Saturday, June 22, 2019

Patisserie Jeffery Koo (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

After enjoying some Japanese skewers at Shiawase Yakitori (幸福鳥), it's almost time for us to leave K11 but just one more thing - take-away dessert.

Getting some decadent mille crepe cakes from Shaz would be the easy call but I decided to check out a forgotten French patisserie in the mall instead - Patisserie Jeffery Koo by celebrity pastry chef and TV personality Jeffery Koo.

Kumquat Mango ($48) - We had this nearly three years ago and obviously, the recipe has evolved a bit over the years. While the presentation looked like it could use some improvement, I was quite happy with the flavors and textures.

It came with cream cheese mousse, fillings of kumquat jelly, mango purée, rum and a 72% dark chocolate sponge base all covered with kumquat glazing. Like I said, it didn't look pretty, but reasonably good combination of sweetness, acidity and bitterness to go with the soothing cream cheese mousse.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop B122B, B1/F, K11 Art Mall, 18 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: East Tsim Sha Tsui / Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2368-9928

Shiawase Yakitori 幸福鳥 (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

I first bumped into Shiawase Yakitori (幸福鳥), a new Japanese yakitori restaurant at K11 when I was visiting Shaz Confections three months ago. It was still very much in its renovation stage at the time.

But the wait is finally over as the Japanese skewer specialist recently soft-opens.

Local celebrity chef Ricky Cheung (張錦祥) was in the house when I visited and he was spotted in and out of the kitchen chatting with the chefs. I wonder how much of an involvement he has with this new establishment. Or he's simply visiting as a guest?

Kyoto signature tofu (京都特濃男前豆腐) ($48) - As one of the house specialties, this had to be a major disappointment. I was expecting really rich flavors from the tofu but sadly, it didn't happen.

Grilled ox tongue (燒牛脷) ($78) - A bit chewy at times but I would say, decent.

Grilled sliced Awaodori chicken leg (阿波尾雞脾肉燒) ($28) - The restaurant only uses Awaodori chicken for all its chicken dishes. It's a special breed of chicken from Tokushima, Japan known for its low fat content, slightly chewy texture but most importantly, umami-rich flavors.

The first chicken skewer to arrive was the grilled chicken leg made with Awaodori chicken (阿波尾雞). This was wrapped with shiso leaf and served with a homemade plum sauce. As expected, the meat was a little chewy but unfortunately, no umami-rich flavors.

Signature water chestnut squid and minced pork skewer (馬蹄鮮魷燒肉棒) ($28) - Another signature skewer, minced pork with water chestnut and squid was a dish inspired by the Cantonese classic, steamed minced Pork with water chestnut and squid (馬蹄土魷蒸豬肉餠).

This was done like a Tsukune (Japanese chicken meatballs) and served with an egg yolk and special soy as dipping sauce. I was a little worried about the execution of this dish but it came out perfectly (almost like a grilled version of minced Pork with water chestnut and squid). I love everything about this skewer from texture, seasoning and combination of flavors. I think they have something special here.

Grilled minced chicken (免治軟骨雞肉串) ($30 each) - I was told it's another signature item on the menu that came with four distinctly different flavors, salted, teriyaki sauce, cheese and spicy. 

These weren't bad and I especially like the soft bones there to give them some extra bite. But they weren't nearly as mind-blowing as the water chestnut squid and minced pork skewer.

Grilled Awaodori chicken kidney (阿波尾雞腎燒) ($28) / Iberian pork with leeks - The pork was way over-seasoned but the chicken kidney was pretty yummy. It's been a while since I last had crunchy chicken kidneys and they reminded me a lot of my childhood days as it's a dish my mom used to make a lot for me (which explains my high cholesterol?).

Grilled portobello mushroom (燒意大利大蘑菇) ($38) - I like the minimal seasoning. Not bad.

Grilled rice dumplings with cheese stuffing (燒芝士年糕) ($32) - Very soft and airy. The cheese filling could be a little more runny though.

Baked oysters from Hiroshima (燒廣島蠔) ($58) - This was simply cooked with its own juice. Very fresh and sweet. Very tasty with very lovely texture.

There were some good (water chestnut squid and minced pork skewer!), some bad (tofu, ox tongue, Iberian pork) and thankfully no ugly dishes tonight. I think I'd like be back some time since its location is pretty convenient for me and the prices won't burn a hole in my wallet (like most yakitori places do).

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop G18-19,G/F, K11 Art Mall, 18, Hanoi Road Shop, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: East Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2885-2216

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Queen Sophie 酥妃皇后 (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

The three musketeers are meeting in Wanchai for dinner tonight. Apart from catching up, the meal will also serve as a farewell dinner for S who will be moving back to Vancouver in 2 weeks. I have to admit, it's really sad to see him leave. He was the first guy I knew in Vancouver back in the good old days and despite not meeting up as often as we used to, he was always the first one to say yes when we organize a gathering.

Just before my dinner as I was on my way to the Sheung Wan MTR station, I found myself walking past Queen Sophie (酥妃皇后), the legend of 368 crispy layers for the second time.

I decided to come in and check out their cheese tart series up close and personal.

Black sesame cheese tart ($15) - This came with all kinds of different flavors including purple sweet potato, coffee, chocolate, matcha and egg custard but I had my sight set on the black sesame cheese tart right from the start.

The black sesame flavored cheese wasn't as runny as I thought but it was really rich and decadent. At the same time, it was light enough and not at all gluey. Pretty nice.

As soon as I finished up my cheese tart, I saw their double-deck cheesecake sitting inside another display counter. This looks really good too.

This was when I remembered I still had a buffet dinner to attend. So, I quickly finished up my cheese tart and took off.

The cheese tart was way better than the egg tart I had here a while ago (I would assume it came with 360+ layers too). This was really worth a return trip.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 5 Kai Fung Mansion, 2-24 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Sheung Wan
Tel: +852 2269-0278

Café Life Patisserie & Cafe (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

Sheung Wan is an area with rich history and diversity offering an eclectic mix of old and new, which is why I love spending time here so much. Since I have time to spare this afternoon, I decided to soak in the old-school vibe by paying Café Life Patisserie and Cafe a visit.

Pictures from Café Life Patisserie and Cafe have been floating around my Instagram community for weeks. More especially, I'm talking about their Summer Melon (Japanese crown melon cream cake). This is so cute~

A little bit of throwback and east-meets-west theme here.

As much as I love to taste their highly instagramable Summer Melon, I have to throw in the white towel because I'm stuffed with food already following stops at Sweet Secrets Bakery and Kau Kee Restaurant (九記牛腩).

Black sesame latte ($55) - Did I mention that the Japanese-inspired patisserie also doubles as a coffee shop? Aside from a strong lineup of signature blend, there are also other intriguing options available including this black sesame latte. I thought it was going to taste a bit like our Chinese black sesame soup (芝麻糊) but it turned out to be a lot milkier than I thought. Not bad.

Cafe Life opens daily from 7:30am to 7pm.

Price: $$$
Address: Shop B and C, G/F, Tower II Tern Centre, 251 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Sheung Wan
Tel: +852 2810-6755

Kau Kee Restaurant 九記牛腩 (Hong Kong) ★★★☆☆

I have been so busy walking around Soho and Noho all afternoon that I didn't realize I haven't had lunch yet! And it was already 4:15pm.....

Thankfully, I was at the right place at the right time. There are really no shortage of good restaurants and cafes near Gough Street and Kau U Fong (九如坊) and most importantly, I could easily avoid the crowd at this hour.

It's been a while since I last enjoyed a bowl of braised beef brisket in clear broth (清湯牛腩) at the legendary Kau Kee Restaurant (九記牛腩). For the past year or so, it was almost impossible to get in, due to the amount of tourists waiting to get their hands on this gem. But today, the place was surprisingly quiet for a change.

I love these thick noodles which were always working well with the rich-flavored broth and the shower of fresh chives was just perfect. I thought the beef brisket wasn't bad but what really made the difference here was the broth. 

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: G/F, 21 Gough Street, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central
Tel: +852 2850-5967

Sweet Secrets Bakery Shop (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

My quest for some of the best cheesecakes in town continues this afternoon in Noho with Sweet Secrets Bakery as my first destination. Opened in 1999, Sweet Secrets is considered by some as the best place for a slice of cheesecake in the city. The small bakery shop on Graham Street is also one of the first to offer vegan gluten-free and other healthy (using alternatives for egg, sugar etc.) options for cakes and desserts.

Apart from their cakes which they are very good at, Sweet Secrets also offer a small selection of cupcakes and cookies that are just perfect for parties and gatherings.

But make no mistake about it, my mission is to check out their cheesecakes and I did just that.

Secret-O Cheesecake ($48) - Mission accomplished! This is the best seller thanks to their secret recipe. The rich New York-style cheesecake comes with a layer of chilled mango cream cheese and served on a chocolate biscuit (Oreo-like) base.

That was pretty yummy! I wish the proportion of mango cream cheese and cheesecake could be reversed (I could definitely live with less mango cream cheese and more New York cheesecake!) but it was totally worth making a special trip for.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: $$$
Address: G/F, 35 Graham Street, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Central
Tel: +852 2545-8886 / 2575-6228

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Igloo Dessert Bar (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

After my three-Michelin starred lunch at Caprice, I took a slow and deliberate walk towards the Star Ferry Terminal in Central. It's nice to take a rare day off during the week. The crowd is noticeably smaller in the middle of the week so I can truly enjoy enjoy my walk without the trouble of being pushed around by the weekend crowd.

It's been a while since I last came here. I remember as a kid, my dad used to bring me here a lot taking ferries between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui (the terminal used to be in a different location). That's how I spent my summer days. How time flies. Now, it's my turn to bring my little one here to experience this small part of history left from the Old Hong Kong.

Of course, I have another mission at Central Ferry Pier 7 (Star Ferry) this afternoon - to check out the legendary White Rabbit Candy ice-cream at Igloo Dessert Bar.

For those who knows nothing about "White Rabbit Candy" (大白兔奶糖), it's a milk toffee candy wrapped with edible rice paper that used to be highly popular around the 1970's. Originated from the ABC Candy Factory of Shanghai in 1943, the brand has become an iconic sweets for children in Asian countries including Hong Kong thanks to its creamy and milky flavor.

When I first heard about Igloo Dessert Bar's White Rabbit Candy flavored ice-cream, I wasn't all that interested but since I'm in a nostalgic mood, I decided to drop by and give it a try.

Igloo Dessert Bar's artisanal ice-cream comes in all kinds of interesting flavors and some are inspired by local flavors such as White Rabbit Candy and Horlick. Despite a number of intriguing flavors, there's no chance I'm leaving the ice-cream shop without a scoop of their White Rabbit Candy flavored ice-cream.

It does taste a lot like White Rabbit Candy right from my first lick. I agree with some food bloggers that the flavors are a little too mild but it's definitely worth a try for old time's sake.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$
Address: Shop C, Lower Deck, Pier 7 Star Ferry, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Hong Kong Station
Tel: +852 2656-3318

Caprice (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★★☆

It's been exactly two years since Executive Chef Guillaume Galliot took over the kitchen of Caprice and he has finally done it. The French chef from Loire Valley has finally guided Caprice back to its three-Michelin starred status (announced late last year).

On a personal note, I have not been back to Caprice as much as I would like since the departure of opening chef Vincent Thierry. But now that they have re-captured the third star, I thought I should come back and check things out myself (at least once within this year).

The weather has been pretty poor all day (so is my mood) but luckily, I was able to arrive at Caprice largely unscathed.

Caprice is open for lunch and dinner from Monday to Sunday. For lunch, the restaurant offers a set menu varying by the number of courses (3-course $645, 4-course $790 and 5-course $895). There's also a 5-course omasake tasting menu priced at $1288 and of course the a la carte menu. I was a little hungry so I went with the 5-course set lunch menu this afternoon.

Some homemade bread including my favorite brioche to kick off the meal.

Lunch started off brightly with a small amuse bouche, silky green pea mousse topped with crispy croutons (Chef Guillaume Galliot in the background!).

The clean flavors of the green pea was nicely matched with the saltiness of the cured bacon on the bottom while the croutons added a satisfying crunch to this otherwise soft and smooth dish.

The first dish from the set menu was Aji fish carpaccio served on a tower of fennel and pomelo salad. This was a pretty "safe" dish to start the meal as one could never go wrong with the combination of refreshing raw fish and fruity salad. I thought the saltiness of the Aji fish really caught me by surprise while both the fennel and pomelo did very little to neutralize that saltiness. Decent start.

The carpaccio was immediately followed by a heartwarming green pea soup, served with mint perfumed green pea tartare and bacon foam (same combo as the amuse bouche).

The soup was accompanied by a green pea tartlet on the side.

Following the starter and soup, my fish course was next and I went with their hake fish which was beautifully decorated with cauliflower crumbs and smoked pike caviar.

The soft-textured hake was lightly coated with seaweed giving it wonderful texture and flavor. It was finished off brilliantly with a rich-flavored champagne sauce. A well-executed dish with a symphony of umami-rich flavors yet without going over the top. Without a question, the best dish of the afternoon.

My final savory dish was roasted French duck breast with variation of carrots. There's really nothing more appealing to me than a gorgeous piece of French duck (Too bad they thin-sliced it!).

A star anise sauce with ginger provided some extra heat to the dish (Interesting that the sauce actually tasted a bit like those in Chinese cuisine). 

If there's an area to improve upon, it's definitely the dessert department. I was looking for something rich and perhaps a bit cheesy so I went with the lemon cheesecake.

This came with cédrat confit and a scoop of white sesame ice-cream. At this point, I was really missing former Executive pastry chef Nicolas Lambert.

I couldn't exactly remember when was the last time I enjoyed a slow day like this. I think I need more of this in the future.

Petite fours are always something to look forward to at Caprice. Today's no exception.

This is certainly one of my most enjoyable lunch at Caprice since the days when Chef Thierry was still at the helm. I'm not entirely sure about the three stars but one thing for sure, it's moving in the right direction.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: $$$$
Address: 6/F, 8 Finance Street, Four Seasons Hotel, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Hong Kong Station
Tel: +852 3196-8860