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Life is a combination of magic and pasta – Federico Fellini

DiVino is a great place to hang out and have a few drinks, especially since it’s located on Wazzzhappenin’ Wyndham.  The staff are so genial, and make sure it’s never a dull night in this wine bar and resto.

The first time I had dinner here we were blown away by the quality of their homemade pasta.  The home-made black pepper tagliatelle with venison ragout and garnished with Pecorino, for example, excites me every time I see it on the menu.  Luxurious slow-cooked wild venision hind generously covers the peppery thick ribbons with flair and unparalleled richness.

For those that prefer only a hint of chili and spice, humble spaghetti is given an Italian suit of white wine clams, found in their ‘Newcomers’ section.  The spaghetti is always cooked perfectly al dente, and at the same time, is cooked with the white wine sauce long enough so the flavours stick.  Like the Maine lobster linguine, which has a heavier bisque-like flavour, the dish is appreciatively generous with the seafood.

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The signature here is the 500 grams of Burrata DOP with Italian cherry tomatoes and a red onion salad, which I unfortunately have not tried (currently searching for a fellow cheese lover to share this with me).  The beef carpaccio, served with arugula salad, Parmesan cheese shavings, and artichoke hearts, is more than fair recompense.  You might also be able to change to a Bresaola if you’re not too keen on raw meat.  Slightly sweet but aged, lean yet melting, the Bresaola (below) is a fitting appetiser to that big pasta main.

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Andrew also has a soft spot for the French fries with black truffle mayonnaise.  They use hefty chunks of black truffle so this is not for the faint hearted.  I’m not crazy for the fries themselves, as I prefer sizes closer to shoestring – these are rather chunky.

At the moment, the DiVino group is taking part in white truffle season, with their ALBA truffles specially imported from Italy.


Website | Openrice | Yelp

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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.

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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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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