Sunday, 26 February 2017

What and Where to Eat in Hong Kong (Part I)

Do not leave Hong Kong without eating at a cha chan teng or dai pai dong. The former can be found everywhere while there are only a handful of the latter left as the government stopped issuing licenses for them due to congestion and hygiene problems. Both, and cooked food centres similar to our hawker centres, sell anything from po lo bao to cart noodles (or instant noodles with egg, ham/luncheon meat/sausage) and rice. In Singapore, we may have shared table with strangers at a coffeeshop, food court or hawker centre. But here, it is normal to be seated with strangers at restaurants especially at crowded places. Now…what should you eat in this former British Colony that justifies the almost-four-hours flight? Having been here a couple of times over the last few years, these are my recommendations:

Dim Sum and Congee
A must-eat when you visit Hong Kong. Bask in the morning yum cha culture as wait staff brisk around to seat customers, take orders and serve piping hot baskets of steamed har kau and siew mai. During my most recent trip, we visited Tim Ho Wan at IFC Mall and were seated immediately. Here, the Ma Lai Gao had an aroma of Gula Melaka that I could not discern in Singapore's and the Baked Buns with BBQ Pork was sweeter. Could neither rave about the Steamed Prawn Dumplings nor fault the Steamed Pork Dumpling with Shrimp and Chicken Feet with Black Bean Sauce. The latter two were similar to that in Singapore. Also tried dim sum at Jasmine Garden, a Maxim's Chinese Cuisine outlet operated under Maxim's Catering Limited and located on the 3rd floor of Langham Place.

Established since the 1970s, Maxim's Group's first Cantonese restaurant offers up to 45% discount on selected items such as Pan-fried Turnip Cakes and Congee on weekdays before the lunch crowd throngs in and for afternoon tea (between lunch and dinner). We liked that the food was light on the palate  not too sweet, salty or oily. According to its website, vitamin-E rich and cholesterol-free rice bran oil is used with no MSG added. An item we ordered that we have not come across elsewhere is the Steamed Rice Rolls with Egg and Prawns. Nothing we could fault as the prawns were fresh but not impressive either as the ingredients tasted disparate.

Egg Tarts and Baked Goods
Nothing beats egg tarts and baked goods fresh from the oven. Other than po lo bao and lou po beng, Hong Kong bakeries churn out pillow-soft breads and fluffy cakes. Most often than not, we would buy some at night before returning to our hotel so we could either eat them as supper if hungry or leave 'til the next day for breakfast. Kee Wah Bakey and Maxim's Cakes can be found almost everywhere. Without fail, I would buy baked goods back from the former even when I was on transit  choices are limited at the airport branch though (check out my posts on Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival). Similarly, there are many branches of Tai Cheong Bakery but it was at the main Central branch that we tried its egg tart. Sniff the aroma of butter and egg, and bite into crispy crust that crumbles in the mouth. Loved how the silky-smooth and tofu-like egg filling melted in my mouth and slid down my throat with ease. This is a tad better than Singapore's.

To be continued...

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Seta – Two Michelin-starred Restaurant in Milan

According to Mandarin Oriental's website, the "number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the group's portfolio is more than any other hotel group in the world". Other than its two hotels in Hong Kong, the list includes Shanghai and Tokyo in Asia as well as four in Europe  Barcelona, London, Milan and Paris. Upon arrival in Milan, we made reservations for dinner at Seta which has been awarded a second Michelin star in the 2017 guide and were delighted that a table for four was still available despite it being a weekend. Rain throughout our stay in the fashion capital meant the weather felt more like winter than spring and we could not sit at the courtyard. As much as I would like to try the black truffle tasting menu, it is suggested for the entire table and my dining companions would be compelled to eat the same. For democracy, we decided to order from the à la carte menu and everyone could choose what they wanted.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Paradise Teochew Restaurant

Paradise Group is not an unfamiliar name in Singapore, along with Crystal Jade and Imperial Treasure. About a year ago, it opened Paradise Teochew Restaurant on the 3rd floor of Chinese Swimming Club's Sports Complex at Amber Road. Its 2nd branch, also on the 3rd floor, took over the space previously occupied by Crystal Jade Pristine at Scotts Square. As we were there for dinner on a weekend, did not have a chance to try its dim sum. Instead, we ordered braised sliced duck (Irish fat duck) and sautéed scallop with asparagus in XO sauce. The former came atop surprisingly good braised beancurd, was tender and not as salty as the latter. Lightly flavoured without being bland, and not too oily. While I had these dishes with plain white rice, a dining companion ate porridge with condiments and another tried its sliced pomfret porridge. Nothing to rave about or fault, and overall a pleasant experience.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Kanshoku Ramen Bar

I thought there was an aroma of truffles in the air. Sniffing around to trace its source, it seemed to come from Kanshoku Ramen Bar. Located at B3 of Ion Orchard between Imperial Treasure Noodle & Congee House and Wrap & Roll, this is a local brand and its 3rd branch after The Metropolis and Orchard Gateway. We found a table for four and sat ourselves down. An order chit (but no writing instrument) was brought to us. My dining companions ordered Signature Kanshoku Ramen while I had the dry version of Truffle Ramen. Also shared Black Truffle Edamame – simply edamame drizzled with truffle oil, and Pork Gyoza. The latter was the best dish of our meal as the Hakata-style ramen was a tad hard and mine was too dry despite the onsen egg. Could neither rave about the Ramen Egg that we added nor fault the torched caramelised Chashu that one of us found sweet.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Chinese New Year 2017 – Goodies Galore

Now that the Christmas feasting is out of the way, it is time to indulge in Chinese New Year (CNY) goodies. There were a few stalls at Takashimaya this year that I do not recall seeing previously such as Frenzies, Kele and Nature's Krafters. The latter is a Singapore company that harvest Bentong ginger from the foothills of Malaysia's Bukit Tinggi where the air is crisp and the water pure, into different forms  powder (also available with molasses sugar), fermented slices (with honey or honey and lemongrass) and mixed with other natural ingredients. Probably the beverage we would need to aid digestion after over-eating. Tried Kele's golden pineapple balls, supposedly the best in Singapore, for the first time and was surprised I did not find them earlier. Now, it ranks among my favourites.