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: 6/10
Price: $$$$
Address: S3071-73, Level 3, IFC Mall, Central, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Hong Kong Station / Central
Tel: +852 2661-1161

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Lady M IFC (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

Some of us were complaining about the lack of creativity seen from the Lady M team earlier this year. Ever since they introduced the earl grey mille crepes, there's been nothing new on the horizon.

Our prayers were finally answered a couple of months ago when Lady M launched a number of new pastries including two in their signature mille crepes series.

While the Earl Grey mille crepes were no longer shown on the menu, a pair of new mille crepes flavors, rose and salted caramel, took its place.

Rose Mille Crepes ($75) - This looks really good. As usual, the Lady M signature creation comes with no less than 20 paper-thin layers of handmade crepes. In between the different layers was rose flavor infused pastry cream and they have it garnished with sweet rose jelly and edible rose petals on top. Very elegant.

I thought this was arguably the most refreshing flavor from Lady M's mille crepes series. The texture was remarkably fluffy and the silky smooth pastry cream, rose jelly and rose petals were the perfect icing on the cake.

Salted Caramel Mille Crepes ($75) - A Hong Kong exclusive so I'm definitely not leaving the boutique without one. It was layered with salted caramel infused pastry cream and garnished with a buttery glaze and crunchy cacao nibs. The texture was again perfect but the flavors were a little too rich for me.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: $$$$
Address: Shop 2096A, 2/F, IFC, 1 Harbour View Street, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Hong Kong Station
Tel: +852 2865-1099

Passion by Gérard Dubois at Metroplaza (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Last week, I was reminded on the fact I have not visited Passion by Gérard Dubois for their desserts in 2017. Not even once did I come and check out their French pastries in the past 12 months (although I did have their pasta a couple of times.)? That can't be right...

I don't recognize most of their pastries anymore so it must be a while since my last visit.

Chocolate Cube ($43) - I was tempted to try this one with velvety chocolate mousse underneath a layer of dark chocolate ganache.

The pistachio cream and raspberry compote were surprisingly good match with the chocolate mousse. Too bad there's not enough of both to make a significant contrast in flavors.

Mandarin yuzu & mascarpone mini yule log ($41) - Christmas is obviously fast approaching when I saw this mini log coming in several different colors and flavors.

There's a fair amount of acidity coming from the mandarin and yuzu working well with the mascarpone. Not bad.

In my opinion, Passion by Gérard Dubois along with Fine Foods and Thomas Trillion are three of the most reliable (with consistent quality) pastry shops in Hong Kong. I gotta find time to visit them on a more frequent basis.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 107-108, Level 1 Metroplaza, Kwai Fong, NT, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Kwai Fong
Tel: +852 2453-9992

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Kai Kai Dessert 佳佳甜品 (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

I was just here a little over 2 weeks ago. Can't believe I'm already itching back.

Chinese walnut soup (合桃糊) - A lot of the Chinese dessert places don't make this anymore. Personally, I thought it was decent but in terms of flavor and texture, I still like their black sesame soup a little better.

I still think Kai Kai has some of the best sweet dumplings in town. Ultra thin wrapper goes very well with the black sesame paste in the middle. Very nice.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$
Address: 29 Ning Po Street, Jordan, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Jordan
Tel: +852 2384-3862

Saturday, November 18, 2017

HEXA 六公館 (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Another week and another new restaurant, HEXA (六公館) is getting ready to debut at OTE, the new wing of the Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui. It's been an amazing transformation turning a deserted cargo loading area into this new five-storey complex now equipped with all these new seaside restaurants and an observation deck that serves up a jaw-dropping harbour view.

I have just one word to describe HEXA, the newest member to OTE - Spacious. Just look at the outdoor patio! 

Of course, it doesn't hurt to possess a 180-degree panoramic view of the Victoria harbour too.

HEXA is divided into two "wings" thanks to an escalator right in the middle. On the right-hand side is an area with a mix of cool colors highlighted by dark furniture and metallic decorations.

On the left-hand side is a big dining room with a much warmer color tone delivering a totally different mood.

Apart from its modern decor, the first thing that jumps out about HEXA is its contemporary Chinese cuisine. The food menu promises some pleasant surprises from their house specialties including smoked chicken with Longjing tea leaves (龍井燻太爺雞), king prawns two-ways, tossed in mango purée and golden salty egg yolk (鴛鴦蝦球) and fried puntalette "Yangzhou" style (揚州炒米型意粉).

Steamed shrimp dumplings (水晶蝦餃) ($55) - I have been reading about their signature steamed bamboo charcoal shrimp dumplings which is black in color but it's nowhere to be found on the menu. So, we went with the traditional har gow. This was pretty tasty.

Steamed pork dumplings with black garlic (黑蒜燒賣) ($48) - Next up was one of the restaurant's signature dim-sum. The steamed pork dumplings were pretty ordinary but there's a nice kick provided by the black garlic flavored "pearls" on top. 

Steamed wild mushroom dumplings (野菌水晶餃) ($42) - Pretty delicious and nice to have it without black truffles for a change.

Puff pastry with wagyu beef and black pepper (和牛黑椒酥) ($68) - The puff pastry was nice and flaky and the diced wagyu well seasoned but I thought a little heavy handed with the black pepper sauce.

Spring roll with shrimps and sea urchin (海膽蝦春卷) ($58) - Like the puff pastry, the spring roll was nicely executed with the perfect crispy shell. A little more sea urchin would really send me home a happy camper. 

Steamed rice flour rolls with BBQ Kurobuta pork (黑豚叉燒腸粉) ($56) - The rice flour rolls were soft and thin while stuffed full of BBQ pork made with Kurobuta pork. Pretty nice and at this point in time, the steamed pork dumplings were the only one that failed to impress so far.

Baked BBQ pork buns with buttered crust (雪山叉燒包) ($48) - There are two BBQ pork buns served here but honestly, who would ditch these ones with buttered crust for those boring traditional ones with oyster sauce anyways? 

The crust was a little crispy and I like the fact that they didn't over-do it like a pineapple bun. The BBQ pork sauce was spot on.

Baked bamboo charcoal buns with egg custard cream (竹炭流沙包) ($48) - We felt a little hard luck not to be able to lay our hands on their bamboo charcoal shrimp dumplings so these baked bamboo charcoal buns were the perfect consolation prize. Nothing beats a bunch of sizzling hot buns with egg custard cream oozing out from the middle!

Deep fried fresh milk custard (黃金炸鮮奶) ($48) - Our last dim sum was deep fried milk custard served with sugar on the side. This was more like a dessert but no one was complaining having dessert early.

This was where the wheels began to fall off. Just before finishing up all our dim sums, we started to realize that there were two dishes missing in action - Yangzhou fried rice and a vegetable dish so we called our server over. He then went over to the counter and seemingly checked in the system before coming back and confirming that everything was in order. He even told us what the two dishes were. Okay, fine so everything is under control right? Wrong~

As it turns out, the guy didn't really look into the system. All he did was to check the handwritten order form and he had it written down on the back. The only (and most important one) thing he forgot to do was, to check in the system to see if he had keyed those into the system. So, when we asked about our orders again for the second time, this time to a more experienced server (He was wearing something more formal like a jacket so I was thinking he's more senior), it was found that the two missing dishes were not inputted into the system. Now, I was fuming.

The senior guy now started walking towards our table again. I was expecting him to be a little apologetic about their mistake but at this day and age in Hong Kong, I guess I must be dreaming. Instead of saying something apologetic, he just rudely said, "Do you still want them or what?". I was like, what the funk are you talking about? We never said we didn't want them, just that your colleague totally forgot to input them into the system. He was given a second chance and still he didn't check the system. Now, this guy finally realized that I wasn't just upset, I was ready to kill so he took a step back and tried a little more polite tone, "If you still want them, we will make them for you immediately." Of course, we want them, we were still starving I told him.

Fried puntalette "Yangzhou" style (揚州炒米型意粉) ($158) - Our pan fried puntalette finally did arrive. I personally had lofty expectation for it because for one, it's one of HEXA's signature dish and secondly, I thought it's a very nice twist to our traditional Yangzhou fried rice. Instead of rice, they used these rice shaped pasta to give it a different bite.

This was really nice with good "wok air". Yes, we waited much much longer for it but it's at least worth the wait.

Sautéed kale with ginger and black sugar (薑糖芥蘭) ($98) - Finally, something green after all the meat and seafood. 

I just love the crunchiness of these sautéed kale. They had some ginger and black sugar sauce all over the kale to give it more flavors to work with. Not bad. 

I was still a little upset so instead of ordering dessert and running the danger of another missed order, I decided to go for the bill. It's a real shame coz they have such a good venue here with that spacious outdoor patio. The harbour view is terrific and I thought the lunch menu has a lot to offer. But it turns out to be another classic example of good food ruined by poor service.

Would I come back for a second time? My little nugget seems to love it here so I would still consider it but if the service team does not improve over time, then they are just shooting themselves on the foot really. Hongkongers have very high standard for customer service, and considering what they're charging here, they better deliver (good service)!

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop OTE 101, G/F, Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, 3-27 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2577-1668

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Fumi (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

I got an unexpected early release from work today thanks to our training instructor finishing a little before scheduled time. Instead of going to the gym, I decided to check out some early bird deals on Eatigo. Interestingly enough, I was able to find a number of 50%-off deals, including one from Japanese fusion restaurant, Fumi. I remembered coming here about 2 years ago when the place was still called Ore-no Kappou (俺の割烹). A recent change of ownership led to the name change but I was happy to see the food menu remaining largely the same.

I didn't expect the restaurant to be 70% full this early (6:30pm). I'm wondering if everybody is getting the same great deal as mine. 

Sea urchin with chicken consommé jelly and soft tofu skin - It looks like the change of ownership has no domino effects on the food menu at all. At least not yet as everything looks more or less the same since my last visit. Starting things off for me was a small glass of chicken consommé jelly with layers of soft tofu skin nicely topped with sea urchin. A very nice refreshing start.

King tiger prawn tempura - I believe it's my first time trying out the restaurant's tempura and this king tiger prawn tempura was excellent. Perfectly crispy batter and the tiger prawn was so meaty. One of my favorite dish tonight without a question.

Assorted skewers - I decided to sample a few of their skewers tonight. A bit of mixed results from these as I really liked the ox tongue and sweet potato but the Miyazaki sausage and Japanese small onion were just OK.

Grilled foie gras marinated with Saikyo miso and green tea wine sauce - Next up was grilled foie gras which the chefs had marinated with Saikyo miso. This was very very nice. I like the way they complement the richness of the foie gras with the earthy flavors of green tea and sweetness of Saikyo miso. A bit of apple slaw and apple purée helped to offset the rich flavors from the dish.

Grilled Miyazaki sirloin in Sukiyaki sauce - My main dish was a no-brainer for me as I went with the same grilled Miyazaki beef I had on my last visit though with a totally different interpretation. This one was simmered in a rich and flavorful sukiyaki sauce and served with a Japanese style poached egg as the dipping sauce on the side.

The marbling here was perfect and the sirloin was sooo tender and succulent. I guess with such a well-marbled and tender piece of beef, a simple supporting cast of shittake mushroom, tofu, enoki mushrooms, zucchini and Miyazaki tomato was already more than enough to do the trick.

Miyazaki Jitokko free-range wild chicken, Miyazaki chestnut and steamed Japanese rice in mini-pot - I thought I couldn't pour any more food in but a dish with two of my favorite ingredients (chestnut and chicken) changed my mind.

This was my first experience with Miyazaki Jitokko free-range wild chicken and I thought it tasted a lot like French chicken. It had incredible depth of flavor (and a little gamey) but at the same time, a little more texture. Not bad.

I wish I had more room to fit in their pineapple creme brûlée but I've had a lot of food already. So, I guess I will leave it until next time.

Before I step out of the restaurant, I had a quick chat with my server and he was hinting about a revamped menu on the way. Instead of all the fusion dishes currently on display, they're leaning towards a more authentic Japanese cuisine and dining experience. This is going to be interesting and I'll definitely come back in a few months to check out their new gig.

Food Rating: 6.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: 6/F, California Tower, 30-32 D'Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central
Tel: +852 2328-3302