Sunday, January 29, 2017

Seasons by Olivier Elzer (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

We did the usual stuff on Chinese New Year day having family gathering at the same old Chinese restaurant in the morning. Then matinee was a visit to our parents' house and of course more Chinese food to come including some festive puddings. My mind was still flooded with images of greasy Chinese food to open the second day of New Year so I made the decision to get ourselves some French food for lunch instead. 

Thankfully, Seasons by Olivier Elzer is already open after a brief closure on Chinese New Year day.

When we arrived, the spacious dining room here was just half full and so was the kitchen. Presumably, some of their chefs were still on holidays?

Scallop tartare, fennel cream and lemon emulsion - I usually started things off with their signature lobster jelly and avocado dish but since it's the start of a new year, perhaps a change would be a sign of good things to come in the year of the rooster?

I went with their scallop tartare this time around. The finely diced fresh scallop was met with a refreshing mix of fennel cream and lemon emulsion, This was served with ice on the bottom to keep the temperature right. Pretty refreshing and definitely not a bad start. 

Prawn / Avocado / Lobster jelly & Romaine leaves - I miss this dish and I miss it badly. This has the perfect balance of flavors coming from the diced prawns, avocado and lobster jelly. The scallop tartare wasn't bad at all but this was just too good. I managed to steal a spoonful of this from mom and yes, it's still the best choice for starter around here.

Fricassée with tomato and Pastis sauce - Almost all five of us agreed on this one, well except one of us. I had this many many times like the previous lobster jelly and avocado dish and I never seemed to get tired of it. The escargots were done just right and the savory tomato and Pastis sauce was perfect with a slight kick of spiciness. Pretty nice.

63C poached egg, mushroom, bacon foam, red wine and shallot sauce - Someone courageous did take the 63 degree poached egg with mushroom, bacon foam, red wine and shallot sauce. This was okay but would definitely be hard pressed to beat out with the escargots fricassée.

Massala prawn with Venere rice risotto - Mom wanted risotto so this was an easy choice for her. I had this dish once before and didn't really like the combination of grilled prawns and "purple rice" but if you happen to be a diehard fan of those two ingredients, then this was worth a punt.

But for me, purple rice is supposed to be sweet so this was just a bit too weird for me when it tasted otherwise.

Duck leg Confit, red cabbage compoté and quinoa - I must have been here way too many times already coz this dish Jelloman was having, I also had the pleasure of having it once before. The duck leg was once again very tender and juicy in the middle while a little crispy on the outside. The red cabbage and quinoa did tone down the flavors of the duck ever so slightly so it won't be too "salty" for the palate.

Stewed wild boar, sweet potato foam and pepper sauce - I went with their stewed wild boar myself and was a little pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Under the layer of crispy crackers and mashed potatoes on top laid a bed of tender and juicy wild boar meat. This was served with a flavorful sauce made with the wild boar jus and pepper so it was a little spicy. There was no sign of the sweet potato foam as advertised in the menu though. 

I thought this dish was seriously good. With Chef Olivier's previous experience at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, there was no question in my mind that he's capable of creating a dish like this with a killer mash (oh yes, lots and lots of butter) but the texture and flavor from the wild boar did surprise me in a good and tasteful way. I definitely won't mind having this again although it might prove to be pretty heavy for those looking for a lighter meal.

Pistachio Paris-Brest and poached pear, yoghurt ice-cream - Most of us went with this dessert because of the combination of pistachio and pear.

It's beautifully plated too. I thought the mild acidity from the yoghurt ice-cream was quite an interesting match with the creamy pistachio and sweetened pear.

White chocolate and cream cheese Chantilly, mixed berries and balsamic-strawberry sorbet - I missed out on the Paris-brest because I couldn't pull the trigger when we initially placed our order. I asked our server to check with me again after the finish of my main dish and that turned out to be a very poor decision on my part as I was later informed that it's already been sold out. So, I was left stranded with this combination of white chocolate, cream cheese chantilly, mixed berries and balsamic strawberry sorbet.

If it's any consolation, I thought the various degree of acidity here did well to offset the richness of my previous wild boar and escargot dishes. It didn't look as good as the Paris-brest but I like the results (as a palate cleanser).

What I enjoy most about Seasons by Olivier Elzer is how they are able to deliver their dishes on a consistently high standard. That's a quality that's not often seen even for some of the Michelin starred restaurants in town.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 308, 3/F, Lee Garden Two, 28 Yun Ping Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Causeway Bay
Tel: +852 2505-6228

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Assaggio Trattoria Italiana at Mira Mall (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Assaggio Trattoria Italiana has gone through some major changes a few months ago with a much revamped food menu and more importantly, reduced prices. That's really great news for diners and I decided to swing by before meeting my hair stylist tonight.

I was pretty excited to see everything on the menu coming just under $100. Nothing wrong to save a few bucks here and there.

Classic Caesar salad ($58) - For this small price tag, of course I'm not expecting the usual sharing portion. This was very nice with the timeless combination of romaine lettuces, shredded bacon, crispy croutons and parmesan shavings working well together. The portion was just right for one person.

Spaghetti carbonara ($78) - This carbonara dish probably cost twice as much in the past so this feels like a real bargain here. I have always loved the pasta dish at Assaggio and this al dente spaghetti was no exception. The creamy carbonara with bacon and parmesan was spot on again.

I was going to check out their tiramisu too but too bad it's time to meet my hair stylist.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: 2/F Mira Mall, 118 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2315-5399

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Operetta (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

Operetta kicked off the gastronomic renaissance at Pacific Place late last year that would see a slew of new restaurant openings (Apinara, Commissary, Bizou, Dim Sum Library etc.) coming through the door to the famed shopping mall in Admiralty over the past 6 months. I have always enjoyed the modern chic design of Operetta so right after my short trip to Taipei, I decided to pay this modern Italian restaurant my second visit.

Marinated salmon with Sicilian style couscous - Getting things started was marinated salmon with a small fennel salad on top and Sicilian style cous cous on the bottom. Pretty refreshing start.

Pappardelle with traditional Southern Italian meat ragu - I didn't get the chance to have any Italian food in Taipei and was therefore longing for a good bowl of pasta. This homemade pappardelle was really good and perfectly al dente. The meat ragu was a little salty in my opinion but still was pretty a solid offering.

Chestnut monte bianco - Dessert cost another $58 but that's okay considering I still got some room left in my tummy. Here we have a trio of sweet delights including a baby pear poached in red wine, vanilla ice-cream and chestnut cream on a tart. Pretty nice touch of sweetness (chestnut cream and vanilla ice-cream) and acidity (poached pear in red wine) which was subtle and well-balance. That was a good wrap for my Italian lunch.

The two-course set (with different starter and main dish options) is going for $168 these days. That's pretty good value for a restaurant of this caliber in the heart of the city.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 112, Pacific Place 1/F, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Admiralty
Tel: +852 2115-8080

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Quelques Pâtisseries 某某。甜點 (Taipei, TAIWAN) ★★★★☆

I promised myself I would return to Quelques Pâtisseries (某某。甜點) one last time before departing for Hong Kong this afternoon and I was glad I managed to keep that promise.

There's obviously something's wrong with this picture because the fridge was totally empty when I arrived!!! What happened there!? It turned out that everything was sold out at 4PM already and the next batch of pastries won't be ready until an hour later. This is seriously bad news!!!

I ended up returning to the crime scene half an hour later, taking the risk of missing my flight but hey, I do anything for good food! B.I.N.G.O.

Fast forward to this scene at the airport. One thing led to another and I got to the airport really late and while I was rushing to the gate, stuff on my trolley flipped over and the next thing I knew, this happened - to my poor matcha cream puff (my Saint Honoré was totally "destroyed" in the process.). Needless to say, I was real upset with myself while taking this photo.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: $$$
Address: No. 23, Lane 102, Section 1, Anhe Rd, Da’an District, Taipei, Taiwan
Closest Metro Station: Xinyi Anhe
Tel: +886 2-2755-4097

Cronutt (Taipei, TAIWAN) ★★★☆☆

The hype around cronuts has cooled off a bit since it was first introduced by Dominique Ansel a few years ago but the interest for this doughnut-croissant hybrid is still lukewarm in Taipei.

Judging by the crowd in front of Cronutt, a cronut specialty shop near Dunhau South Road, we confirm that they're still of high demand.

When I first saw those prices, I thought I was dreaming.....

Unfortunately, my favorite peanut and lemon chocolate flavors were already sold out. 

Original (NT45) - Pretty buttery but not as flaky as I would like it to be. I like the powdered sugar (糖粉) on top though, always a good match with the thin layers of croissant dough.

Oreo white chocolate (NT50) - Decent but a tad too sweet for my liking.

A box of six is going for NT270 these days and for any purchase of at least two boxes, I think they have free delivery service. Check them out if you happen to have a sweet tooth to fix like me.

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: No. 48, Lane 187, Section 1, Dunhua South Road, Da’an District, Taipei, Taiwan
Closest Metro Station: Zhongxiao Dunhua
Tel: +886 2-2778-3332

Pin Tea 茶霸 (Taipei, TAIWAN) ★★★☆☆

Pin Tea (茶霸) is a place I normally go for my bubble milk tea whenever I come to Taipei. Is this one of the best tea houses in the city? Unlikely. As a matter of fact, I have never seen it listed as one of the top places for bubble milk tea anywhere before. But they've been around for a long time and they're very centrally located near Zhongxiao-dunhua station and some of my favorite hang-out places.

The five of us arrived a little before noon time and looked like it has just opened for business.

Taro and wheat germ bubble tea, they're must here at Pin Tea (茶霸).

They have a pretty underrated Taiwanese-style deep-fried chicken that was served with a minced pork rice and winter melon soup. Not bad at all.

Mom went with this Taiwanese beef noodle soup and thought it was just marginally OK. But hey, we came here for their bubble milk tea so anything else would be added bonus.

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: $$
Address: No. 9, Alley 7, Lane 181, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Da’an District, Taipei, Taiwan
Closest Metro Station: Zhongxiao Dunhua
Tel: +886 2-2741-4783

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Meat Feast Hotpot 夠夠肉 (Taipei, TAIWAN) ★★★☆☆

The nicest thing about staying in Da'an District is its really unbeatable location. Not only is it close to all my favorite cafés and cake shops (well, at least most of them), it also offers a great variety of dining options. Today, we decided to explore Da'an Road Section 1 (大安路一段), a well-known paradise if you happen to be hungry. There are countless options here including Le Blanc (Steakhouse from the folks behind MUME), Kikori Yakitori Bar and Ding Wang Hotpot (鼎旺麻辣鴛鴦火鍋).

But at the end of the day, we decide to have some traditional Chinese style hotpot (non-spicy) at Meat Feast Hotpot (夠夠肉) coz we really like their modern and sleek interior.

Like the hot pot restaurants in Hong Kong, there's a counter sitting at the corner here for diners interested in some extra seasoning (sauce, chili, green onion, garlic etc.) for their food.

Everyone starts off with something like this, their own stove, pot and a bowl of assorted vegetables.

The best part of all, this is totally free if you order one of their sets.

Mom is seen here showing off our huge plate of fatty beef (NT580). There's a lot of meat there!!!

Here comes the seafood platter (NT680) with tiger prawns, clams, squid, fish and more!

I haven't had hotpot for a while already so it feels great dipping all these seafood and beef in there.

Soft drinks and ice-cream are both all you-can-eat.

But a word of advice from the owner here.....scoop responsibly coz it's going to take up space in your stomach! Honestly, I don't buy that coz we all have a different stomach for sweet stuff, right!?

We all learn a little something everyday, even from a hotpot dinner. It says here that picking your beef is like picking your wife so choose wisely. Well, I know size could be a factor but I didn't know fragrance, tenderness and bounciness are all part of the consideration. At least I didn't consider those when I got married!

The bill comes in at around NT2,100 for the four of us so about NT500 per head (a little more than HK$100). Not bad for the quality of food Meat Feast has to offer.

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: $$$
Address: No. 231, Da'an Road, Section 1, Da’an District, Taipei, Taiwan
Closest Metro Station: Da'an
Tel: +886 2-2706-5085