Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Bakehouse (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

After coming away empty handed a few times at Bakehouse before Chinese New Year, I was hoping for a bit better fortunate following the new year holidays. Perhaps coming here a little earlier around lunch hours would help my cause.

But again I was met with a long lineup of customers and when it was finally my turn, all my favorite tarts, cruffins and croissants were long gone! 

Plain and blueberry scones - My consolation prize here. Pretty nice.

Double chocolate cookie - Pretty tasty with very rich chocolate flavor. I'd like it to be a little sweeter though.

I really need to get myself some of Bakehouse's croissants and cruffins soon. This craving is really killing me slowly and painfully.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: G14 Tai Wong Street East, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Wanchai
Website: https://bakehouse.hk/

Bakehouse Hong Kong popular bakery cafe Wanchai Gregoire Michaud best cruffin croissant

Saturday, February 24, 2018

PHO79 Vietnamese Restaurant (Los Angeles, USA) ★★★☆☆

There's no such thing as a never-ending banquet. After all fun and games, our 10-day trip in Los Angeles and Vegas is drawing to a close. In a matter of hours, my buddy St Paul will be driving us to the airport but first, he wanted to treat us to dinner at his secret place - PHO79 Vietnamese Restaurant, which is one of his favorite restaurants in LA.

Well, it's not that secret after all. Look at all these people and it's not even 6PM! Their Vietnamese noodle soup must be pretty famous in the Orange County area. It's almost impossible to find a parking space here and the lineup started well before 6PM.

I got the chance to check out their menu while lining up for our table. Great choices!

PHO79 Vietnamese Restaurant - Food Menu

Rice noodle soup with beef, tendon and tripe - Before we sat down, St Paul already lectured us on all we needed to know about their rice noodle soup. His advice, go for the "supreme" version with beef, tendon and tripe. No kidding, this was seriously good! And the portion more than generous.

Vietnamese spring roll - These were a little oily but so tasty. I couldn't resist having a couple of them.

This is really goodbye now. Two years ago when St Paul told me he was getting married, I promised to be his best man but some family stuff came up at the last minute and I ended up waiting more than two years to finally get to meet him in LA. In the meantime, I was so happy to see him now happily married with 2 adorable kids. Couldn't happen to a better man.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$
Address: 9941 Hazard Avenue, Garden Grove, CA 92843, USA
Tel: +1 714-531-2490
Website: www.pho79.com

Friday, February 23, 2018

Aria Patisserie (Las Vegas, USA) ★★★★☆

It's been a memorable night for me personally. To be sitting there in the second row right behind the Canucks bench in my first game in 20 years. That was something special. Special thanks to my buddy St Paul for setting me up in the slot. It would have been perfect if the scoreline was reversed in favor of the Canucks. 

After the game, we slowly walked back from T-Mobile Arena back to our hotel. We were feeling a little hungry so instead of calling it the night, we decided to drop by Aria Patisserie at ARIA Resort and Casino for some midnight sweet treats.

They pulled the plug on world-renowned pasty chef Jean-Philippe Maury's nine-year old Jean Philippe Patisserie at Aria (and Bellagio) so now, it's just Aria Patisserie.

I know a good French pastry when I see one and these all look pretty attractive, especially to a hungry man.

Paris-Brest - I thought it tasted even better than it looked. I was supposed to leave half of that until tomorrow morning (for breakfast) but I ended up letting my hunger get the better of me. 

Earl Grey Raspberry Cake - Another average-looking dessert that exceeded my expectation. I've always liked Earl grey themed desserts and I can add this one to the list. The combination of Earl grey mousse, raspberry gelee, raspberry cremeux, chocolate sponge and dark chocolate crunch was pretty irresistible.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$$
Address: Lobby Level, ARIA Resort and Casino, 3730 Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas NV, 89158, USA
Tel: +1 702-590-8554
Website: www.aria.com/en/restaurants/aria-patisserie.html

Rainforest Cafe (Las Vegas, USA) ★★☆☆☆

Last Christmas when we were at the Rainforest Cafe in Dubai, I promised my little nugget that I would bring him back to his beloved Rainforest Cafe in the near future. When the words came out of my mouth, I had no idea near future literally meant 2 months!

This was located just across the bridge from Crystal Mall.

All the kids looked a little scared when the animals roared but they seemed to enjoy the dining experience. But I, for one, didn't enjoy it at all, especially based on the food we ordered.

Big Islander Caesar Salad with chicken - Romaine lettuce wasn't crisp which killed the hope for a nice Caesar salad.

Fish Tacos - The tacos came with (supposedly) lightly grilled tuna, jalapeno ranch dressing, red cabbage and black beans but judging from what I've seen from my very eyes, this was more like tuna sashimi. The so-called jalapeno ranch dressing also didn't work for me.

The food was outright horrible. The only reason why they didn't get my "Horrible" rating was because my little nugget loved it!

Food Rating: 3/10
Price: $$$
Address: 3717 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, NV  89109, USA
Tel: +1 702-891-8580
Website: www.rainforestcafe.com

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sage (Las Vegas, USA) ★★★★☆

Last night, St Paul treated us to an epic steak and seafood dinner so it's time for me to return the favor. We also have our special guest, Madame Taekwondo who flied all the way from Portland to join us tonight.

Everybody was either sick or tired so we're just going to have a quick dinner tonight. I had the honor of picking tonight's venue and I thought Sage would be perfect, not only because of James Beard Award-winning Chef Shawn McClain's refreshing and ever-changing menu of contemporary American cuisine but also the casual and unpretentious vibe. It would be like visiting a wine bar. 

Slow poached farm egg - I have been under the weather almost the entire trip so something light would serve me well. This slow poached farm egg was the perfect solution. Served with smoked potato foam, black truffle, parmesan and toasted country bread, it was wonderfully light and refreshing.

Wagyu beef tartare - Jelloman had the wagyu beef tartare which I thought was not bad but not much support coming from the crushed caper aioli, slow poached egg and crispy chocolate.

Iberico "Secreto" pork - Very juicy and tender. The Ancho romesco, Lacinato kale and pumpkin seed all helped to set the tone for a very flavorful dish with contrasting textures. Really enjoyed the lovely sweetness from the diced pear which provided a nice balance for the richness of teh Iberico pork.

It was nice to spend the evening with great friends catching up with what's happening in our lives. And the night just got better with Sage's delicious farm-to-table dishes. This would likely be our last formal meal of the trip because tomorrow's our BIG game.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$
Address: Near Main Lobby, ARIA Resort and Casino, 3730 Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas NV, 89158, USA
Tel: +1 702-590-8690
Website: www.aria.com/en/restaurants/sage.html

Milk Bar (Las Vegas, USA) ★★☆☆☆

My little nugget who's been sick this week, was resting at the hotel so I got some "Me Time" to stroll around The Strip by myself. My second destination following my quick lunch at Gordon Ramsay and brief stop at Jean Philippe Patisserie (soon-to-be Bellagio Patisserie) is Milk Bar at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

This modern offshoot of David Chang's Momofuku features cakes and cookies in quirky flavors as well as their bread and butter funky milkshakes both designed by chef-owner Christina Tosi.

There are milkshakes and then there are milkQuakes (Milk Bar's take on Dairy Queen's Blizzard). Where should I start?

Being the conservative foodie that I am, I went with their birthday cake milkshake (USD$10), which was just a fancy name for a vanilla shake. 

This was really really fudgy.

I also got myself one of their famous corn cookies. This is pretty chewy with a bit of subtle corn flavor but surprisingly sweet.

I'm a purist when it comes to milkshakes so not surprisingly, an old fashioned chocolate or vanilla milkshake that is thick and frosty is more of my cup of tea than one of Milk Bar's funky milkshakes.

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: $$$$
Address: Level 2 Boulevard Tower, 3708 Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas NV, 89109, USA
Tel: +1 702-698-2662
Website: www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com/restaurants/milk-bar

Jean Philippe Patisserie (Las Vegas, USA) ★★★☆☆

After a pretty successful run at Bellagio, world-renowned pasty chef Jean-Philippe Maury's Jean Philippe Patisserie will be saying goodbye to its patrons at the end of the month.

It's a shame because a lot of us will be missing his sweet treats and of course, the patented floor-to-ceiling chocolate fountains at the entrance of the patisserie, which is supposed to be one of the largest of its kind in the world.

I've always liked their wide selection of chocolates, cookies, cakes, crepes, gelato, salads and sandwiches. Their European-style cakes, in particular, have always been their heart and soul.

This time around, I decided to check out this one called Snicker, a creation which they paid homage to the famous chocolate bars. It's a nice combination of milk chocolate mousse, roasted peanuts and caramel fondant. Some may find it a little too sweet but it's just about right for me! 

It was nice to visit Jean Philippe Patisserie one last time before it turned into Bellagio Patisserie in March. Hopefully we will see chef Maury re-surface again on the Strip in the near future.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: Bellagio Hotel, 3600 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas NV, 89109, USA
Tel: +1 702-693-8788

Jean Philippe Patisserie Bellagio Las Vegas world-renowned pasty chef Jean-Philippe Maury Strip closed world largest chocolate fountain display amazing cakes

Gordon Ramsay Hell's Kitchen (Las Vegas, USA) ★★★★☆

Gordon Ramsay’s newest Las Vegas restaurant, Hell’s Kitchen has been one of the hottest new restaurants in Vegas these days with over 12,000 bookings in the first 10 days. Since we were in town for the Golden Knights-Canucks game, it would be perfect to check this place out in two days.

Initially, it didn't look like it's going to happen as the restaurant was fully booked for the next two weeks but just about a week before our arrival, they seemed to have opened up more time slots for booking on OpenTable. Bingo~ 

They were obviously drawing inspiration from the global hit reality television show (starring Chef Gordon Ramsay of course) when they drew up the floor plan of this dining room. For a moment, it felt like we're sitting on the studio set.

I have to admit, I really like their food menu which is really short and sharp with 6-8 items from each of the categories (appetizers and main dishes) and a lot of those were Hell's Kitchen signature dishes from the show.

Right before we started munching away, an ice-cold mocktail called agua fresca to cool things off first. This is primarily watermelon with a touch of lime juice.

Shrimp cocktail - The chilled prawns were served on ice with a bowl of gin cocktail sauce. The texture was very nice and bouncy. Love the extra kick from the gin cocktail too.

Pan seared scallops - Despite failing to make a nice first impression with its presentation, I thought the scallops (though a bit small) were pretty tasty. Very good work from the celery root, braised bacon lardons and pickled granny smith apples; and the best part of all, they mistakenly gave us two portions while we only ordered for one. When we finally cleared that up with our server, he was nice enough to give the extra portion to us for free. That, of course, warranted a big tip from yours truly.

Lobster risotto - One of the many Hello's Kitchen signature dishes here. The risotto was pretty creamy and it was working wonders with the butter poached lobster tail, butternut squash and sage.

Crispy skin salmon - But there was no question which dish was the star of the meal. It was a no-doubter.

I had high expectations for this dish and chef Ramsay's signature crispy skin salmon certainly did not disappoint. The succulent salmon fillet was nicely done with a lovely crispy skin on top. It was served on a pool of citrus herb beurre blanc along with beluga lentils and shaved fennel salad. Easily the best dish of the afternoon.

Dessert was next and we took some time to get a few photos done before sharing them among the five of us.

Pineapple carpaccio - The thin-sliced pineapple was served with an array of ingredients including citrus foam, coconut sorbet, passion fruit and coriander. We all love the flashy presentation with dry ice but when the smoke finally cleared, I thought we got ourselves a pretty decent dessert with a nice balance of contrasting flavors (sweetness from coconut, acidity from citrus and passion fruit). 

Sticky toffee pudding - I love sticky toffee puddings from the British chefs (Ramsay and Tom Aikens) so this was a no-brainer. Trust me, it was looking amazing before we snapped the photos. Obviously we took a little too long so gone (actually melted) was the speculoos ice-cream. Still very very tasty and addictive.

It was a very nice lunch despite the fact that there's nothing sophisticated on the menu. Most of the dishes were simple but well cooked and delivered, which was a very nice start to our Vegas trip.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: 3570 S Las Vegas Boulevard (Roman Plaza just off of the Caesar Palace registration lobby), Las Vegas NV, 89109, USA
Tel: +1 702-731-7373
Website: www.gordonramsayrestaurants.com/hells-kitchen-caesars-palace

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Mastro's Ocean Club (Las Vegas, USA) ★★★★☆

I hate domestic flights and they gave me another reason to hate it even more. For whatever reason, the number of passengers on our Vegas flight (from John Wayne Airport) did not tally with the system records so we were left stranded on the plate for an hour while the airline staff figured out a way to find out what (and who) the discrepancy was. I thought doing it the old fashioned way with multiple flight attendants going down the aisle with a list of passengers in their hands (from their system of course) would do the trick. At least that won't take more than half an hour but they decided to do it a number of different ways. That didn't work out very well. I thought we were going to spend all night on the plane but thankfully, the "discrepancy" guy turned himself in.

So the aftermath? We arrived in Vegas an hour behind schedule and everyone was starving. The good news was that, our dinner venue (Mastro's Ocean Club) was relatively close to our hotel and we didn't miss our reservation time by a lot.

Mastro has a collection of high-end, sophisticated steakhouses across the nation but Mastro's Ocean Club Las Vegas is a bit of a different animal because seafood is the focal point instead of their steaks.

Mastro's seafood tower - everybody was thrilled to start things off with a bang and what a bang that was. Snow crab claws, chilled Alaskan king crab legs and whole lobsters served on ice. That was something else. The two crab dishes were particularly nice.

Ocean club crab cakes - The crab cakes were really tasty with a brownish and crispy crust. The small salad with avocado was nice, only the dip needed a bit of improvement.

Sautéed sea scallops - Very nice with a creamy sauce. This was my third scallop dish on this trip and so far, none of them disappointed.

Petite filet (6oz) - After all the seafood, I really didn't have much room left for the grill so just a small portion of steak with truffled wild mushrooms for me. This was very tender and flavorful. I thought the one at La Boucherie was better but then the seafood dishes here rocked!

It's been a long day so I'll just crash early tonight. Got an early date with Gordon Ramsay Hell's Kitchen tomorrow noon.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$$
Address: Crystals at Citycenter, 3720 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas NV, 89158, USA
Tel: +1 702-798-7115
Website: www.mastrosrestaurants.com/Locations/NV/Las-Vegas/

Mastro's Ocean Club Las vegas very good steakhouse seafood restaurant Crystals Citycenter