Friday, December 8, 2017

Ten On The Bund 外灘拾號 (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

It's been a long time since we last visited Ten On The Bund (外灘拾號), one of the two more reliable Chinese restaurants in Lai Chi Kok (The other one being Greater China Club 大公館). With my sister in town this month, timing was right to give it a long overdue visit.

Roasted whole duck (外灘片皮鴨) ($398) - $400 looked a little steep at first glance but judging from its portion (two large plates like this), it's definitely worth the price tag. I thought the duck meat was really tender and succulent, and the skin crispy and juicy. Too bad it's the only dish that made a strong impression tonight.

Stir fried river shrimp with long jing tea (龍井河蝦仁) ($208) - Unlike the roasted duck, this was a little small. The river shrimp had pretty nice bouncy texture but it's definitely not a dish I would order again if I ever come back in the near future.

Sautéed scallops with broccoli (西蘭花炒帶子) ($168) - It's never wise to order a Cantonese dish like this at a restaurant specializing in modern Shanghainese cuisine. The rubbery scallops were just one of the few problems with this dish.

Steamed minced pork dumplings in Shanghai style (外灘小籠包) ($52) - Back to some of their Shanghainese specialties and obviously, the results were a lot better. The xiao long baos were fairly tasty.

Pan fried pork buns in Shanghai style (上海生煎包) ($52) - The buns were filled with juicy minced pork in the middle. Not bad. 

Soufflé egg white with red bean paste (高力豆沙) ($68) - Haven't had this for dessert for a long long time. Fairly decent offering.

A couple of observations from what I've seen here. For one, the prices have jumped up quite a bit since my last visit more than 2 years ago. Then secondly, there must be someone different at the helm of the kitchen now because some of these dishes which used to be very tasty, tasted very differently this time around. I thought the quality was still decent but it's nowhere near what it used to be. Not even close.

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: 10 Cheung Yue Street, Lai Chi Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Lai Chi Kok
Tel: +852 2336-6776

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Jamie's Italian (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★☆☆☆

Immediately after work, I went off to Harbour City for some early Christmas shopping. In order to avoid the crowd, I thought I made a pretty smart move to have a very early dinner before 6pm. There were numerous options available but I ended up picking Jamie's Italian thinking that they might be able to deliver a really quick meal.

Truffle tagliatelle ($188) - All I wanted was a simple pasta so this homemade tagliatelle with silky black truffle butter, aged parmesan, nutmeg and shaved black truffle should do the trick, I thought. But it turned out to be a pretty underwhelming dish. The lack of truffle flavors totally caught me by surprise and not to mention the overcooked pasta itself. It was a complete fail for me. 

Tiramisu ($78) - A bit of a modern twist on the Italian classic with orange mascarpone and chocolate. It tasted a bit like a chocolate brownie cake from my first bite but it was fine.

I have heard about their new Jamie's Deli which is now part of the restaurant serving some simple deli food including a number of salads, pizzas, bread, sandwiches and pastries. Didn't get the chance to try anything out as I was a bit pressed with time. Perhaps next time.

There're a lot of ways to spend $300 on a dinner at Harbour City but I'm afraid spending it at Jamie's Italian wasn't the wisest choice at all. Let's learn from the mistake and move on.

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 412, Level 4, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 3758-3333

Saturday, December 2, 2017

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

I have been quietly looking for an excuse to come back to L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon and finally, I got one (early Christmas celebration with mom!) this week. The best part of all, I didn't have to do much convincing to recruit my partner in crime (mom) on board.

It's mom's first visit to a Joël Robuchon establishment so initially, I wanted to make sure that mom gets her hands on some of the restaurant's signature dishes. But as we all know the hard way, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. In my case, my morning meeting ran into overtime (more like triple overtime) so I didn't arrive until almost 1pm which gave us a little less than an hour and a half to finish this meal (including my traveling time back). At the end, we had to settle for the 3-course set lunch menu and of course, I let my server know of my tight schedule and he promised to do the best he could to accommodate.

Despite the kitchen's best effort, our amuse bouche didn't arrive until 20 minutes after we placed our order and I had to chase them a couple of times for that to happen. Their excuse was the fact that our amuse bouche needed time to get steamed. But 20 minutes?? Anyways...

I thought this was a pretty nice amuse bouche. The steamed mushroom purée was topped with artichoke cream, mushrooms, crispy croutons and a bit of espelette provided a lovely spicy kick.

La Langoustine - Now that we have got our amuse bouche out of the way, things were finally back on track. I was really looking forward to the intense flavors of this rich langoustine soup which was perfectly complemented by the roasted scampi set at the center of the dish.

The soup was served with brussels sprouts, green beans, shiitake mushroom and squid. I could really sense the amazing aroma coming from the finely spiced bouillon when our server poured it down to the bowl.

Very rich and most definitely very delicious.

La Chataigne - At the same time, mom was having her velvety chestnut velouté with Jerusalem artichokes. I didn't steal a spoonful of it from her like I usually do but I was told, it was silky smooth though lacking some rich chestnut flavor.

Le Canard de Challans - A couple of other main dishes made my short list but I ended up taking the grilled Challans duck breast because I can never resist ducks from Challans.

The pair of duck breast were grilled to absolute perfection with the meat still largely pink while the skin crispy and almost crunchy. It was served with some celeriac purée, pear and foie gras. Not bad.

Les Spaghettis - Mom decided to drop a few bucks more ($30 supplement) for the 
Maine lobster spaghetti with coral emulsion.

Again a wonderful dish with strong and complex flavors coming from the coral emulsion. I was curious why they didn't serve it with Brittany lobsters.

Le Chocolate - I wanted something simple and unpretentious for dessert this afternoon so this fit the bill perfectly. I love the simple combination of "Gianduja" cream, chocolate jelly and earl grey tea ice-cream. The whole thing was showered with something like corn flakes so there's a bit of crunchiness on top of the different textures and flavors.

La Poire - Mom went with the pear compote tart with cinnamon mousse and pear sorbet. A bit better presentation than my dessert and a bit more refreshing as well.

They always have the best petite fours in town. Too bad I was running a little late for my afternoon meeting so I had to grab the profiteroles and raspberry macaron and finished on the go before I passed the gate at the MTR station.

Despite giving the service team a heads-up, the meal ended up taking more than 1.5 hours for just three courses. Can they do a better job in speeding things up? Absolutely. Four months ago, I had a 10-course degustation menu at Ad-Hoc, a contemporary European restaurant in Osaka in just 70 minutes. As soon as I told them I was pressed for time, the chefs there really turned up the heat and managed to deliver the entire meal at an amazing pace. But that was Japan, which I thought was one of the most customer oriented cities in the world. Let's not take anything away from this lunch. I thought all the dishes I had was amazing. Mom had something to say about her chestnut velouté and Uncle Joel's signature mashed potato but for the most part, she thoroughly enjoyed the experience. And that's the most important thing. 

And to my pleasant surprise, I made it to my meeting five minutes ahead of schedule~!

Food Rating: 7.5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: Shop 315 & 401, The Landmark, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central
Tel: +852 2166-9000
S. Pellegrino Asia's 50 Best Restaurants: 41st (2017)

Friday, December 1, 2017

10 of The Best Cafés and Dessert Spots in Shanghai

Shanghai is a much improved gourmet city comparing to the dog days when I used to work in the city almost a decade ago. It now boasts some of the most stylish cafés, cake shops and dessert spots in all of China. For details, here is a list of my favorite cafés, cake shops and dessert spots that are not to be missed in Shanghai.

Chikalicious Dessert Bar

Originated from New York city, Chikalicious is a dessert bar that has sweet lovers in Shanghai jumping in joy. The two-storey venue in Xintiandi serves up a variety of sweets including their signature fromage blanc island "cheese cake" right in front of diners.

Address: 1-2/F, 123 Xingye Lu (inside 88 Xintiandi Boutique Hotel)
Tel: +86 (21) 6333-9233

Le Boulangerie et Patisserie by Le Comptoir de Pierre Gagnaire
For those who's been complaining about the lack of authentic boulangeries in Shanghai, here's a piece of good news for you. World renowned chef Pierre Gagnaire has finally arrived and he has brought his boulangerie from Paris with him. Located on the ground floor of the new Capella Hotel in the former French concession, the bakery shop offers some of the best French bread in the city and the best part of all, it also doubles as a French pastry shop serving up some delightful pastries by young (and handsome) Pastry Chef Clement Ayache.

Address: 1/F Capella Hotel Shanghai, 480 Jianguo Xi Lu, near Yueyang Lu, Shanghai, China
建国西路480号, 上海建业里嘉佩乐酒店1楼, 近岳阳路
Tel: +86 (21) 5466-6688

Angelina Paris
It was sad to see the closure of Angelina Paris in Hong Kong but their sister store in Shanghai is doing just fine. A visit to Angelina is not complete without their famous hot chocolate and if there's enough room for dessert, their equally famous mont blanc will send you home with a happy tummy.

Address: Shop#204, 99 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Xizang Nan Lu, Shanghai, China
黄浦区淮海中路99号204室, 近西藏南路
Tel: +86 (21) 6289-8736

Vivienne Westwood Café
Shanghai's Vivienne Westwood Café was the first of its kind opened and designed by British queen of fashion herself (soon followed by Hong Kong and Taipei). Situated at the K11 arts mall, the café is divided into two areas with two distinctively different themes. The first one is the “photoshooting panel”, inspired by the backstage of a fashion show while the second one takes on a colonial-style setting, reminiscing of a 18th century tea room. Regardless of whether you're a fashion fanatic or not, you should find their afternoon tea experience a memorable one.

Address: 2/F K11 Art Mall, 300 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Huangpi Nan Lu, Shanghai, China
淮海中路300号2楼, 近黄陂南路
Tel: +86 (21) 6316-0261

Victor's Café
Perched on the ground floor of the historic Fairmont Peace Hotel by the Bund, Victor's Café is one of the best kept secrets in Shanghai. On top of their all-day French café menu, the art deco deli also offers some of the city's finest hand-crafted pastries including my favorite mille feuille, hazelnut layer cake and apple caramel cream cake, which are all not to be missed.

Address: G/F Fairmont Peace Hotel, 20 Nanjing Road East, Shanghai, China 
南京东路 20号 
Tel: +86 (21) 6138-6887

Light and Salt
Light and Salt is housed inside a beautiful century-old building that used to be home to the first YMCA in Shanghai. Better known as a modern European restaurant with a great terrace view, it's been quietly dazzling sweet lovers with its decadent dessert menu that changes on a regular basis. Most of the dessert items (6 to 7 choices) are made to order and they are guaranteed to lure you back for more.

Address: 6/F, 133 Yuanmingyuan Lu, near Beijing Dong Lu, Shanghai, China
圆明园路133号6楼, 近北京东路
Tel: +86 (21) 6361-1086

Mr. Choi Patisserie (蔡嘉法式甜品)
Despite a name that is very Korean, the patissier behind Mr. Choi Patisserie is actually Japanese I was told. It started off as a tiny patisserie on XuJiaHui Road and gradually built up its reputation. Today, it's one of Shanghai's most sought after cake shop following its expansion to iapm Mall and Xintiandi. At Mr. Choi, you will find a very good mix of French classics (opera, mille feuille) and contemporary creations (oatmeal cake, matcha cream cake) which is rather difficult to find in Shanghai.

Address: Shop L5-513 & 521, iapm Mall, 999 Huaihai Middle Road, Shanghai, China
Tel: +86 (21) 6495-9727

Cinq Heure Du Matin (卯时法式甜品)
Cinq Heure Du Matin is more than just a small French patisserie in a quiet residential area. Not only do they have some of the most Instagram worthy pastries in Shanghai, their chefs also managed to wow sweet lovers with their masterful blend of ingredients. Just a comfortable 6 to 8 minute walk from Shaanxi South Road metro station.

Address: 114 Maoming South Road, Shanghai, China
Tel: +86 (21) 17702198638

Pain Chaud
Yong Kang Lu (永康路) was once Shanghai's most famous bar street but after a major crackdown more than a year ago, many opted to leave but thankfully, Pain Chaud decided to stay. A French boulangerie doubling as a cake and coffee shop, Pain Chaud has everything you need to start off your day on the right foot, from a warm cup of coffee to their housemade bread and pastries.

Address: 41 Yongkang Lu, near Xiangyang Lu, Shanghai, China
永康路31号, 近嘉善路
Tel: +86 (21) 5424-9630

Kaisiling Cake (凱司令西点房)
Opened back in 1928, Kaisiling was the first bakery in the former French concession that was owned and operated by Chinese. Today, it remains one of the most popular cake shops in the city with their chestnut cake being a symbol of Shanghai's best "old school" desserts. They have a number of shops around the city including this one I visited at the Yuyuan Garden metro station.

Address: 1001 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Maoming Nan Lu, Shanghai, China
南京西路1001号, 近茂名南路
Tel: +86 (21) 6267-5692

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

La Rambla By Catalunya (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Central's notoriously competitive dining scene welcomes another new warrior this week. Taking up the space vacated by the relocation of Isola Bar & Grill at IFC Mall, La Rambla aims to take modern Spanish cuisine to new heights.

In case you're wondering, La Rambla is a new concept brought to us from the folks behind Catalunya, the fine-dining Spanish restaurant in Wanchai who opened doors on Oi Kwan Road more than 5 years ago. Before checking out the food menu of this brand new restaurant, it was time to first admire the harbour view from the ceiling-to-floor windows.

Too bad renovation work was still underway on the terrace so I didn't get the chance to check it out personally.

La Rambla’s kitchen is helmed by Spanish chef Ferran Tadeo, who previously worked at el Bulli and Minibar by Jose Andres. So, a bit of molecular twist perhaps?

Lunch at La Rambla is a semi-buffet affair (unless you choose onion soup over chef Ferran Tadeo's "appetizer spread") where one will find some of the finest Catalan classics including bread, salad, Iberico ham, cheese and various kinds of anchovies.

I first checked out this counter in the middle of the restaurant with different kinds of Iberico cured meat and chorizo.

I guess I couldn't go wrong with the 5J Iberico ham, which is one of the finest Spain has to offer.

The salad bar was really amazing. Special highlights included the giant green asparagus poached and served with a black truffle mayo. 

Esqueixada, a traditional Catalan dish with salt cod fish, tomato, onion, olive oil and vinegar was another good way to start off the meal, along with the scallop salad sitting right next to it.

It's my second dish already and I wasn't slowing down a bit!!!

For my main course, I had a choice between pan-fried monkfish, sautéed red prawn, grilled tenderloin and Spanish paella. And I went with the traditionally cooked paella.

The paella was served on a sizzling hot pan, with pieces of calamari rings on top. Initially, I was curious in how they worked their magic with paella and Hokkaido scallop together. Would there be something innovative in play? Now, I know~

I thought the paella was seriously good (but the one at now-defunct Numero 15 was better) but I was a little disappointed to see that the Hokkaido scallop was simply cooked with olive oil and garlic chip on top of the rice. I guess I was expecting too much from something that was meant to be simple yet tasty.

Dessert was freshly made churros served with chocolate sauce and vanilla whipped cream.

I felt like I have just put on a few pounds after this meal. The appetizer bar was definitely the highlight of the meal and the paella was fairly decent. Now, I better spend some time to walk off my belly fat. Perhaps running around this space station could do the trick for me. 

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: S3071-73, Level 3, IFC Mall, Central, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Hong Kong Station / Central
Tel: +852 2661-1161