Sunday, October 30, 2016

Myung Ga Korean Restaurant at iSquare (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

As a fan of the Korean culture, I like to do at least one Korean meal every month (preferably at a different location). I have been a little busy in October and had to wait almost till the last day of the month to finally get my taste of Korean food.

Out of all the Korean restaurants in Hong Kong, Myung Ga ranked fairly high on my list because of the quality of their beef and its impeccable harbour view.

The Variety of Korean side dishes also fascinates me.

This is the dish I order every time I come here - braised beef short rib in sweet soy sauce ($125). The portion can always accommodate two people and the other thing I can always count on is how tender and juicy the short ribs are. Absolutely amazing.

I found myself in unfamiliar territory here with a new dish (not really a new item on the menu) which I have never tried before - braised beef slices with house gravy ($98). Slightly rubbery if you ask me. I think I better stick with the braised short rib next time around.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 2702, 27/F iSquare, 63 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2369-1177

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Pierre Hermé Paris at The Ritz Carlton (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

We're throwing our first housewarming party this weekend and picking the perfect time to do it too on the eve of Halloween so everyone can do a little dressing up for the occasion. Every one of my friends knew I'm a huge Pierre Hermé fan so unsurprisingly, one decided to get us a box of Picasso's fabulous macarons.

Every year around Christmas time, I try to haul in at least a box of my favorite macarons from a Pierre Hermé boutique so this feels like Christmas arriving earlier this year.

I had the olive and vanilla before (right) and knew how good it tasted (love the thin slices of green olive in there) but this was my first encounter with their orange and basil flower flavor (left).

What a pleasant surprise! Love the fruity orange flavor to go with the basil flower essence. Like most of Pierre Hermé's macarons, the flavors are very complex.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: $$$$
Address: 9/F, the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, International Commerce Center, Kowloon, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Hong Kong Station
Tel: +852 2263-2232

The Salted Pig at D2 Place Two (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

I was a big fan of The Salted Pig when it first opened doors at The L Place on Queen's Road a few years ago. Although that branch has since closed down, the concept is still very much alive. Their third outpost has recently opened in the little known D2 Place TWO of Lai Chi Kok and we decided to check it over lunch this afternoon.

Thanks to D2 Place Phase 1, Lai Chi Kok has finally got some decent dining options (Umai, Rustico etc.) and the newly opened D2 Place Phase 2 promises more or less the same thing (mainly boutiques and cafes).

Along with Simply Italian (SI), The Salted Pig just opened for business at D2 Place TWO with the same rustic decor we have all grown to enjoy from their other branches.

Scotch egg with bacon jam ($68) - I'm starting things off with this all-time British classic.

Boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and coated in bread crumbs. Not bad although I personally like the egg yolk to be a bit more runny.

Caesar salad featuring romaine lettuce, sourdough, parmesan and anchovies ($88) - This comes with optional smoked chicken, smoked salmon or prawns ($30) which we gladly declined. Always a good idea to start a meal with something green!

Knuckle sandwich ($158) - I actually wanted their beef burger but thought better of it. It's better to stick with their piggy dishes coz after all, it's a piggy themed eatery.

This consists of pulled pork, shredded knuckle meat, Louisiana BBQ sauce, slaw and sourdough toast. Throw in some homemade French fries and we got ourselves a pretty decent dish right here.

Blue swimmer crab linguine ($198) - Last but not least, it's one of their signature dish, linguine with blue swimmer crab meat, chili, garlic, white wine and chives. For a house specialty, I expected a little more especially with the sauce, which was a little too watery. I thought going with a creamy white sauce would probably do this dish a little more justice.

Lai Chi Kok has been a good landing spot for new restaurants of late but for The Salted Pig to be successful here, they have got a few things to iron out first.

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: $$$
Address: G02, G/F, D2 Place Two, 15 Cheung Shun Street, Lai Chi Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Lai Chi Kok
Tel: +852 2806-1681

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sekai no Yamachan 世界の山ちゃん (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★☆☆☆

It's been a while since our group J.E.R.K. (from the first letters of our names) came out for dinner gathering. Everyone has been a little busy of late with work, dating, babysitting and traveling so this birthday dinner had been postponed a number of times since August. Our original plan was to meet up at Hooters but then we all decided that we wanted a place a little quieter for our guys' talk so we ended up going to Sekai no Yamachan (世界の山ちゃん) in Tsim Sha Tsui instead.

It was beer's night ($10 per glass) at Sekai no Yamachan tonight. As the owner here described, it's cheaper than drinking water! Well, I have to agree that's the perfect way to wash their Nagoya-style tebasaki (幻の手羽先) down. I admit, I have always enjoyed these crispy Japanese fried chicken wings with the signature sweet and garlicky glaze but somehow they didn't taste as good without a delicious bowl of kimchi fried rice.

They have another relatively new chicken wing on the menu that was grilled with sea salt. Thought they were a little too salty for me.

I'm a fan of Nagoya's signature "miso tonkatsu" and it's a dish I will always order whenever I go to Nagoya. This took a little longer than expected to arrive (around half an hour) and disappointingly, the pork cutlets were way too rubbery for our liking.

Both service and food were slightly better than what I've experienced from my last visit during their soft opening but it's still nowhere near the hearty flavors you'll find in Nagoya.

Food Rating: 3.5/10
Price: $$
Address: B/F Cameron Centre, 57-59 Cameron Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui East
Tel: +852 2568-8857

Beans The Corner (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

It's never too early to have dessert - that's always been my mojo. So right after lunch today, I decided to drop by Beans The Corner to see what they have got new for us. Turns out they have this new kid on the block called Blue.

In between the layers of silky smooth chocolate and orange mousse is a bit of orange gelée. I like the fact that the orange flavored mousse didn't carry too much acidity but thought the base could have been a little more crunchy for a much better bite.

Looks like they haven't lost a beat since opening in Tseung Kwan O and Tai Po. Still one of my favorite dessert spots in Tsuen Wan.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: G/F, 99 Hoi Pa Street, Tsuen Wan, NT, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsuen Wan
Tel: +852 2205-1911

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

YY Kafei Dian (Singapore, SINGAPORE) ★★★☆☆

Of course, a trip to Singapore is not finished until you have a Hainan chicken rice. We still got an hour to burn before taking off for the airport so I decided to bring the family out to Purvis Street for some Hainanese chicken.  

Purvis Street has always been a good place to look for tasty Hainanese chicken as both Chin Chin and Yet Con are highly regarded for their chicken rice. But this time around, I ended up going with a random choice in YY Kafei Dian because the place just looked a little less cramped than the previous two. 

Hainanese chicken - Well, let's get this out of the way. This was surprisingly good. The chicken was velvety with silky smooth skin and a good layer of gelatin.

Oyster omelette - Slightly disappointing. The oysters could have been more fresh. Kind of wasted a pretty decent omelette.

Preserved Turnip Omelette - We ordered two different types of omelettes. This one is my favorite with large chunks of preserved turnip and a bit of minced pork. Perfect to go with my steamed rice.

Braised tofu with assorted vegetables - Not bad. A little surprised that they used egg tofu in this one.

Stir-fried pea sprout - Finally, some veggies to wrap up this meal.

As it turns out, not only were their hainanese chickens pretty popular dish around here, their donuts were also one of the top sellers. They were going fast and furious next to me!

I thought the chicken rice here was actually better than the one I had in Yet Con before and more importantly for us (with our nugget around), YY Kafei Dian looked a lot cleaner and more airy. I will definitely come back just for the chicken rice alone!

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: $$
Address: 37 Beach Road #01-01, Singapore
Closest Metro Station: City Hall
Tel: +65 6336-8813

Monday, October 24, 2016

Wild Rocket (Singapore, SINGAPORE) ★★★★☆

Three days into our trip but we're still awaiting our first Singaporean food experience. While everyone is fully expecting Singaporean cuisine tonight, I decided to throw them a curveball. Instead of the authentic Singaporean food (yawn~) we have all grown to love (or hate), I'm bringing everyone to get their first taste of "Mod-Sin" (modern Singaporean) this evening.

Dubbed as the father of "Mod-Sin", chef Willin Low is the owner-chef of Wild Rocket, an Asia Best 50 restaurant in 2016 (ranked 38th) and one of the most highly acclaimed Mod-Sin restaurant out there. That's where we're heading for our last supper on this trip.

Located on top of Mount Emily, I thought Wild Rocket would be an easy find especially when we were coming by taxi but that turned out to be an adventure as neither of our two taxi drivers knew where it was (we were taking taxis from two separate locations). Luckily, Google Map came to our rescue and we managed to find Hangout Hotel where Wild Rocket is housed.

Wild Rocket can be found on the ground floor of the HangOut Hotel.

This looks more like a modern Japanese restaurant with all the wooden furniture at first glance.

If I'm not here with mom and my nugget, I would most definitely sit at the bar table simply because it would look much cooler sitting there!

The food menu was simple enough with just 13 items on it so it didn't take long for us to nail down what we wanted.

Firstly, a small spring onion brioche to begin our "Mod-Sin" journey.

We were off to a rocky start with our lone appetizer of the night. This was a very plain pomelo salad with tiger prawns. They tried to make it interesting with a frozen coconut dressing (like a savory ice-cream) but it just didn't get the job done.

They were slowly turning the corner with the pasta dishes starting with this tau yew bah soy sauce pork ragout rigatoni with parmesan chips and cherry tomatoes. The wonderful combination of soy sauce pork ragout and rigatoni pasta really caught me by surprise.

But there was no question who the star of the evening was and that honor belonged to the second pasta dish, nori tsukudani spaghettini with king prawn. Billed as the house specialty of Wild Rocket, it certainly did not disappoint. I was absolutely blown away by the strong seaweed flavors from the sauce which was meshing well with the al dente spaghettini. That was just perfect and luckily we did order three portions to share among the four of us!

Obviously, the momentum has carried over to our main courses, at least for our first main dish, 48-hour beef short rib with rendang and achar. This was succulent and tasty. I thought the seasoning would be a bit overpowering but that was not the case at all. In fact, it was right on the money.

After three pretty impressive dishes, things were due to regress I guess. Personally, I couldn't figure this roasted stuffed quail "lor mai gai" out.

This would probably work better with foie gras as our friend Mr. Robuchon has demonstrated over the years. For me, this lor mai gai (or steamed glutinous rice with chicken 糯米雞) inspiration clearly didn't work with the roasted quail and stuffing of steamed glutinous rice. Perhaps doing it the other way around with quail meat inside the steamed glutinous rice would yield slightly better results (okay, I'm just kidding)!?

Dessert was again a little disappointing. I had the wild rocket strawberry cheesecake, a deconstructed dessert which came highly recommended by our server but it was nothing more than a combination of cheese, maple walnut ice-cream, candied strawberries and chocolate cookie crumbs.

We had three really amazing dishes (two pasta and the rib) tonight. I thought the pasta dishes were definite must here and the short rib was equally great. From those three dishes, I could see they were true to their words in refining the boundaries of Singaporean cuisine by adding contemporary twists while retaining the traditional flavors. Then, there were the other three (pomelo salad, roasted quail and deconstructed cheesecake) which were very marginal and average at best.

For me, this is the perfect way to explore modern Singaporean cuisine but I would personally like to see a bit more consistency over all of their dishes.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$
Address: G/F Hangout Hotel, 10A Upper Wilkie Road, Singapore
Closest Metro Station: N/A
Tel: +65 6339-9448
S. Pellegrino Asia's 50 Best Restaurants: 38th (2016)

Lady M Confections (Singapore, SINGAPORE) ★★★☆☆

After a real big lunch at Les Amis, mom and I decided to walk it off along Orchard Road and that was going so well until we ran into a Lady M!

This is just a real weird looking café to me. They have these two long staircases in the middle of everything and some of the seats were placed immediately next to them, some even in a cinema-setting. I really feel for the servers here who have to walk up and down the stairs a few hundred times per day. Ouch!

Some freshly pressed juices to start things off.....

Marron mille crepes (SGD9) - Twenty layers of handmade crepes and chestnut-kissed pastry cream, crowned with a flurry of powdered sugar. I had this when I was in Seoul a few months ago but this was slightly different without the chestnut puree on top. Instead, there were chunks of chestnut in between the layers of crepes. I like this a little better than the one in Seoul.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$
Address: #01-27 & #02-07 Orchard Central Shopping Mall, 181 Orchard Road, Orchard Central, Singapore
Closest Metro Station: Somerset
Tel: +65 6509-3673

Les Amis (Singapore, SINGAPORE) ★★★★★

It's been more than 7 years since I last visited Les Amis, the iconic French restaurant at Shaw Centre who first opened doors back in 1994. A lot has changed over that 7-year span. At the helm of this fine dining stalwart is now executive chef Sebastien Lepinoy, a long-time Robuchon protégé who left L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon Hong Kong to join the Les Amis Group in 2010. After having a cup of coffee with Cépage, the group's fine dining restaurant in Hong Kong, he returned to Singapore as their flagship restaurant's chef de cuisine in 2013. Under the guidance of chef Lepinoy, Les Amis is fresh off their first two Michelin stars in the inaugural guide for Singapore which was just released this July.

The staff here was kind enough to arrange a private dining room for us with front row seats to the kitchen. Hopefully I can steal a thing or two from pastry chef Cheryl Koh and her team who are working hard behind that (sound proof) glass window.

Les Amis offers a number of options during lunch service, including le menu express (3-course set menu at SGD65 but with fixed items only), le menu formule (3-course + 1 dessert at SGD90) and le menu automne (6-course degustation menu at SGD155). We all decided to go with le menu formule since it's the only one that gives us the flexibility to choose our own appetizer, main and dessert.

Our amuse bouche was an entertaining set of small nibbles starting from right to left, Mediterranean tart with zucchini, eggplant and olive, melted cheese on top, comté cheese with air-dried beef and last but not least, sardine rillette.

That was accompanied by a homemade sea salt brioche. This was pretty flaky but when it comes to brioche, nothing beats my favorite brioche from La Maison Troigros

A further amuse bouche, Lobster Royale, soon followed. Here we have poached lobster meat and shittake mushroom sitting on a bed of egg custard and finished with lobster bisque foam atop.

We were finally ready for our cold appetizers and starting things off for me was duck foie gras terrine which was dry aged for 10 days. This was beautifully decorated with quince compote, edible flower and as usual, served with slices of pain de campagne (country bread) on the side. Pretty good start.

Equally elegant was the other cold appetizer, crab prepared au court-bouillon served in a roll of feuille de brick (copying directly from the menu here). I like the way they complemented the crab with salmon and caviar to give it slightly different texture and flavor to work with.

I couldn't wait to get started with my hot appetizer here and judging from its presentation, it's going to be another nice treat for my palate. The steamed lobster was neatly hidden underneath the turban of spaghetti and it was topped with seasonal truffles and simmered in a fairly intense Americaine sauce.

Unfortunately, this didn't taste as well as it looked. The lobster, in particular, tasted a little more like minced lobster which was disappointing, especially considering that there was a supplement of SGD10 tagged on this dish.

But other than that little blemish, the rest of the warm appetizers were simply perfect. The seared scallop with caviar, clams and scallion sauce was spot on and well executed.

Same goes for the pan-seared duck foie gras and French river eel with citrus fruit compote and dashi. Love the sesame crust on the thick slab of duck liver giving it some extra bite to go with the savory river eel and citrus fruit.

For the first time all afternoon, we all agreed on one thing and that's our main dish, ballotine of pigeon breast from Anjou with duck foie gras, wrapped in a tight piece of lardo di colonnata and cabbage. This has a lot of "Robuchon" in it. We all learned how well pigeon breast meshes with duck foie gras from our days at the Robuchon restaurants. I did my best to lose the fatty lardo di colonnata just to cut down my consumption of cholesterol from this meal.

Dessert provided yet another highlight for everyone. Behind the masterful work of pastry chef Cheryl Koh, we were presented with two gorgeous desserts starting with this crisp sugar sphere filled with Sollies figs.

Inside the hand-blown sugar sphere was delicate fig and raspberry sorbet, perfectly matched with caramelized figs, mascarpone cheese and a touch of rosemary on the bottom. Superb dish.

I was looking for something a little more refreshing and fruity and the poached williams pear in an infusion of star anise, bourbon vanilla with a light caramel sauce turned out to be the perfect choice for me. 

Les Amis looks like a much improved side since my last visit. I was amazed with how chef Lepinoy put his stamp on his brand of French haute cuisine with a bit of modern twist. From what I've seen this afternoon, they are well worth their two stars.

Food Rating: 8/10
Price: $$$$
Address: 1 Scotts Road, #01-16 Shaw Centre, Shaw Centre, Singapore
Closest Metro Station: Orchard
Tel: +65 6733-2225
S. Pellegrino Asia's 50 Best Restaurants: 12th (2016)