Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Passion by Gérard Dubois at Lee Tung Avenue (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

There's still another half an hour before our meeting so I thought I better drop by Passion by Gérard Dubois at Lee Tung Avenue to put my spare time into better use.

I've actually had take-aways here a few times before but it's really the first time I'm dining in. Didn't know their first-floor cafe is so spacious and airy.

My original plan was just to have a quick sip of coffee but then again it's been a while since I last had my hands on their lychee and raspberry cake so.....well, I like the sweetness of the lychee mousse going with the mild acidity from the raspberry but the pastry itself was a little too light and soft as if it's been melting down. Could this be a temperature issue with the fridge?

But the pistachio latte was all good.....

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop G11, G12 & F12A, Lee Tung Avenue, 200 Queen’s Road East, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Wanchai
Tel: +852 2833-6778

Friday, November 25, 2016

Oddies Foodies (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

After a terrific meal at Frantzén's Kitchen, I still got some wiggle room for desserts so on my way back to the MTR station, I decided to swing by Oddies Foodies for some artisanal gelato.

Everyone got to know Oddies Foodies for their contemporary take on Hong Kong's most popular street food, eggettes but the fact is, they are also very serious about their homemade ice-cream as well.

Look at all these wonderful flavors!

Time to sit back, relax and enjoy my cup of milk tea gelato.

Well I have been a little busy with meetings all day so didn't really have time for my milk tea but this more than made up for it. T-O-Tea is primarily milk tea gelato with cacao nibs, oatmeal raisin cookie chunks and maltesers balls. Very nice pick if you're looking for a little bit of caffeine.

Seriously do you really think for a moment that I will leave Oddies with just one dessert? Not a chance! I was just warming up. 

Last time I had a pretty fulfilling experience with their brownie choco chips eggettes so I was looking for an encore tonight. Meet my rice pudding eggettes fresh out of the oven! This was pretty interesting although I personally like the brownie choco chips flavor a little more.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: G/F, 45 Gough Street, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central / Hong Kong Station
Tel: +852 2750-2111

Frantzén's Kitchen (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

Two months ago, when footballer turned Michelin starred chef Björn Frantzén announced on Instagram his attention to open a bistro-style restaurant in Hong Kong, I was absolutely jumping for joy. 2016 has been a horrible year for restaurant openings in the city but that little piece of news finally gave me something to cheer about.

So I have been impatiently waiting for two months and finally there was news that chef Frantzén's new digs, Frantzén's Kitchen, will soft-open on 24th November. Luckily, I was able to get myself a seat on its second day of operation.

Personally, I am a huge fan of modern Nordic cuisine and I'm really hoping that Frantzén's Kitchen can fill the void left behind by the abrupt closure of NUR.

My first impression of this new 36-seater on Upper Station Street was a pretty good one. Just by looking at the detailed drawings on the menu, I knew I would be in for a treat.

The food menu is divided into 3 categories - snacks, dishes and desserts. It's a pretty small menu but covers a lot of ground. Luckily I had some experience with this type of modern Nordic cuisine based on my previous visit to Mathias Dahlgren in Stockholm so I knew what I was up against. Unlike a typical French cuisine where you choose a starter, main and dessert, a meal here will likely consist of 1 to 2 snacks, 2 to 3 starters, 1 to 2 main and if there's still enough room for dessert, then perhaps one dessert.

Apple and lingonberry macaron with foie gras parfait ($60) - I started this highly anticipated dinner off with two snacks. The first one was an apple and lingonberry macaron with foie gras parfait in the middle. I followed my server's instructions very carefully and made sure that I finished this in one bite.

The richness of the foie gras parfait was nicely matched with the acidity from the apple and lingonberry. Very nice start.

Swedish sushi ($80) - A Swedish take on the Japanese sushi. I have seen a slightly different version of this on the web with horse meat but this one uses fallow deer.

The "sushi" had a crispy white moss base layered with raw fallow deer, ceps mayonnaise and frozen foie gras shaving on top. Despite coming in a very small package, it did possess some of the richest and most complex flavors one could expect from a little snack.

Roasted Hokkaido scallop ($205) - I decided just to have one starter tonight so I wanted to make it count.

There's really nothing special about these three pieces of thinly sliced scallops. The key here was the Nordic dashi made with bonito and a touch of ginger oil. Very rich and flavorful and I like the extra kick of acidity from the fingerlime.

North Atlantic cod "Janssons" ($230) - My second dish from the "Dishes" section was slow-cooked North Atlantic cod fish served with beurre blanc along with a little bit of preserved anchovy juice. This was topped with some really expensive vendace roes from Kalix and caramelized onions.

I thought the texture of the cod fish was really light and flaky. Its sweet flavor was wonderfully complemented by the creamy beurre blanc, delicate vendace roes and sweetness of the caramelized onions. A little small for a main dish but pretty nice.

Swedish dairy cow ($280) - I have never had Swedish beef before so this was something to look forward to. I was told the beef was actually prepared by a Swedish butcher, dried aged for 100 days and then shipped to Hong Kong.

This was again a very nice dish. The thinly sliced beef was topped with tiny strips of beurre noisette before they put the finishing touch on with a sprinkle of truffle ponzu and truffle salt. 

Sticky beetroot ($115) - I had a little too much to eat today following a company event that included a lunch buffet. So I was all prepared to call it the night but when our pretty Swedish waitress came up to ask me if I wanted to have dessert, well maybe I would just have a peek at the dessert menu again.

At the end, I asked her to pick one for me and she promptly got me this sticky beetroot, one of their most popular desserts since they introduced it a few years ago in Sweden. It turned out to be a mixture of sticky beetroot, old vinegar, whipped liquorice, sorbet and mixed berries compote. Okay but nothing to write home about.

It was without a question one of the best meals I had in 2016. The food menu is full of surprises from all the unusual ingredients (lingonberry, raw fallow deer, vendace roe from Kalix etc.) I won't find anywhere else in Hong Kong and the creativity, I thought was second to none. My only complaint tonight was perhaps the portions looked a little small on a number of dishes (The cod fish was really small) so after spending $1,100 on this meal, I was still a little hungry afterwards.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: $$$$
Address: 11 Upper Station Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central / Hong Kong Station
Tel: +852 2559-8508

Friday, November 18, 2016

Le Petit Salon x Thomas Trillion (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Le Petit Salon is a little coffee shop on the lobby floor of the Charterhouse Hotel in Wanchai. Last year, I started hearing about them carrying Thomas Trillion's pastries but I never got the chance to check it out personally until tonight. Turns out the space was pretty tiny and making matter worse was the fact that the lobby was constantly packed with people making it a little uneasy to try to enjoy a sip of coffee.

So I opted against dining in and brought everything home instead. Unfortunately, it was kind of late when I got there so all my favorite pastries were already gone.

Red Dome ($60) - I have pretty much tried all the lovely creations from Thomas Trillion but this was an exception (Thought it was a little too "simple"). I thought the combination of blackberry and raspberry mousse, coconut mousse with mango compote and coconut dacquoise was nice, especially the balance of sweetness and acidity but I expected a bit more from chef Thomas.

Twist ($60) - I had this before but it was dressed a little differently in green last time around. The ingredients were more or less the same with delicate vanilla chocolate mousse wrapping around stuff like raspberry cream and caramelized banana. Very delightful contrasts of texture and layers of flavor there.

Food Rating: 6.5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: Lobby, The Charterhouse Causeway Bay, 209-219 Wan Chai Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Wanchai
Tel: +852 2892-3398

Bib n Hops (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

I was just watching the first episode of "Soul Refined" the other night where one of my favorite local chef Alvin Leung talked about making this trip to Seoul to research for his new Korean restaurant in town. What I didn't realize was that this new Korean concept by the demon chef was already gearing up for prime time.

Taking over the space vacated by 3 Michelin starred Bo Innovation who moved next door to where Madam Sixty Ate used to be, Bib n Hops quietly opened its doors about 2 weeks ago. This is a new project that sees the demon chef put a contemporary spin on the finest street food Korea has to offer.

Bib n Hops' kitchen is helmed by Korean head chef, Yong Soo Do, previously the senior sous chef from Jinjuu. I have actually read an article about him in the magazine where they said he really really looks like Hong Kong actor and comedian Johnson Lee (李思捷). And yes, I can really see the resemblance when I met him for the first time this afternoon.

I had about half an hour reserved for this lunch so without even touching the a la carte menu, I went straight to the set lunch menu.

First up was a pretty nice salad with a sesame dressing. 

The leaves were really crisp and there's a good mix of flavors in there (sweet, bitter etc.).

Next up was my main dish, pork belly jumulleok ($108) with gochujang marinated Canadian pork belly and steamed vegetables. The set came with a steaming hot bowl of plain rice.

The pork belly was lightly marinated with sesame oil, salt, garlic and of course, gochujang (Korean chili paste) and then grilled to perfection.

The seasoning was perfectly done with a nice balance of sweet and spicy flavors. And I loooove that bouncy texture of the pork belly. Succulent!

I really like how they put a modern twist on some of these Korean dishes; for example, the raw beef with pear sorbet. That looked so good in the photo. I will most definitely come back for that later this month.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 13, 2/F J Residence, 18 Ship Street, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Wanchai
Tel: +852 2882-9128

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Florilège (Tokyo, JAPAN) ★★★★★

There were plenty of dining options available on our last night in Tokyo. Tirpse, Esquisse and Molecular Tapas Bar all received consideration at some point but at the end, a visit to the highly regarded Florilège proved to be too much to resist.

Owner-chef Hiroyasu Kawate previously spent time in France honing his skills at places like Michelin starred Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier before returning home as the sous chef at Tokyo's three Michelin starred Quintessence alongside chef Shuzo Kishida. He later opened his first solo venture, Florilège in 2009 in a backstreet in Minami-Aoyama and began receiving critical recognition both locally and internationally. Soon following his move into their new 22-seat premise in Shibuya, the restaurant was given the "One To Watch" Award at the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2016 gala dinner.

After a short walk from the Gaien-mae station, we finally arrived at Florilège. The first thing that caught my eyes when I walked through the dining area was its theatrical setting with the open kitchen in a commanding spot in the middle and some 20 counter seats around it.

Chef Kawate could be seen running around the kitchen preparing different dishes in the kitchen.

I knew coming in that Florilège's 11-course surprise menu (at the affordable price tag of ¥12,000) would be as creative and bold as it gets in Tokyo. And there's going to be a ton of local Japanese flavors in there so I just couldn't wait to get things started here.

Starting things off was a little snack made with different textures of sweet potato. With this dish, the chef aimed to re-create the warm atmosphere of Japanese families gathering around the fire making themselves smoked sweet potatoes during winter time.

Stuffed inside the smoked purple potato was sweet potato purée that was soft and delicate.

Now time to get our "weapons" ready.....

Our first starter of the night was deboned pike conger, served with sour cream on top and accompanied by beetroot in three different textures (chip, meringue and powder). This was particularly nice with all the contrast in temperature making it a little more exciting for our palates.

At this point, we were offered some homemade buns which was seriously tasty.

The next dish got us totally off our feet. I knew chef Kawate's contemporary French cuisine is very unique so I wasn't counting on having escargots, foie gras terrine and frog's legs but I certainly wasn't expecting soft shell turtle!

With this dish, we were served with soft shell turtle done three different ways. First, we had this Japanese-style egg custard that was made with hen eggs and turtle eggs on the bottom. That was topped with a gelatine and meat area (neck) which was deep-fried with a thin batter like a tempura. Finally, there's a strip-shaped shoulder area which was slow-cooked and sitting on the side.

To make this even more interesting, the chef has prepared a warm turtle soup just for the dish. The broth was pretty intense with great depth of flavors, which was working wonderfully well with the three pieces of soft shell turtle. A bit weird yes but the results were incredible.

And we're going to have foie gras after all.

Of course, it's not going to be just a boring piece of pan seared foie gras. Instead, it's served raw with sea urchin and pumpkin which was prepared two ways - as a long pasta and in the form of a pumpkin soup. There's a lot of sweetness in there to complement the foie gras and I like the addition of toasted pumpkin seeds and coffee powder for a bit different flavor and texture.

They're doing their part to promote sustainability so here came this shabu shabu dish made with a 13-year old "retired" cow.

Despite the advance age of the cow, I thought the meat was relatively smooth and tender. It combined well with the mashed potato and parsley pesto on top of the rich and flavorful broth.

Next up was a brilliantly executed oyster dish and one of my favorite dish of the night (second to the soft shelled turtle). The Hokkaido oyster was deep-fried with a very crispy crust, topped with seaweed, lemon meringue and served with a shot of vegetable broth on the side. This was a very special dish.

One of the chefs came over and showed us tonight's main course which was a beautifully roasted suckling pig ready to be served after our next dish.

There was just one single blemish from the menu tonight and it came courtesy of our last starter which was Spanish mackerel, or sawara served with cabbage, lemon powder, oyster sauce and seven spices. There were a lot of contrasting flavors in there but unfortunately, most of them failed to mesh with each other.

Things were back on the right track with our succulent sucking pig perfectly matched with wild boar ragout, roasted red pepper and pepper purée. Very juicy.

I forgot to jot down what this was but I vaguely recalled it was some kind of milk serving as a palate cleanser.

The first of our three desserts came with different textures of perisimmon, which I was told was in season at the moment.

Diced perisimmon, perisimmon juice and perisimmon powder (made with perisimmon juice) were nicely prepared with vanilla jelly and agar.

That was followed by a refreshing dish of burrata cheese with yogurt filling and some slices of fresh mandarin.

That was very nice...

Finishing things off for us was chocolate mousse with caramel jelly, hazelnut ice-cream, chocolate cookies, crumbs and some micro celery.

This looked more like an edible piece of modern art to me.

A pair of drunken cherries sent us home with very happy stomach.

We managed to finish our trip on a high note thanks to a very strong performance from Florilège's talented kitchen. With the "One to Watch" award already under its belt, I expect much greater and better things to come from this team in the next few years.

Food Rating: 9/10
Price: ¥¥¥
Address: Seizan Gaienmae B1F, 2-5-4 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Closest Metro Station: Gaiemmae
Tel: +81 3-6440-0878
S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants: 99th (2017)
S. Pellegrino Asia's 50 Best Restaurants: 14th (2017)