Thursday, June 27, 2019

Kyoto Ichinoden 京都一の傳 (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★☆☆☆

Right from the get go, I knew this meal wasn't going to be an enjoyable one for me.

I heard about century-old Kyoto Ichinoden (京都一の傳) opening at Harbour City from a foodie friend of mine and since we were going to be shopping here this weekend, I decided to bring my family along. After patiently waiting at the reception area to be served, it was finally my turn. Honestly, I was a little annoyed by the couple standing in line just in front of me. They had all kinds of questions for the hostess (who's not very good with serving her customers to begin with). It took 10 minutes to sort out all their queries so they were ready to head into the restaurant. But wait, they didn't know the restaurant only serves set menu. So they needed more time to discuss among themselves to come up with a decision. There, 15 minutes of my time wasted for nothing.

So, it was my turn to step up to the plate. I told the hostess who wasn't very good with serving her customers that we have a party of four (my kid wasn't eating though). She said they're pretty full so the wait would likely be about an hour. I told her that's fine and we're okay with waiting but she was determined to get rid of us and started telling me that, "I'm afraid we can't accommodate you today. Perhaps some other time...". I didn't expect such words coming out of her mouth and was obviously upset. I began telling her that firstly, I have never heard of a restaurant that didn't allow customers to wait (unless it's a fine-dining restaurant who's been fully booked) especially that there's no one waiting in line. Secondly, I spotted at least 3 to 4 tables of four just finishing up their meals right about now. I didn't think the wait would be an hour I told her (unless she tells me those tables are already booked which she didn't). And just when we were still engaged in our heated discussion, a colleague of hers came out of the restaurant and told us there's already a table ready for us. An hour's wait, you said? As I slowly entered the restaurant, I looked at her one last time with a grim on my face. Not a good way to greet your customers!

Anyways, enough for my rant.

Hailed from Kyoto Japan, Kyoto Ichinoden is a traditional Japanese restaurant serving kaiseki cuisine. They are best known for their Saikyozuke, a traditional cooking method started in Kyoto where seasonal meat and fish are marinated in Saikyo miso. This is their first overseas branch outside Japan.



The restaurant offers three set menus at lunch, with virtually the same set of appetizers and a small list of main courses to choose from (Kiyomizu $158, Fushimi $198 and Gion $288).



The first to arrive was the Fushimi set. Apparently, it's the same appetizer platter for every set starting with a steamed egg custard topped by salmon roes, sesame pudding, stewed Japanese duck breast, pickled cucumber and so on and so forth. We were told to start from our left to right.



This set came with Ichinoden's signature ochazuke (お茶漬け) which is a simple rice dish that combines tea, steamed rice and an assortment of savory ingredients together. There were two seasonal toppings today, firstly Ichinoden's special marinated silver-warehou which has been placed on top of the steamed rice with some seaweed. 



For a restaurant known for its Saikyozuke, we had high expectation for this small piece of fish fillet and it certainly didn't disappoint. The miso flavor was very nice and comforting, meshing well with the sweetness of the fish.



The other topping was chicken.



Now, time to pour the hot tea into the rice. This was very soothing. I love this set.



Next up was the Kiyomizu set. Like I said the same appetizer platter, just a different grilled item which was Ichinoden style marinated salmon. This wasn't bad but I actually found the marinated silver-warehou a bit more tasty.

Something I started noticing at this point about the restaurant's service. It was very mechanic and most servers here looked very green and inexperienced. When our Kiyomizu set arrived, the server repeated the same line from the first server, that was to remind us to enjoy our appetizers from left to right. But what she didn't realize was the fact that she had the platter placed the other way around. Like I said, very mechanic like repeating something from a recorded message!



Our third set which was the Gion Set came with more or less the same cast, just a couple more snacks. For the grilled item, we opted for the grilled pork loin which was tender and juicy. Most importantly, the pork loin doesn't require a supplemental charge like salmon ($28), black cod ($88) or beef ($128) so I was quite happy with that.



Dessert was some Japanese sweets, which was followed by a bowl of green tea just like a traditional kaiseki meal.



I thought the food wasn't bad and the prices were reasonable considering it's housed under one of the premier shopping complex in town. The only thing that would have me thinking twice about coming back is service. And it's something I value very much from a dining experience.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Shop 402,4/F, Ocean Centre, 5 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 3101-4981


Wednesday, June 26, 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 Chef Nicolas Lambert (former executive pastry chef here!).



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: 7.5/10
Price: $$$$
Address: 6/F, 8 Finance Street, Four Seasons Hotel, Central, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Hong Kong Station
Tel: +852 3196-8860
Website: www.fourseasons.com/hongkong/dining/restaurants/caprice


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Sift Patisserie (Hong Kong, CHINA) ★★★☆☆

I was off early today and instead of going straight home, I decided to swing by Sift Patisserie to check out their new Ceylon rose cake which supposedly comes with a wonderfully rich ceylon tea mousse.



Rosehip Cheesecake ($48) - But there will be no Ceylon rose cake for me today as it's always been sold out. Also gone was one of my favorite cheesecakes in town, Sift's Mango passion cheesecake.

So, I ended up with this - Rosehip cheesecake with cheesecake mousse, lychee jelly and raspberry, topped by spiral rose chantilly cream. This wasn't bad. If you're looking for a cheesecake which is light as feather, then this will be the perfect fit for you.




Earl Grey mousse cake ($48) - Earl Grey mousse surrounded with poppy seed chiffon, lemon curd with a layer of soft lemon foam. Again this was very light and fluffy but the Earl Grey flavor wasn't as pronounced as I'd like, which is a killer (since I'm a huge fan of Earl Grey tea).



Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: G/F, 51 Queen's Road East, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Closest Metro Station: Admiralty
Tel: +852 2528-0084
Website: www.siftdesserts.com


Monday, June 24, 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
Website: www.pjk.com.hk


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