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Level 5, JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty

As you might be aware, I was back in HK for Christmas. One of the first meals I had was at the new Flint Bar & Grill on the 5th floor of the JW Marriot Hotel.  A and I were looking for something casual yet refined – the perfect setting for a “first” date after being in London so long.  We were definitely attracted to Flint because of the ambiance – it sold us on being spacious, bold and impressive in its decor.  The service was also pretty memorable; our server was hospitable and very knowledgeable about the menu.

IMG_2251However, unfortunately the food itself didn’t leave much of a first impression.  To be fair, we had set out for a surf & turf kind of night, and when we sat down to hear that the signature 64-day aged Nebraskan rib eye and sirloin was unavailable (at 8pm), we didn’t know what to order and what to do.  We were headless chickens in a steakless abyss, clucking for the cow that never came.

I do believe Flint is deserving of a second chance because of this, but I’m afraid my Christmas quota isn’t for second chances.  The Openrice reviews on their veal cheek signature have made a second go in the near future more optimistic… So long as they don’t run out of that item too.

IMG_2254Our server directed us around the cocktail menu and Specials while we stewed in the winter of our beef-less discontent and poked at the warm bread rolls.

IMG_2244Flint does not provide a drinks menu on the site and I, being an amateur blogger after so long away from the scene, apologetically forgot to note the prices and names down for these cocktails.  Shame because these were probably the highlights of the night.  The above was their Mai Tai signature, strong and sweet.  I particularly enjoyed chewing on their addictive pineapple crisp.  The dried lime wedge, comparatively, is not to be chewed on – I learned that the bitterly hard way.  The other cocktails below were also delicious and carefully constructed.

IMG_2253 This was a warm Gold Label whisky cocktail with orange peel and cinnamon.  Recommended.

IMG_2252I loved the detail of putting the straw in the lemongrass stick.  I can’t remember the details of this but I did ask for something fresh and sweet and it did not disappoint.

IMG_2250We opted for the baked oysters ($160), but unfortunately the fresh oyster meat either lacked taste or couldn’t come close to the overwhelming cheesiness that drowned all in that half-shell.  I refer to the pancetta bits and spinach that have hopefully gone to a better place now, their names but writ in melted cheese.

IMG_2249If I didn’t see that little brown ball hidden beneath the foliage, I might’ve forgotten what this dish was.  The duck foie gras and wagyu croquettes ($160) were soft and rich but unfortunately underseasoned.  However, it paired well with the tartness of the fig reduction.  The dill was also a nice addition, as it delivered something clean and fresh to an otherwise heavy dish.  The parsley and the rest just seemed a little slapdash and unnecessary for me.

IMG_2247The seafood grill ($380) is often ordered in reviews I’ve seen, and I suppose it was one of the happier moments in the meal.  This was generally well-executed seafood: the mussels were fresh; a sweet, fat, juicy scallop was tempting me in sizzles on the hot stone plate; the lobster thermidor came with a substantial amount of roe and juiciness still in tact; and the prawn was sizable and nicely seasoned.  The only qualm I had was with the ‘catch of the day’ – I’m not even sure what fish this was.  The skin was soggy, and the flesh was only remedied after being dunked in the little pot of that rich, heavenly lobster bisque.

IMG_2246We then ordered one of the ‘specials’ – a lamb rump (spelled ‘rumb’ on the chalkboard and Specials card, but I assume they meant rump?) with a black truffle polenta and grilled baby courgettes.  Out of the entire dish, I think I was mostly a fan of the decadent polenta with gravy – also very rich and flavourful.  The lamb was in parts was inedible – if you look at the picture, you can see how it’s mostly fat.  It was rather disappointing that they’d serve us a cut like that.  Definitely not what I was expecting.

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For sides, we were set on some sauteed mushrooms ($80) in garlic butter and parsley.  It wasn’t too garlicky, which I appreciated because it let the lovely mushroomy flavours come out on the plate.  I also liked how varied the assortment was, as it gave us a lot of different textures.  All in all, this side was simple and well executed, and definitely hit the spot when everything else seemed to fall short.

I read somewhere that one of the (few) perks of being in a long-distance relationship is that every date when you’re together feels like a first date.  Not sure if this is entirely true as I like to think on our actual first date I didn’t eat myself into the form of a fat, sleepy panda…  But more importantly, we’re also a little more blunt about what we want to eat and what dishes we liked.  Flint has a wonderful space, great service, delicious drinks, and solid-sounding menu (although I can’t really understand how charging $50 for a fried free-range egg is justified), but A and I both agreed that the execution of our dishes that night left us yearning for just a little more.

6/F, Jardine Centre, 50 Jardine’s Bazaar, CW

I had toast again for dinner yesterday, so that might explain why I’m feeling rather blasé about my recent food ‘conquests’ (read: how to stop your toaster from incinerating all that you condemn to its steel jaws).  Since it’s a Thursday, I shall invoke the popular hashtag #throwbackthursday to introduce Xenri No Tsuki Japanese Cuisine on the HK numb today.

Xenri No Tsuki (千里之月鮨旬菜) has been around for a while, consistently living up to its name by Openricers, food bloggers, and unpublished foodies (aka the silent heroes) alike.  I myself visited on April 3rd (the boyfriend’s birthday ha ha, couldn’t forget that date now could I…) and we were dying for a sushi fix.  This was supposedly the place.

The almost prurient plates of melt-in-your-mouth toro and crunchy ebi-head seemed to be crawling into my camera lens (and later, my mouth) on all fours, like a Terry Richardson shoot with Miley Cyrus –  traversing that fine line between art and just plain traumatizing.  I suppose my subject matter by comparison was leaning towards the former, although if I had stuffed any more sushi into my poor first-world belly I would have been in distress.

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Please forgive me for not remembering some details.  As an amuse bouche, we were presented with a dried/cured fish on shiso leaf, with what I believe was a Kewpie mayo dressing; kidney beans; and pickled vegetables.  Nice.  Nothing special.

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The boyfriend and I went to Bali for a long weekend holiday.  It was delicious.  We fell in love with a few Balinese and Padang dishes, and I definitely have a new-found respect for Indonesian cuisine – or specifically, Balinese cuisine.  I’m just waiting now for any old lovable prick on Hong Kong island to start up an overpriced ‘Indonesian tapas’ restaurant slash bar slash lounge slash club slash “Satay Saturdays but we’ll still charge way more than what’s moral ha ha” with, of course, a no-reservations policy.  I might actually have to line up for this one.  Seriously.  You say sambal, I say how high.

We were after 3 things in Bali, so I’ll subhead the posts as follows for easy reading: pig, seafood and catpoop. All with the occasional mojito.

pig

Bali, a Hindu province in a mostly-Muslim Indonesia, has become a foodie sanctuary for the most delicious suckling pig, better known in Bali as Babi Guling.  We knew our first stop had to be Ibu Oka – an institution for the revered pork – that was popularized by Anthony Bourdain in No Reservations.  The moment Andrew and I heard the ‘crack’ of that pork skin on the telly, it was nothing but belly on our minds.

Ibu Oka

Jalan Tegal Sari No. 2, Ubud, 80571

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1/F, 63 Wyndham Street, Central

IMG_1588[1]One step inside Restoration and you feel transported.  Scattering the space is the eclectic yet elegant touch of New Orleans decor, with rooms dimly lit yet still lovingly warm and inviting.  Bar stool diners had a better view of Chef Jack Carson and the team in the hot kitchen, but our table was cosy, humble and gave us enough privacy.  From the window-side, one could look down from the first floor to the seemingly distant Wyndham Street and grating pace of Hong Kong’s party district.

What looked like painted and restored vintage furniture pieces could be found in the corners of your eyes, in the small details but in a big way.  A few quaint gerber daisies at the center of our table was the clincher, bringing me somewhere I’ve surely never been.  But immediately, I felt at home, or at least somewhere familiar.  The service was similarly warm, as well as knowledgeable and attentive.

I was excited to taste what I already felt comforted by: The Big Easy.

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108, Hollywood Road, SOHO, Sheung Wan

And rightly so!  See here: http://www.restaurantweek.hk

Admittedly, I didn’t go to the Press Room for Restaurant Week, but have been quite a few times – including during their Promotion Period (May 27 to August 31, 2013) for 40% off on Tuesdays.  I love their simple yet humbling take on French-European cuisine, and the fact they are a restaurant that stays true to the notion of casual dining.

The portions are anything but pretentious, and their policy of actually taking reservations is a breath of fresh air.  It’s always nice to know when you’re allowed to dig into your dinner, and that you won’t be stuck in a queue like you’re outside Volar wearing Crocs with socks.  It’s also rather nice to know that what you do end up digging into will actually fill you up – you know, like a dinner should.  So snaps for the Press Room for actually sticking to their guns and congratulations on a much-deserved ‘Best Restaurant’ award at Restaurant Week!

I present a few photographs from my latest Press Room foodie trip.  They were taken a few weeks back so I apologies if the details are a little blurry.  I have the memory of a goldfish.  (Which is another reason why I blog.)

ImageThe oyster selection is impressive, with 6 oysters setting you back $186.  The French type at the front here was incredibly creamy, plump and full-flavoured.  If you prefer the brinier options, they also have Tasmanian oysters with high salt characters.  Check the blackboard for their selections.  I’ve still not gotten around to ordering the Plateux de Fruits de Mer ($220 per person; with lobster: $396) but from eyeing up other tables, it’s a whopper.

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18, Nam Kok Road, Kowloon City

Having been to Kowloon City market and sampled the cheap, authentic Thai food there, I was keen to follow up on a recommendation for a proper Thai restaurant in Kowloon City.  Especially after it was suggested that my dearly beloved Chung Shing in Tai Mei Tuk was ‘overpriced’ and ‘overrated’..

To Lung Jie Thai Restaurant I went.  With high expectations.

This was perhaps the first mistake.

We found the restaurant fairly easily, and a few people were waiting outside even at 9pm.  The couple next to us, who had evidently been waiting for a while, were complaining to the host outside about getting the numbers mixed up; they had been waiting for a table for two, but had been passed over with the host thinking they were a table for four.  Oops.  Thankfully, we got in quickly.

Seated directly next to the kitchen, on the one side we were privy to the loud metallic clangs and clatters of pots and pans and kitchen banter, and on the other side: the loud chatter of a standard small HK eatery.  I was getting a headache, and I was starved.  Where was the service?  Buzzing around the restaurant but apparently ignoring us.  It almost seemed intentional.

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1/F Wo On Building, 8-13 Wo On Lane, Central

Common Room, Prive Group’s new gastropub venture, does exactly what it says on the tin:  ‘classic, contemporary and molecular cocktails’, paired with ‘world-inspired’ tapas.  I suppose with such a glorified menu of generalities, it’s not hard for whatever they produce to fit their rather abstract incarnation of a culinary bill.  Although the notion of ‘global cuisine’, ‘global food’, or ‘world-inspired’ might seem anathema to foodie purists or, on the flip side, like a backpedaling restaurant strategy to cop-out from any serious food philosophy, at the end of the day I don’t believe Common Room really cares, and I guess neither do I.  It is the Common Room of Lan Kwai Fong; anything goes after hours.

From my experience on a Friday night: drinks come first, food second, and when you’re situated smack bang just off the strait and narrow of Lan Kwai Fong – next to good ol’ grimey Baby Buddha, Oysters Bar with cheap, full-of-regret Long Island Ice Teas, and the amphitheater with artsy, hemp-hooved hippies who’d rather sit in the humidity drinking their Sols at whatever pace they please thank you very much – well, you’d be stupid not to.  And the food that was served complimented our libations particularly well, in that drunken “damn, this is good munch, and shit! Is that truffle?” kind of way.

In all, Common Room is just far too casual, far too fun and far too well priced for a Central joint, to pass any damning judgement.  I know: shock, horror! A chic new gastropub in Central that actually takes reservations, makes you full, and doesn’t turn your wallet skinny?!  Hong Kong, I think I heard the food cherubs singing hallelujah! OK, fine – I would have, if Common Room hadn’t killed my earbuds with the incessant, loud, drunken chatter and that sick Funktion One soundsystem.

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G/F, 3 Thomson Road, Wanchai

This Japanese crab restaurant, situated on a quiet corner on Thomson Road, offers something few restaurants in Hong Kong can; a gustatory journey singling out three exceptionally sweet crab species flown in fresh from Japan, without letting you leave until you realise absolutely the true meaning of gastronomic hedonism.  Ceasing our hunger may have been a priority at the start of that night – a state that must first and foremost be satisfied, I do not argue there.  However, after a course of sweet and succulent grilled King Taraba crab legs with Kani-su, or crab vinegar, and a third course of crispy tempura claws and a Matcha (green tea) salt, and a shabu shabu set featuring various joints of the crab to be plunged into a hot ponzu-like bath, finally to end the crab “nose-to-tail” eating with a fifth course of crab roe rice.. well, the state of being full was almost a non sequitur.  The biological urge to nourish ourselves was quickly passed over and replaced, almost just as naturally, by a decadently bent motivation to pleasure our palates with crab, crab and more crab.

Kanizen keeps one eye on the traditional, and the other eye on the future – but both are on the culinary ball.  A first impression of the front exterior – defined, clean lines, dark woods and elegant block signage with no windows – admittedly, all seems rather solemn.  And then, one press of a button outside slides the large wooden panel back, revealing a foyer featuring a concrete pool of fresh Japanese crab varieties – Matsuba, Taraba, Kegari; what was once solemn now becomes decor meticulousness exuding sexiness via seafood.  Another automated wooden panel opens to the main dining section, with a U-shaped bar for crepuscular foodies like Andrew and I to sit and be allured by all manners of crustacean temptations.  We went for Mr. Big: the King crab, or Taraba (鱈場蟹).

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My boyfriend’s parents celebrated their 35th anniversary last week.  So, in true filially pious foodie son and daughter fashion, the kids and their significant others planned a dinner worthy of a Michelin-starred table.  Not incredibly romantic when one of the SO’s is caught chewing on the lamb bone in the kitchen (I swear this was not me), but I think this amazing couple had an excellent time.

Having visited Lardo’s and fallen in love with their preemo lamb and beef, A and I went over to TCDeli, their flagship retail outlet – also in Hang Hau Village – to pick up 3kgs of the highest quality Australian lamb.  A special discount for purchases over $500 made this massive Tasmanian grain-fed beauty quite reasonably priced ($470~), and was more than enough for 7 people – contrary to the guy-behind-the-counter’s skepticism.  We opted to keep the bone in for the flavour, but if you’d rather stuff the lamb instead then they also offer butterflied portions.  If one cannot be assed to trek to Hang Hau, then the Meat Market is another option for these kinds of cuts, and more importantly: offers home delivery.  Lazy Hongkies, I know you all too well.

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It must be said, I was never a fan of Macau.  The last time I visited was almost five years ago, before the City of Dreams and Venetian and all that Vegas jazz.  As you might imagine, I was taken aback when we drove down the Cotai Strip (still undergoing some construction in parts) with the palm trees and main road leading up to something reminiscent of a mini-golf version of Vegas, with the sun blinding you through the small cab windows because no silhouette of skyscrapers decided to block its glare.  I managed to catch a glimpse of street corners with pebblestone pavement intermingling with both the glassy fronts and wooden shutters of uneven, period-clashing buildings, with similarly uneven, cobblestone steps gallivanting in the city scape next to modern, glossy escalators.  I’m not sure whether I liked this landscape; I wasn’t sure whether it was simply confused or capriciously eccentric.  But I wasn’t here for the view, unless that view was set upon some tableware, between a knife and fork, some chopsticks, a little white linen napkin… or maybe even just in between my thumb and forefinger.

And so, cue the pork buns (豬扒包).

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