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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.

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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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seafood

We were adamant about getting some fresh grilled seafood while we were in Bali.  We thought some kind of beach cafe would be a good place to start.  So after we finished tanning on our hotel’s rooftop pool (amazing) and watched the sunset high above like Greek Gods – liquored, slightly bronzed and clad in gladiators too – we set off on our seafood odyssey.

Echo Beach House

Jalan Pura Batu Mejan, Echo Beach, Canggu, Bali 80361, Indonesia

Echo Beach House is a huge set-up, but hard to find.  Actually, that’s their slogan: “Hard to find, hard to forget.”  It might be helpful to organise a driver to and from Canggu beach because once you’ve finished dinner, it’s not going to be easy to hail any cabs or haggle a ride back to your hotel from such a remote spot.

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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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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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G/F, 69 Tai Mei Tuk Village,Ting Kok Rd., Tai Po

AKA The Best Thai Restaurant In Hong Kong

Today was a stupidly sunny day in Hong Kong for a Tuesday.  While many were unfortunately stuck in the office, the boyfriend was on his annual leave and I am – for all intents and purposes – on holiday, making it the perfect time to hit one of our favourite spots in the New Territories, Chung Shing Thai.

I’ve been to this place too many times to count, but to be perfectly honest I never knew the name of this restaurant till I decided to write a review.  I never needed to!  If I’m arranging a dinner with friends in Tai Mei Tuk, it is presumed it will be Chung Shing Thai.  ‘Thai in Tai Mei Tuk’ has become synonymous with this restaurant, and only this restaurant.  I always pass the Papaya joint directly adjacent and feel a little sorry for them, especially on a weekend night when you see people lined up waiting to be seated at Chung Shing even when hardly anyone is sitting in the place beside it..  But that’s just how good this place is.  You will not be disappointed!

We decided to try a couple of different items on the menu. Having been going here for many years, I usually go for the same ‘staples’ if you like: the green curry has a luscious silky sauce with authentic Thai ingredients; the morning glory (tung choi) with garlic, soybeans and chili is so addictive (which is frustrating sometimes because it’s usually the first thing to come out and then you’re just craving more); the whole grilled squid is an absolute treat – tender with a slight char that is so satisfying when you dip the pieces into the standard spicy-sour Thai chili sauce; and other notable mentions are the soft shell crab, the grilled pork slices with the decadent chili sauce, the naan, the skewers… I could go on.  The only thing I was never too keen on was the pineapple fried rice – but I think that could just be because of my aversion to pineapples, pineapples on anything savoury… I can’t, I don’t know, (I’ll rant about this later I’m sure.)

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Been a while – finally back in Hong Kong for summer, after a pretty grueling year in London.  But you don’t want to hear about this.  I come bearing pictures of food, and hope you will forgive me for my absence.

My mama went to Tai Po market (I, admittedly, was still jetlagged and slept in till 3) and picked up some glorious seafood.  Had some razorclams, mussels, prawns and squid.  In Tagalog, you call squid ‘pusit’, which my boyfriend prefers because it sounds naughty, and it makes him giggle when I ask him if he likes pusit.  Yes, we are children.

Despite the lame anecdotes, this post will hopefully be a little more informational than usual, as I feel I’ve learned a thing or two about preparing and cooking seafood that could be useful to you too.  Definitely no ‘master’, but I do feel a little more experienced with my seafood skills.

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Being back in London, I felt like this blog was no longer necessary (not that I posted much anyway…).  Most obviously, because I am no longer in Hong Kong, and with that: I am no longer being exposed to such delicious food – food that makes my mouth water and my thighs go weak with a yearning sense of decadent demolishment; food that I sometimes – at first – don’t even want to touch because it sits on the plate looking so pretty and perfect, like a saintly projection tempting me with its velvety, glistening goodness or rugged, handsomely charred edges, bringing me closer with that familiar, fond, faint aroma or overwhelming, steaming pungency.  Food, glorious food.

However, what I am doing in London is cooking.  I was also cooking in Hong Kong, but in London it is more out of necessity, because as an impoverished student of Humanities I am not able to afford the overpriced harvest of London’s dining scene.  Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to get good, cheap fresh seafood here so the dishes I make in London are consequently very different to my Hong Kong choices.  I also cannot afford meat everyday so vegetarian dishes have become quite regular on the menu.

So, I get nostalgic.  And at present, I’m looking at some old pictures of my DIY food porn from Hong Kong.  I know this sounds so housewifely of me but I do love making dinners, especially for my “Sweet Sweet Boyfriend” who loves food as much as I do, if not more…  I sometimes worry he likes my company more for my cooking more than for anything else.  I’ve yet to disprove this, but if he’s full and happy, I guess I’m happy too.

On one of my last days in Hong Kong, we had yumcha at Lei Gardens but decided to go a bit crazy for dinner too.  I took him to the Tai Po food market and we decked out on fat prawns, razorclams, two red snappers and some Thai spices.  I don’t know how we managed to demolish everything you see below, but we did.  I’m not sure if I’m ashamed or proud.

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53-59 Kimberley Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui

I’ve got a New Year’s resolution to actually update this blog. I pretty much stopped eating properly in September because I’ve been a little silly; food was more sustenance than art, which is obviously a travesty by Hong Kong standards.

So I thought I’d start off with something easy, a nice little self-server: Nomads on Kimberly Road. It’s been around for a while, I remember going for one-too-many birthday dinners here when I was in high school. I always thought we looked annoying to fellow diners; three tables pushed together with little gwai muis giggling and screaming at eachother, taking flash candid photos, dressed up like tarts while a mother desperately tries to cover her 8 year old’s ears as we spit out how fuuuuucking hot Justin Timberlake is. Not much has changed; Justin Timberlake is still futuresex, and I was still taking flash photos… this time, of the banging food that gets grilled in the open kitchen. And, after a few glasses of wine, we were cracking up like we were 17 again.

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