
Address: UG, 83 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Hong Kong Station

Ee Da Le (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

Celebrity chef Harlan Goldstein is coming back with a vengeance. Following less than a year's hiatus, the hulking chef is returning to the local dining scene with a bang. And this time around, he's not returning with just one, not even two but three new restaurants all on Lyndhurst Terrace (擺花街)

Ee Da Le, meaning “Italy” in Cantonese, is the first of the three restaurants to debut last month. And the writing is already on the wall - it's a rustic Italian eatery serving modern and classic Italian dishes.

This first looks a little funky for a rustic Italian restaurant but I like the Italian opera-skirt inspired lampshades combining well with the predominantly wooden interior. 

A little nibble to get us going first while we waited for our starters to arrive.

First up was something that we ordered from the set lunch menu - vine-ripened tomato tartare.

It was topped by some rocket leaves and a slab of mozzarella while finishing with a balsamic dressing. Not bad.

Another starter was one of my all-time favorite Italian dish - Fritto di calamari. These crispy squid rings were nicely coated with a light crisp batter and served with two different dips, garlic tomato sugo and chili pickle mayo. Yum~

Chef Harlan has always been exceptionally good with sous vide salmon so the 44 degree slow-cooked salmon was the easy choice for me from the set menu.

The salmon fillet was really nice and soft with that melt-in-your-mouth texture but I thought the pumpkin orzo was a little too sweet as I would much prefer something a little more powerful (such as acidic) for an extra added kick to the flavors.

I can always count on Chef Harlan's homemade pasta and I just know I can't go wrong with this pappardelle with wild forest mushrooms, pancetta, smoked egg and grated D.O.P. Pecorino. It was soooo goood...

Ee Da Le's hearty Italian dishes are meant to be shared among friends. Looks like I have just found the perfect venue for my next guys' gathering.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$
Address: 3/F, 8 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central / Hong Kong Station
Tel: +852 2896-1838