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積存街20號地下

After some of the busiest weeks, and Jackie and Alex’s wonderful wedding weekend, I am so ready to relax and pig-out.  Something in the neighbourhood suits me just fine: close and convenient, Buddy’s Kitchen is a copacetic choice for casual Western dining.  The menu is offered simply, but the plates that swing out of this neat open kitchen are but perfectly executed.

Our favourites can actually be found on the cheaper dinner set menus. The squid ink risotto doesn’t simply feed you; it’s smooth, rich, and refined in all the right places, with a delicious bite.  Tall, dark, and handsome, this babe waltzes you all the way home feeling like a million bucks and I can honestly say I’ve never had better.

The steaks are equally generous and served with some pretty fabulous fries and Bearnaise. And if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know desserts aren’t usually on my agenda, but this creme brulee made with pandan leaf is a homely take on a French classic.

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Openrice: http://www.openrice.com/restaurant/sr2.htm?shopid=150490

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Ever since my shitty main course at Bread Street Kitchen (to be fair: it was soft opening), I have been slowly shifting my home-chef loyalties from Ramsay to Jamie.  The way I’m starting to see it:  Jamie teaches you how to use leftover meat, and is a sweetheart to chickens, whilst Ramsay tells you that your gourmet meat is raw and throws it in the bin.  Now that’s just wasteful.

So I came across a recipe for panzanella by Jamie here:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/bread-recipes/panzanella-tuscan-tomato-bread-salad

Panzanella is a Tuscan salad that uses tomatoes and leftover bread.  Not much, you say, but the dressing of vinegar, anchovies, and good extra virgin olive oil, gives this loaf something to get soaked about.  Wikipedia references the 16th-century artist and poet Bronzino, who actually calls the salad “another pleasure of this life” (“altro piacer di questa vita”) and I’m not one to disagree.

The red onions Jamie recommends in his recipe, are macerated till heavenly sweet and soft by the red wine vinegar.  This, combined with the strong saltiness of the anchovies, is something the poor Caprese would cry home to his mama about, basil leaves tucked between his mozzarella balls.

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I served this salad with a whole roasted chicken – crispy, but still moist because of a whole forked lemon that I stuff inside its cavity like no tomorrow.  You might’ve noticed the Aquarius in the corner of that photo – my go-to drink when I’m hungover.  If I can make a dinner like this when I’m hungover, there is no way anyone could screw this up.  Stale bread, tomatoes, and dressing – get it done!

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God love vinegar soaked carbs.

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.

Happy New Year, readers and friends! I hope 2014 brings us all much food and happiness, and maybe quite a few more HK numb posts…  I am thoroughly excited about what this year holds, namely finally being settled in HK in Summer and all that that entails – mostly food and certain boy.

For those of you who were hungover on that chilly New Year’s Day, I’m sure you’d agree not much beats a warm bowl of ramen from Butao.  Lucky for the ‘dark siders’ of Hong Kong  (I know, I hate that term too), Butao and Din Tai Fung have recently opened branches in Sha Tin New Town Plaza.  I dont know about you, but my hungover afternoons will never be the same; xiao long bao and tonkotsu right next to eachother, and close to home?!  Aww yeah, watch my belly grow ho ho ho.

I have to admit: I was a Butao virgin before they opened in Sha Tin, so I’m not sure how this compares to the original shop in Lanks.  As it was my first time, I was – as I’m sure you can imagine – innocent and naive about what was in store.  Waiting for my ticket to be called gave me a little anticipatory anxiety, especially after hearing everyone else talking about it these last few years.  Before this, sometimes I’d think, “Why don’t you just do it already?  Just get it over with, everyone else has.” but I don’t know, I guess the romantic in me just wanted it to be special, that I should wait til I was ready… or til they opened a branch closer to home.

I guess you could say for my first-time I kept it vanilla – I went for the classic Butao ($83) with normal thin noodles. Nothing overdone or elaborate, of course – I’m not that kind of girl – but I did get a couple extra sides here and there.  Nothing wrong with a bit of fork play, after all.

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IMG_2264So, was it worth the wait?  Well, yes.  I didn’t need to wait in a mile-long queue, and was never appealed by the thought of going to Central by 10am to be one of the first-served (I feel similarly about the Ichiran hype), so this branch was definitely worth the wait.  I loved the original broth, which I think is more flavourful and unctuous than the Ippudo brand.  However, I was quite disappointed with the pork belly, which seemed comparatively tasteless and lacking.  I also would’ve preferred harder noodles, so I amended this on my next visit.

IMG_2266Andrew ordered the Black King ($93) which I found far too heavy.  Perhaps for this and the Green King (which features cheese and olive oil), opting for a lighter strength would’ve made it easier to slurp down.  It was a nice alternative, but I’m glad I stuck to the original.

The next time we came though, I wanted it harder and hotter.

IMG_2329[1]I loved the Red King ($93).  I guess I’m not much of a purist when it comes to Butao cos I would definitely order this again and again over the original – but only just.  I opted for harder noodles (better) and Butao’s special spicy sauce on top of the already spicy broth.  The broth wasn’t outlandishly spicy, but its kick was addictive to the point I pretty much emptied the bowl of soup. The Japanese marinated egg’s ($17) runny yolk was the perfect neutraliser though whenever I needed a cool down. Like the other ‘Kings’, it has a little pork mince ball in the center, in addition to your selected meat.  Being disappointed with the pork belly on last visit, we tried the pork butt and found it to be much tastier and less fatty.

I do like how Butao lets you customise your ramen, but it is indeed somewhere that you need to go more than once to get your ideal bowl.  Which I don’t mind in the slightest.

Happy hangover, Hong Kong!  Keep eating, stay sexy.

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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18/F, The One, 100 Nathan Road, TST

Actress Carina Lau has recently opened three ventures on the 18th Floor of The One: Tapagria, Kyo-Shun and Zurrolia.  Andrew and I chose to check out Tapagria for a more casual Spanish dine in. Zurrolia, also on this floor, is the fine-dining alternative.

Unsure what to expect, but secretly aching for an authentic, masterfully concocted sangria, I crossed my fingers desperately.  One sip from their deep red jar of Wild Berry ($330; 1/2: $290), embellished with blackberries and all manners of sweetness in Cachaça, and my fingers weren’t the only things happily loosened.

I do remember looking at their food menu online as I was on my way  (read: trying to work out the frustrating puzzle of elevators and lifts leading up to this mysterious floor at The One), and wondered dismally if the illustrations were a half-assed Windows Accessories Paint job.  I suppose, in some ways, one shouldn’t judge the restaurant by its menu.

IMG_1846The stand-out was without a doubt the paella*!  Incredibly rich, perfectly-seasoned rice was jeweled with a few fresh treasures from the sea – mussels, clams, and prawns.  I loved the delicious depth of flavour, and might have to admit that it’s probably one of the better paellas I’ve tasted in Hong Kong.  Sadly, it’s tapas-sized, so you might have to be the better man and let your partner steal away the lone prawn.

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26/F, Stanley 11, Stanley Street, Central

Liberty Private Works sits on the top floor of the Stanley 11 Building, seating only a handful of diners at 7.30pm, then 8.30pm, every day.  When you make a commitment to LPW (because let’s be clear: it is a commitment, not simply a reservation), you sign yourself off to a whole evening at the culinary circus.  From 7.30 to close to midnight, you and only a few others are privy to the French technical theatrics of Chef Vicky Cheng’s carefully crafted menu, the broad strokes of edible genius that fly across the plate, the excruciating, painstaking details masterfully executed with almost contortionist flair, and hopefully, as time passes, a few memorable moments to be savoured on the palate.

However, like the circus, four hours watching chefs work the culinary acrobatics, juggling two sets of diners and making a show of it, can drag on a fair bit.. One scan around the private kitchen’s honestly rather bored-looking diners at 10pm made me feel like I wasn’t the only one simply lacking patience – that this occasion was protracted almost to the point of pompousness.  Chef Vicky Cheng is a star in HK, I don’t think anyone can deny this – his extensive Michelin-starred resume and tutelage under Daniel Boulud show in the food and presentation of LPW – so perhaps then the words ‘less is more’ might work in his favour.  We don’t need hours of proof – we get it!  You have fun now.

Plans to return?  Hmm, I’m sure I’d get more fidgety the second time around… but a tasting menu at $800 is incredibly reasonable, and LPW is a unique dining experience in Hong Kong that I don’t think should be passed up.  This might sound like sacrilege, but I really wish there was some kind of ‘Liberty Express’ where one could sit down for just an hour, say – maybe even two – to enjoy some of Chef Vicky’s creations from LPW.  I guess Liberty Exchange is meant to cut it close.

breadAs we were waiting for the late diners (who comes late to a group sitting?!), we tucked into some crispy bread ‘sticks’ and a roasted red pepper dip.

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3/F, Grand Progress Building, LKF

Once upon a Friday night, I was stumbling around Central trying to find somewhere to eat.  Unfortunately, I found Mayta.

It was suspiciously easy to walk in during dinner service but I, being all too excited to try one of the few Peruvian restaurants in Hong Kong, waltzed right up to the table with my earnest little foodie heart on my sleeve.  The decor was eye-catching and rather sexy, with colourful Peruvian textiles playing against the dark walls and wooden beams.  In a flamboyant display of Inca geometrics, patterned vases and ceramics adorned the wall shelves, artful pops of boisterous colour bejeweling the space.

I’m sure this proud, sophisticated show of Peruvian culture would’ve been something to appreciate but at this point I was just getting pissed off by the loud, inconsiderate group of rugby boys or stag lads or some group to that effect, that were taking up the long table, center stage, hooting and howling and, with such unnatural, all-American volume, recalling anecdotes like that one time, at Twat Camp…

So what was one to do but hit the drinks menu?

Of course I ordered a Pisco Sour ($68) to get the Inca ball rolling – I opted for a passionfruit blend and enjoyed this thoroughly.  Their Pisco cocktail list is extensive, with innovative signatures, and served strong.  Try the Mojito Chilcano ($68) which replaces rum with Pisco.  I was happy about the cocktails, surprised that a drinks menu could be so reasonably priced in the middle of Lan Kwai Fong.

Appetisers (or small shares) weren’t too bad either.

IMG_1696[1]The popular David-Chang-pork-bun imitation, called Pan Con Chicharon ($138) was good.  I believe the Momofuku original is simply a steamed bun with pork belly, but this clever counterfeit threw in a chili aioli, some pickles and fried sweet potato.

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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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