Thursday, August 31, 2017

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

After my recent run of pasta and pizza (with the occasional cheese fondue), I knew I was due for some Chinese and French food when I come back. Instead of waiting until the weekend, I thought I should check a couple of those off my list during the week, with Seasons by Olivier E the first on my agenda.

It's been a while since I last visited this place on a weekday.

As a solo diner, I had no problem being put on the counter seats. Who knows, maybe I could learn a thing or two by sitting next to the open kitchen.

Prawn, avocado, lobster jelly and chilled romaine leaves - This is the same way I kick off my meals at Seasons since I started coming here a few years ago (except one other time I started with their scallop tartare). It 's a brilliant dish that I probably would never get tired of. This time, I noticed a bit more espelette in there than usual but still great combination of flavors and textures. Wonderful start.

Scrambled egg, spinach, summer truffle, garlic chips and crispy bacon - I decided to explore some new dishes this afternoon. This is one of the two dishes I ordered which I have never tried before.

This is a very busy dish with a lot of ingredients highlighted by, of course, the scramble egg and summer truffle. I thought the scramble egg was really buttery so I am guessing it had a considerable amount of butter in there. Perhaps more so than egg itself. Honestly, it wasn't bad considering the amount of summer truffle there but I was kind of expecting more.

Pan seared beef tenderloin with mixed green salad, peppercorn sauce - I had their beef cheek on a number of occasions but it was the first time I tried their tenderloin.

I was expecting something along the line of a couple long strips (or slices) of beef but instead it was a big and thick piece of steak like a traditional filet mignon.

There were two things I didn't like about this beef tenderloin. First and foremost, it's a bit overcooked. When I asked for medium, I expected at least a little bit of pink in the middle but it looked a lot more like medium well to me. Then, it was the sauce. If I'm looking for a steak served with peppercorn sauce, I probably would have gone to a steakhouse instead of a Michelin starred French restaurant, right?

This small bowl of salad with zucchini, tomato and eggplant was pretty good though.

For the first time since I started visiting Seasons by Olivier E three years ago, I walked out of this place with my head down. Food wasn't particularly bad today, just that I had such lofty expectation for this talented kitchen.

Food Rating: 6/10
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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

6 of the best Patisseries and Dessert Spots near Higobashi Osaka

Higobashi is one of Osaka's foremost business districts where exciting and high-end restaurants are far and few in between. Same goes for cake shops and dessert spots but if you're willing to dig a little deeper, you may just unearth a few hidden gems in the area. I know I did and here are the best cake shops and dessert spots around Higobashi Station.

Les Petites Papillotes
An artisanal chocolatier that also doubles as a patisserie, Les Petites Papillotes burst into Osaka's dessert scene back in 2012 and never looked back. Some of my favorites here include their Levant (a chocolate dome cake made with chocolate mousse and praline), Anglaise (bitter chocolate and vanilla beans) and Cubique (bitter chocolate mousse and marron paste). A chocolate lover's haven!

Address: 1-12-24 Kyomachibori, Osaka, 550-0003 Japan
Tel: +81 (0)6-6443-7875

A traditional French patisserie not too far from Les Petites Papillotes, Seiichiro NISHIZONO offers some of the finest authentic French pastries in town including mille feuille, cream puffs and fruit tarts. 

Address: 1-12-25 Kyomachibori, Osaka, 550-0003 Japan
Tel: +81 (0)6-6136-7771

Les Gouters
A hidden gem in an residential district right next to Utsubo Park (靭公園), Les Gouters is a colorful pastry shop by award-winning owner-chef Shiro Sawai (澤井 志朗) who has won numerous competitions in both the national and international stage. They have some of the best tasting pastries in the area highlighted by their white peach cake (seasonal) and tiramisu which are both my favorites.

Address: 1-14-28 Kyomachibori, Osaka, 550-0003 Japan
Tel: +81 (0)6-6147-2721

W Bolero
W Bolero combines a cake shop and tea salon (22-seater) both under the same roof. They have some of the best selection of pastries in the area (along with Les Gouters) and are the perfect spot for afternoon tea after a busy shopping day in Shinsaibashi. 

Address: 4-7-4 Kawaranachi, Osaka, 541-0048 Japan
Tel: +81 (0)6-6228-5336

Gokan (五感)
Comparing to the other patisseries on this list, Gokan is more of an old school cake shop with a strong Japanese twist. Expect a lot of roll cakes among other Japanese inspired delicacies at this branch of Gokan situated on the ground floor of Nakanoshima Daibiru, an upscale commercial building on the beautiful island of Nakanoshima.

Address: 1/F Nakanoshima Daibiru Building, 3-3-23, Nakanoshima, Osaka, 530-0005 Japan
Tel: +81 (0)6-6225-3303

I’ve always loved clean, minimalistic shop designs and 菓菓かはん (Confectionery Confectionery) is exactly that. They specialize in florentine biscuits which are made with the best Japanese ingredients, and seasonal fruits and nuts.

Address: Shop C03, B1F Festival Plaza, Nakanoshima, Osaka, Japan
Tel: +81 (0)6-6229-0070

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hòmee Kitchen 好饗廚房 (Kaohsiung, TAIWAN) ★★☆☆☆

We were supposed to wrap up our 2-week vacation in Italy and Switzerland today but it ended on a sour note thanks to typhoon Pakhar. Our flight from Zurich was turned back a number of times by the guys at the Hong Kong airport traffic control and citing poor weather conditions under typhoon 8 signal, our pilot was finally instructed to make a temporary stop in Kaohsiung until the weather clears up.

So, this leads to an unexpected extension of our Taiwan! Well, Kaohsiung International Airport to be exact.

We were later told that five other flights were re-routed to Kaohsiung along with ours. As always, someone's loss is another's gain. With an unexpected influx of travelers today, Hòmee Kitchen (好饗廚房), a small cafe at Kaohsiung International Airport has seen a sudden boost in their income. Yours truly also ended up camping here for more than seven hours waiting to catch our flight back home.

Rice vermicelli with fish balls has never tasted so good. Same goes for the iced milk tea with pearls. Thirst quenching!

Taiwanese-style braised beef was finished up in a couple of minutes.

This unfortunate incident has given me a chance to explore Kaohsiung International Airport in great details and I have to say, I was more than impressed with what it has to offer (except food options). Child care facility, mini chapel, massage parlor and mobile charging station are just a few of the many facilities that you won't expect from a small airport of such capacity. Too bad I won't be flying here anytime soon.

An ocean theme kids' playground

Nursery and breast-feeding room

Mobile charging station

Price: $$$
Address: 3/F Departure Area, Kaohsiung International Airport, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Friday, August 25, 2017

Santa Lucia Niederdorf (Zurich, SWITZERLAND) ★★★☆☆

After spending more than two weeks on the road, everyone was kind of relieved that it's almost over. One last night in Zurich and last night of this trip for that matters, we just wanted something simple for dinner. Let's finish early, go pack our bags and crash!

Founded in 1965, Santa Lucia is an Italian restaurant chain with 12 branches across Switzerland, 8 of those are actually inside Zurich.

Hidden in the cobbled alleyways of Zurich's historic old town, Santa Lucia Niederdorf is famous for its wood-fire pizza and homemade pasta. 

I love an airy, light-flooded restaurant with lots of natural lights.

There's actually an outdoor patio just 20 staircases down from us but since most of us were already hobbling after all the walking on this trip, thanks but no thanks. Indoor suits us just fine.

Linguine, prawns and cherry tomatoes tossed in a creamy tomato sauce, with a little sprinkle of basil leaves. That's going to be my first supper in Zurich. I hope to be back soon coz I've always enjoyed visiting Zurich. There's not a whole lot to see here but I like the calming atmosphere around the city. Slow living, I bet all Hongkongers could use some of that.

Zurich's Old Town is small but there's plenty to see around here.

Just now, there's a small festival going on this week showcasing different kinds of street food.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Marktgasse 21, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland
Tel: +41 44 262-3626

Confiserie Sprüngli Bahnhofstrasse (Zurich, SWITZERLAND) ★★★☆☆

I was looking for some nice souvenirs to bring back home and since we have been vacationing in Switzerland for the entire week, I couldn't help but think of chocolate as the perfect gift.

Confiserie Sprüngli is a luxury chocolate brand originated from Zurich and they have been spoiling chocolate lovers around the world for 175 years.

I could tell most of the customers here were tourists from different corners of the world.

Apart from their chocolate, their macarons are also a top seller, highlighted by their signature Luxemburgerli (mini-macarons).

Their Luxemburgerli, which is an airy mini-macaroon filled with a light cream made of fresh, natural ingredients comes with different flavors such as Bourbon Vanilla, chocolate, caramel, raspberry and champagne gold.

Of course, I won't be leaving Confiserie Sprüngli without a box of these.

They have a brand new (Flavor of the Month) of Luxemburgerli out every month and this month, they just unveiled this Maracuja Chocolate flavor.

This came with a very elegant bronze color. Not bad.

Confiserie Sprüngli has so much more than just chocolate and mini-macarons to offer. Look at these adorable sweets

On the second floor of this Bahnhofstrasse branch on Paradeplatz is a classic European style tea salon.

Some homemade pastries and cold cut to go with our drinks?

Not today. We were still so stuffed from our lunch at Zeughauskeller so just a frosty vanilla shake to get me through this hot summer day.

I love the view of bustling Paradeplatz from up top but almost time to go. 

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: Bahnhofstrasse 21, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland
Tel: +41 44 224-4616

Conditorei Schober (Zurich, SWITZERLAND) ★★★★☆

I have a list of cafes I'd love to visit whenever I'm in Zurich and on top of that list is Conditorei Schober, a traditional chocolatier, patisserie and café in the middle of the Old Town.

Known as the "sweet corner" by the locals, Conditorei Schober is a stalwart in Zurich's dessert menu having dated back to the mid 19th century as a confectionary and coffee shop. The historic café has since been revamped by restaurateur Michel Péclard while keeping some of the history intact.

Traces of the past can still be found at Schober including the old-fashioned cashier, which has been kept in very good shape. 

And the first-floor tea salon took us on a trip down memory lane.

One thing is certain - they have some of the best French tartes and pastries in Zurich.

Caramel Fleur de Sel (CHF 8.5) - Love the nice balance of sweetness and bitterness from the caramel and chocolate mousse. Very delicate and silky.

Schokoladen Trio (CHF 8.5) - A nice combination of chocolate, mango and raspberry mousse sitting on a lovely sponge cake with various flavors (pistachio, mango?). A very insta-worthy dessert!

St. Honore (CHF 8) - Probably the less successful one of the three. The chantilly cream looked a little messy but nothing wrong with the flavors though.

It's still pretty early for lunch so we should have enough time to catch Grossmünster, Zürich Town Hall and a couple other attractions before our lunch booking at Zeughauskeller.

Food Rating: 6.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Napfgasse 4, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland
Tel: +41 44 251-5150