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In a state of hibernation. My backlog has long become unsustainable. Will probably tweet more and write less full-length stuff.

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Entries in Chinese (47)

Wednesday
Jul052006

Bo Innovation

I've just come back from Japan, and am making a brief pitstop here in SF before I head back to Asia. Two more HK meals before I get to the Japanese goodness.

 

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A while back, tastingmenu clued me in on a restaurant called Bo Innovation. Once a somewhat shady eating establishment run out of a home, the place went legit and started up a proper restaurant in Central. My dad had checked it out already earlier this year and said it was quite an interesting place. I was quite eager to try this Hong Kong take on Chinese/Western fusion cuisine, especially after reading about Hillel's meal. The restaurant itself is very nice and modern, although the location is actually a little more hidden than I expected. The menu gives a few choices of small to big tastings. We opted for the Degustation, which offers a series of apps and a choice of a main dish. At HK$600, it actually looked more appealing than the more expensive Chef's Menu.

steamed buns with eggplant dip This was a fairly interesting implementation of bread. The smooth, smoky eggplant dip tasted remarkably like an eggplant dip at the beginning of our meal at Cafe Kor in Budapest; of course it was quite different with the steamed buns. Not bad.

crab meat salad, obha leaf mayo, marinated starfruit I thought this turned out to be one of the best dishes. The crab had a very light herby dressing that matched wonderfully with the sweet, slightly tart starfruit. The balls of ikura added a nice textural element.

clam, okra, crystal tomato jelly, "fuyu" foam Very, very interesting dish. For those unfamiliar, "fuyu" is a sort of tofu that's been fermented a little bit and usually comes in little jars. Chinese people like use it as something like a condiment for congee and such. It's something I've certainly never seen translated into any type of Western dish. The foam had a lot of fuyu flavor and was actually nicely balanced by the refreshing tomato jelly.

toro & ceps sushi, air dried foie gras, candied wasabi tomato Good, although the foie gras shavings didn't have quite as much foie flavor as I was hoping. The toro was of surprisingly good quality. I would have gladly eaten another piece...

grilled calamari, chilli, lime, ginger, spring onion sauce I was glad to see a big chunk of calamari... it feels like people don't serve it like that too often. The piece had a very nice charred flavor, and the sauce was tart and acidic. Nice combo.

pan roasted scallop, water chestnut, black sesame Another of my favorites from the night for sure, though the scallop itself was just par. The black sesame foam/sauce had a nice subtle flavor, and the water chestnuts were crisp and refreshing. Again, I don't think I've ever seen water chestnuts used in a Western style.

pan fried frog leg, truffle congee Frog legs, I've always thought, look and sound exotic but actually don't taste too special. Here, it was good, but I would have believed I was eating some kind of bird's leg just as easily. The congee, though, was quite special. Not quite as thick or chunky as a Chinese congee, this thing was more like a truffle soup, with a healthy dose of black truffle fragrance and flavor.

terrine of foie gras, black Chinese miso, pickled lotus root An interesting mix of flavors, but in my opinion not the most successful. The black miso was just too strong for me, and wasn't an excellent mix with the foie. The pickled lotus root was very cool - gari fans would love this stuff.

green apple "milkshake" served over dry ice I guess this was supposed to be some kind of palate cleanser before our mains (oddly, I'm blanking out on the order here, but I'm pretty sure it came right before our mains). Anyway, it was more for show than anything. We each got a bowl with a few small chunks of dry ice, and the waiter poured a milky green apple concoction over it which promptly started bubbling like a witch's brew. Drinking it with a small spoon, the stuff was ice cold and more like green apple milk than milkshake. Fun to watch though!

suckling pig two ways - crispy roasted and braised in jiangau vinegar with chestnut I chose the suckling pig for my main, having heard a good report about it from my dad. It was probably the best one on the table (others we tried were an ordinary squab and a pretty but unspectacular fish). The roasted piece was crackly and delicious. The braised bit had a thick, syrupy coating - almost like a Chinese balsamic vinegar with plenty of age. The flavor was very strong, and in fact I would have gladly used a bowl of white rice to soak it all up.

tonic sorbet with longan I guess they meant it was tonic water flavor or something, because the sorbet didn't have much taste. It was mild but very refreshing, and the longan mixed with a few strips of basil made for a nice palate cleanser.

dessert plate - coconut creme brulee, chocolate-stuffed sesame ball, citrus tart A decent set of desserts. The creme brulee was good but pretty standard. The sesame ball was very interesting, though not delicious. It was like a sesame ball you find when eating dim sum, but with a bit of chocolate at the center of the glutinous rice. I'm blanking on what that sheet is on top of the citrus tart, even though it was my favorite of the three. I'm pretty sure it was some exotic mild fruit. In any case, it was covering a nice lemon cream/custard, with the whole lot sitting on a nice flaky cracker.

Overall, I'd say it was a very interesting meal, but I'm not dying to go back. The killer dish that I wanted to try from Hillel's meal, the cheung fun with truffles, wasn't there anymore. The food was all pretty good, but nothing really blew me away. That said, I still think it's definitely worth going to see these extremely unusual combinations. I'm glad to see people are working with Chinese fusion. Japanese fusion is commonplace now, but you don't really see the same attempts at melding Chinese elements. Maybe this will be the start of something new.

Sunday
Jul022006

Yung Kee Restaurant - 鏞記酒家

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One of Hong Kong's unique delicacies is roast goose, specifically served with a kind of rice noodle called "lai fun" that you can't seem to find anywhere else in the world. The most famous place in town for roast goose noodles is Yung Kee, a multi-story establishment in the Central area of HK. On my last trip to HK, there was some kind of temporary regulation against goose at the time, so I was denied this delicious experience. Not so this time around, and my dad promptly made a trip during a terribly hot day (actually, pretty much every day was terribly hot) for lunch.

roast pork Although Yung Kee is famous for its goose, it's actually a full-fledged Cantonese restaurant with a complete menu to match. So they've got all different kinds of meats and dishes and what not. We got a plate of char siu to share, and it was pretty tasty, though we later found out we could have specified for fatter cuts of pork. Still, the meat was tender and flavorful. Next time we'll get the fat ones; I'm sure that tastes even better.

roast goose leg And there it is, in all its glory. To the naked eye it looks pretty much like duck, and it is actually quite similar. But the flavor is just a bit different - goose has its own distinct taste, and to me a good roast goose is like a better version of roast duck. Also, the skin isn't quite the same, with a slightly different crispy/fatty balance. Goose is definitely something you have to try if you go to HK.

lai fun You can order the goose on top of noodles in a single serving, but we just decided to get the 2 meats to share and each get our own bowl of noodles. These are the famous lai fun, which is made of rice and looks a bit like a translucent spaghetti. It has a very light, bouncy texture and goes extremely well with the goose. It's hard to find lai fun outside of HK, and usually when you do it will be solid white all the way through like a typical flat rice noodle, with a taste and texture to match. I guess it's because of some combination of lai fun being really hard to make, really perishable, and not particularly profitable.

I didn't take down the exact prices but the meal cost something like HK$100-120 a head, which is about US$15. If you just get a roast goose noodle soup, you can probably get out for US$10. We just barely missed the lunch rush; the place gets really crowded, and if we'd gotten there even 5-10 minutes later than we did, we would have had to wait in line. Definitely worth checking out if you make it out to Hong Kong.

Thursday
Jun292006

Hong Kong Prince Restaurant - 香港王子饭店

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For this trip, we managed to get my grandmother, my dad, and all 4 of his sisters together, which is certainly a rare occasion. It was also my grandma's birthday, so we had a lot to celebrate. We ended up having an awesome Chinese banquet at Prince Restaurant, a fancy Chinese place on the 11th floor of the impressive 1 Peking Road building. With a party of 11, we got a big private room with an incredible view of HK harbour. This kind of high-end dining is something you can't really find outside of Asia, and it's an awesome experience with wonderful service and food. We had a ton to eat, and spent about HK$1200 per head (around US$150). On to the goods...

thousand year egg with pickled ginger We started off with some simple and delicious thousand year eggs. Yea, I know it probably looks nasty to most of you, but us Chinese people love this stuff. And to my eye, the gooier the black middle is, the more appetizing the egg becomes. These eggs were very good, and better than any that I'd had in a long time.

veggies wrapped in tofu skin This is a fairly typical cold appetizer, executed very nicely. The veggies were very finely chopped, and the tofu skin was firm but very light and not stringy at all.

chicken cartilege in a spicy garlic sauce This was not very spicy, but had just enough peppery garlic flavor to coat the cartilege. The crunchy texture is the star here anyway, and this deceivingly light sauce complemented that well.

crispy pork Ohhh man. I love crispy pork, and this stuff was the real deal. Delicious, tender meat with a thick layer of fat and a crunchy, crispy skin. I ate way too many pieces.

beef with mustard sauce I'd never had this dish before, and it was excellent. The beef was extremely tender, like a lite version of a good Japanese teppanyaki, and the sauce had a great sharp mustard flavor. This dish seems like it could be pretty easy to screw up (overcooked or just plain bad beef, too much sauce, etc.) but I guess they know what they are doing.

glazed pork buns Prince for some reason makes a very delicious rendition of pork buns. These are the glazed, baked style which are a bit less familiar to most Americans than the white steamed kind. I should have taken a picture of the filling, because the roast pork inside was just sublime.

shark's fin with crab meat and roe This dish probably added more to the bill than anything else. A bowl for each person of 2 luxe ingredients tends to do that, I guess. This shark's fin was served "dry" - that is, with the soup on the side. You can then add soup to your liking as you eat it. The combination of shark's fin and roe was very rich, and quite an exquisite indulgence. Again, probably not the easiest thing to eat if you're not familiar with these ingredients...

grouper with ginger and scallion sauce This is the fish that my dad compared with the super cheap fish at Crystal Jade. And I must say, though this fish was quite delicious, there was indeed a similarity. Then again, this fish was big enough to serve 10. The meat was flaky and moist, with just enough of the sauce to add some saltiness.

Chinese lettuce with chili

This style of Chinese lettuce isn't one of my favorites. The lettuce retains a nice crispness to it, and the sauce has a bit of spice, but somehow I'm just not into it. Everyone else seems to love the stuff though.

baby bok choy in broth Baby bok choy, on the other hand, is one of the reasons I love going back to Hong Kong. You just can't get this stuff in the US. The bok choy are tiny and oh so very tender.

foie gras fried rice Now this was another first for me - fried rice with little chopped pieces of foie gras thrown in. An awesome combination, kind of like foie gras sushi. I only wish they had less other stuff in it, which slightly masked the flavor of the foie.

roast goose I didn't get to eat roast goose when I was in HK in 2004 because they weren't allowed due to some regulations at the time. I was craving this badly. Roast goose is basically like a better version of roast duck, with a sharper flavor and a nicer skin. Absolutely wonderfully cooked here.

egg yolk bun Prince had a few surprisingly good (it's a Chinese restaurant after all!) desserts, the first of which was this steamed egg yolk bun. The filling was incredibly rich and smooth.

layer cake This simple layer cake was also quite good. It was very light and soft, almost like a creamier hot pound cake. It's a very common item, but rarely this tasty.

egg tarts Finally, they whipped out some pretty mean little mini egg tarts. The custard was very smooth and eggy, while the pastry was extremely flaky and even crumbly. This meal was certainly one of the best Cantonese banquets I've had in a long time. Not only was the food great, but the setting was just outstanding. Our view of HK harbour (and the laser lightshow from the skyscrapers, not to mention the fireworks over the harbour that happened to be going on that night) was breathtaking. If you need a Canto restaurant that impresses, Prince is a good bet.

Wednesday
Jun282006

Cousin Cafe

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Whenever I'm back in Hong Kong, I always try to fit in at least one meal at a HK-style cafe. This type of place is very common throughout the city. They tend to serve a huge, expansive variety of casual Chinese food as well as some HK versions of Western cuisines (think steak or baked spaghetti). It's also at these places that you find good HK-style milk tea, which is hard to get outside. On a hot and humid HK afternoon, nothing beats a strong, ice cold milk tea. My dad and I grabbed lunch the other day at Tsim Sha Tsui branch of Cousin Cafe, which has a few locations around HK. Their menu is of course ginormous and covers all the usual HK cafe bases, but they also have a few unusual items.

beef brisket - HK$28 A very standard item is beef brisket, which Chinese people like to eat in a variety of ways. Usually you'll find it with noodles, but we just had it plain. A pretty decent rendition here; nicely braised and flavorful.

pork neck meat with fried noodles - HK$68 They listed this noodle dish under "fried sky noodles" and we were curious as to what that meant. It turned out to be an excellent fried thin noodle with a tasty soy base. The pork was very tender and slightly fatty. Great stuff.

seafood with rice in pail - HK$78 The reason we actually went to Cousin was because my dad wanted to show me this rice in a pail dish with eel and chicken cartilege. Sadly, they didn't have eel that day, so we settled for this seafood version. It was alright, but neither of us really liked the thick wet sauce (the eel/cartilege version is dry, according to my dad). Decent but a bit disappointing. Cousin is actually a bit more expensive than the usual HK cafe, but we did pick out a couple of more unusual items. You can certainly stuff yourself here for less. I really did want to try that eel rice though... Maybe next time. Oh, and by the way, they make a pretty solid milk tea. :)
Sunday
Jun252006

Crystal Jade - 翡翠拉麵小籠包

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It's been about 2 years since I've been in Hong Kong, so I've been happy to re-eat some of the great stuff around here that you can't really find back home. One of my favorite spots is Crystal Jade in the Harbour City mall, which since my last visit has actually expanded a lot and become a semi-chain (they've got locations in Shanghai, Singapore and Jakarta now I think, maybe more). I loved the place so much on my last HK visit that I actually went twice during that trip. The place is as popular as ever, and it's running like clockwork too. Luckily, the food quality isn't faltering.

xia long bao - HK$22 The signature item is of course the xiao long bao, and they're damn good here. The skin is thin and light, and the filling is perfectly soupy. Absolutely delicious. We also got a bowl of ginger scallion la mian, which isn't pictured because we ate it too damn quick. The two are must-orders though if you go.

fried scallion pastry - HK$20 This dish is a variation of the scallion pancake we find so commonly back home, and I think I like this one better. The pastry is flaky and a bit more starchy, sort of like a turnip pastry if you've tried that before. The thing has just enough flavor.

braised mandarin fish in chilli and broad bean sauce - HK$68 This braised fish was a notably good deal. My dad kept pointing out that it is quite similar to fish that you could pay HK$1000 for. I guess it's because mandarin fish is generally considered cheap. Despite that, it tastes great, and the meat is tender and flavorful.

sauteed minced pork with preserved vegetables, sesame pastry buns - HK$48 Another fairly typical dish, this is a nice tangy mix of ground pork and salty veggies. They give you a ton of filling for the amount of bun, and even though we stuffed each one to the brim, we had some extra. The Crystal Jade menu is huge, and there's a ton of stuff that we couldn't get with just two of us eating. I'd go back again but we just don't have time. The freshly pulled noodles and the xiao long bao are just awesome. It's food like this that makes me miss HK...