Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jasmine Place (怡翠軒), Jardine House, Central

Jasmine Place (怡翠軒), Jardine House, Hong Kong Central

We managed to get a seat at Jasmine Place (Shop 5, LG/F Jardine House, 1 Connaught Place, Hong Kong Central, tel : +852 2524 5098) without prior reservations on the condition that we had to vacate the table when the people who made reservations arrived. Wasn't a problem. This restaurant as I found out is run by the Maxim Group. 

Jasmine Place (怡翠軒), char siew

Their char siew is apparently one of the items to order. We did and it was good. I haven't been eating a lot of char siew in Hong Kong, this was definitely one of the better ones I've had so far. The savoury barbecued pork was latticed with fat that crumbled in the mouth.

Jasmine Place (怡翠軒), char siew sou

These char siew sou are done with lemon. Juice maybe. There was definitely an accent of lemon in the pastry. While competently done, it didn't quite come on par with the ones from Imperial Treasure which are still one of the best I've had.

Jasmine Place (怡翠軒), stuffed chicken wings

We ordered stuffed chicken wings.

Jasmine Place (怡翠軒), stuffed chicken wings

They were stuffed with glutinous rice. Pretty tasty. The flavours of the dried shrimp came through in from the rice.

Jasmine Place (怡翠軒), siew mai

These are one of the better siew mai with toppings that we've had. These here are topped with scallops. Which weren't overcooked and managed to preserve their rather delicate flavours. I thought they were quite nicely done.

Jasmine Place (怡翠軒), har gow

Har gao was decently done as well. Definitely way ahead of those at Luk Yu Tea House.

Jasmine Place (怡翠軒), deep fried beef briskets

The other item that we've never had before anywhere else were their crispy beef briskets. Beef briskets that were deep fried in a batter. This was really quite good. The portions were rather large for a single order as well, so it's definitely for sharing. Those briskets were moist and tender under their crisp batter. This stuff comes with some chilli oil and a sweet & sour sauce for dips, but it actually works quite well with just some salt.

This restaurant belongs to the 'refined' category, so be prepared to pay a little bit more. The non dim sum sections of the menu looks pretty good as well. Well, maybe next time in bigger numbers we come.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Spasso Italian Bar & Restaurant, Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

Spasso Italian Bar & Restaurant, bread

From the DiVino Group to TripAdvisor to the South China Morning Post, I hear about the stunning view of the Victoria harbour at Spasso (Empire Centre, 68 Mody Rd, Hong Kong, tel : +852 2730 8027). It's a view I'm sure, but I really don't know about stunning. And it's far too close to the busy road that I'd be inhaling vehicle exhaust along with my olive oil. I know because we were almost as close as it could get to the outdoor terrace without actually being outdoors.

That aside, food was pretty good and service was rather good. But the latter is likely to be because of a particular wait staff that attended to our table. I could tell we would not be getting the same type of service from simply anyone else. The restaurant is helmed by a Michele Senigaglia, Venetian born but the menu isn't from that part. I can't pin point exactly where, but it's probably southern Italian. One detects Sicilian and Sardinian. But to the food...

Spasso Italian Bar & Restaurant, sea bass fillet potato scales orange rosemary sauce

This was the sequence of the food based on the recommendation of the wait staff due to what we ordered. The recommendation made sense and we agreed with doing the seafood stuff first before the lamb. For the first time in a very long time, we skipped starters/antipasto.

The first dish that was served was simply called Sardinian sea bass fillet. With potato scales and a very delicious orange-rosemary sauce. This was sophisticated yet simple at the same time. The individual components were nicely done and it was all presented with some effort. I am curious as to how those potato scales were done.

Spasso Italian Bar & Restaurant, blood orange risotto

Then came the Sicilian red prawn and blood orange risotto. Carnaroli rice. They took al dente really seriously and it was much more toothsome than we had expected out of the rice. A little more cooked would be nice. The flavours were a balance of some crustacean, I'm guessing stock from the prawns and blood oranges. The fruit left a light citrus element to the rice but the dish was on the overall savoury. I was hoping that it would be a little fruity, but I guess that's not how it was meant to be.

Spasso Italian Bar & Restaurant, lamb chops truffle crust

This was simply New Zealand lamb chops on the menu. It came with a black truffle crust and a fresh thyme jus reduction. This was really nicely done as you can see from the beautiful shade of pink.

Spasso Italian Bar & Restaurant, lamb chops truffle crust

So good that I just needed to put up another picture of the other side.

The black truffle crust was the damp kind, superbly balanced by virtue of quantity to match the lamb-y flavors of the meat where neither overpowered the other. The meat was tender, fat laced and....just very delicious. It came to the point where we had to cast the utensils aside for a more primeval method of removing the meat off the bones. Followed by wiping the plate down with bread so that none of the jus went to waste.

Spasso Italian Bar & Restaurant, lamb rib bones

And this was the clean bone tribute paid in testimony to how much we enjoyed the lamb.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fei ngau from the noodle shop at 209 Sai Yeung Choi South Street

209 Sai Yeung Choi South Street, fei ngau noodles

I admit that I was suckered into this shop (209 Sai Yeung Choi Street South, Mong Kok) by the signage that they had outside (middle row, fourth column). It looked like they were advertising for rare sliced beef on top of piping hot rice noodles, but the outcome was rather different. Granted, I never specifically asked for doneness of the meat so it might have been my fault. Still the bowl tasted pretty good.

The bright spot for this event was actually the discovery (I could be really slow to this but...) of beef that I could order from regular Chinese stall/shops that I would eat apart from briskets and offal. Yes, cow meat that's not been bicarbonated to death prior to any cooking. And the name is fei ngau. Which directly translates to fatty cow/beef. Those thinly sliced fat laced meat that are used for shabu shabu/hotpots.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Luk Yu Tea House (陸羽茶室), Stanley Street, Central

Luk Yu Tea House, Stanley Street, Central

Luk Yu Tea House (G/F - 3/F 24-26 Stanley Street, Central, tel : +852 2523 5464) as I gather is an institution for traditional Chinese food in this parts. I've never really heard of them until the past couple of years and it seems that apart from what they are, the place is also famous because of the gun down of a businessman by a hitman from the triad. Maybe the spirit still lingers somewhere.

The food?  It was okay based on a sampling of dim sum. Wouldn't say that these are the tastiest that I've had. To be fair, I've to mentioned that I had been informed prior to the visit that they best items that they do requires pre-order and that one should visit in large groups to appreciate as in most Chinese restaurants.

Luk Yu Tea House, char siew bun

These are baked char siew buns. The exterior is like bread, not the skin of the traditional steamed variety.

Luk Yu Tea House, char siew bun

They tasted pretty much like how they looked. With their savoury and sweet blend of char siew bits.

Luk Yu Tea House, duck pastry

This was some pastry, I don't remember what it's called. The fillings contain minced duck and bits of pineapple.

Luk Yu Tea House, duck pastry

The pastry itself was okay. What didn't work for me was the fillings. In spite of what it's been named for, I could hardly taste the duck. The bits of pineapple were meagre and most of the flavour came from dried shrimps.

Luk Yu Tea House, pig liver siew mai

These are some sort of liver siew mai. Meat balls beneath butterflied pork liver. Those meat balls taste like what one gets in siew mai. The livers were just livers. Nothing exceptionally good or bad about them.

Luk Yu Tea House, siew mai

Their regular siew mai was pretty decent though.

Luk Yu Tea House, har gow

Har gao here was pretty bad. These were quite small and on top of that, had thick skins. I'm not sure how traditional are those thick skins, but I guess that most people enjoy the more refined renditions with thinner skin and more generous fillings. To be honest, I could hardly identify the insides as shrimp.

Luk Yu Tea House, almond rolls

Those above are almond rolls. They're texture like rice rolls, with more bite. Something like the Nonya kueh lapis. The flavours of almond are all over the rolls and I thought they were pretty good. The potions looked pretty large, but those rolls went down with relative easy and wasn't heavy at all.

I'm pretty sure that these weren't a representative of what Luk Yu can do, but it's what we had and I didn't feel that it was impressive enough that'll get me clamouring back. Institution or not.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Platypus Kitchen, Bugis Junction

This (200 Victoria Street, #03-29 Bugis Junction, tel : +65 6333 4434) was the same group that operates Platypus Lobster Shack at China Square which does pastas and risottos. Apparently, they have brought over a few of their items on the menu from the lobster shack into this restaurant. Items like their allegedly limited crustacean bowl and some of their lobster rolls. What they do not have here, is the option for their lobster rolls to be ordered without the set. The set here comes with fries and not chips.

This was a little disappointing. I was looking forward to their crustacean bowl which featured a plethora of items including uni creme with the lobster. In execution, most of the flavours were lost except for the aburi-ed cheddar, the lobster and perhaps those fish roe. The rest of the stuff were a riot of flavours that couldn't identify itself. They could have taken out the uni cream and passed on the savings to us and no one would be wiser miss it. The portion was small for what they charged but it tasted pretty good.

The lobsters from their roll here were a level down from the ones at the shack. The meat was literally shreds, not even small chunks. All that butter poaching didn't even leave behind much of butter flavour. 

That urchin and lobster bisque is really just at best a cream of crustacean soup. It's not a bisque. I could buy frozen bisque from Fassler, microwave it and it would taste a lot more like a real lobster bisque. No uni flavours too. Which made us very glad that we didn't shell out more for their uni roll. 

Their crab cakes were horrible. The meat was obviously frozen and minced to the point close to being mushy. One could also see that a sizeable percentage of those cakes were the breaded crust.

I wonder if their pastas would fare better.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Saveur, Far East Plaza

Saveur, pistachio panna cotta

Association with big names by the way of alumni-hood is a pretty sure fire way of drawing attention. For Saveur (Far East Plaza, 14 Scotts Road, #01-7B, tel : +65 6736 1121), I'm reading Guy Savoy, Fi53fty Three (once upon a time locally) and Tetsuya in Sydney. The restaurant opened a couple of years ago IIRC and made some waves with the queues they garnered. I didn't pay much attention at that point because I had thought that they were just another one of those places trying to create affordable local interpretations of French bistro food. Not that I have anything against that. It doesn't work all the time. And it is not really uncommon knowledge that the path is not easy and it's much easier to fail at it than one would think. 

But there are bright spots. Saveur is one of them.

Saveur, foie gras

Remember that their name of the game is affordability. These guys managed to pull off a modest piece of foie gras, nicely pan fried and well flavoured in a pool of creamy lentils. I would have loved for the portions to be bigger, but it would be asking too much for what they charged. It actually tastes pretty good.

Saveur, ribeye

There's a small 'Premium' section in their menu. There's only three items and one of them was their entrecôte, a 300g ribeye. The steak was not bad at all and I wouldn't mind eating this again. Even though they had it slightly overdone from the requested medium rare. However this piece of meat certainly also blows the affordability image that they're trying to maintain out of the water. For one, one can get something similar for less in town. If I top up another 8 bucks, I could have a nice rendition with proper table service down at L'Angelus.

Saveur, potatoes au gratin

Potatoes au gratin here was lip licking good. The spuds were buttery, creamy and filled with garlic flavour. I liked that they were not shy with the salt. 

Saveur, tarte au citron

Tarte au citron was decent. I would have liked more lemon curd than custard.

Saveur, pistachio panna cotta

The pistachio panna cotta fared better with me. What really worked was the layer of crushed nuts that brought forth the flavors, pairing nicely with the creamy green pudding.

We tried the duck confit which I didn't take a photo of. It was honestly pretty decent duck for what they charged with the food being very valid effort. I could eat two of these and still get change with what some French restaurant charges for their confit. Will come back another time.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A recent China Street frittering

Nothing has really changed with China Street Fritters (#01-64, Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur Street). They're a specialist doing their very focused variety of wu xiang, trumping most competitors if not all at what they do in their curated selection and remains somewhat a bastion of consistency and nostalgic flavours in our ever evolving food options. The food's good. I just thought I would update a picture from a recent eat in the way of fiddling with my current Canon S120. Still trying to figure out some filters and what works for which conditions.

Hey, those delicious liver rolls that they make actually have braised preserved mustard greens in them too! And the egg & lard fritters are still awesome.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A special nasi lemak from 1983 – A Taste of Nanyang

This was a stall down at the Cookhouse food court at JEM (50 Gateway Road, #05-01) that sold some local dishes. Such as beef rendang and chicken curry with rice. This was their special nasi lemak which was basically a pre-configured set with their works. It was kinda expensive as nasi lemak went, but these are food court prices and it didn't taste too bad. The fried chicken thigh was crispy on the outside at least and the rice was decent if not exceptionally fragrant. The only real gripe that I had was the sambal which works only with the fried egg for me because it was far too sweet for my preferences. I was hoping for that to be more savoury.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Breakfast at Kampong Corner

Kampong Corner, lontong

Today's serving of lontong (which I've mentioned previously) literally had our lungs flooded with the gravy. Well, not my own lungs obviously, but that from the additional top up of the paru goreng which soaked up the gravy in their tiny lung cavities. It's become a little bit like a beefy chewy tau pok if you would. 

There's also that soft roti jala which was accompanied by a bowl of nutty rich chicken curry on the side. This was so much better than I had in mind. And definitely one of the better breakfasts I've had in a while. If you're not doing your heart any favours, be sure to not do them for the right reasons.

Kampong Corner, roti jala

I hope these pictures do justice as a tribute to our local "artisanal" dishes. Each individual component was an effort. I don't know how to cook them, but I do know that the sambal takes a lot of ingredients to simmer over hours. Ditto for the rempah for the gravy which eventually also serves as the cooking gravy for the long simmers that soften the vegetables. Those beef lungs need laborious effort cleaning and deep frying as well. Roti jala is something that many don't make in house anymore and you'll find that most of them aren't tender because they're probably mass produced stuff that's chewy. These local eats need some recognition.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Re-visiting Swaadhisht

Swaadhisht, Chander Road

We're back in Swaadhisht for a re-visit. No goat meat for us this time round, but there was lamb.

Swaadhisht, neichoru

We ordered a neichoru with mutton ishtoo. The former is ghee rice.

Swaadhisht, mutton ishtoo

While the ishtoo is stew. One that was made with quite a bit of coconut milk, curry leaves, onions and generous quantities of cracked black pepper it seems. As the name implies as well, there's chunks of mutton inside. This stuff packed slow building heat and was pretty darn good. Ghee rice or not. It got me spooning mouth after mouth.

Swaadhisht, curd rice

We ordered curd rice. Which is rice mixed with unsweetened yoghurt. There's generally a variety of other items that can be added into the rice and yoghurt mixture. This was the first time that I've had them with both coriander and ginger. That really got to me. Note to self, never order curd rice here again.

Swaadhisht, gobi 65

That's gobi 65 which wasn't on the menu. But the restaurant was able to fry them up on request. Very nicely crisp cauliflower done here. The batter had excellent flavour and texture.

Swaadhisht, lassi

Friday, September 12, 2014

Big prawn noodles from Albert Street Prawn Noodles

Albert Street Prawn Noodles, Old Airport Road Food Centre

In my limited experience, big prawn noodles seldom live up to their names. They seldom if ever feature prawns which are genuinely big. But then, I'm always thinking along the lines of those river prawns from Thailand. As my memory serves, Wah Kee and Island Cafe are possibly those that live up to the description. The latter didn't even call theirs big prawn noodles and was already a different class altogether.

So this is the one from Albert Street Prawn Noodles (#01-10, Old Airport Road Food Centre, 51 Old Airport Road). I ordered the most expensive bowl to see what theirs is like. The stall it seemed started off back in 1963 but was manned by a relatively young chap. He didn't look like he was around 51 years ago, much less selling prawn noodles then.

Their prawns weren't so large after all. I wouldn't even consider them meaty. What bothered me most was that some of them weren't even cleanly de-veined. Yikes. Broth had a pleasant crustacean flavour and was sweet; a noticeable contrast to the more savoury broth from the Whitley Road Big Prawn Noodle stall nearby. I quite liked those firm yellow noodles that were paired with some crunch from the blanched sprouts. Those noodles were strongly scented with fried shallots and their spicy pungent sauce.

All in all a pretty decent bowl but for $12, I expected better. While I didn't dislike it, I also won't be in any hurry to come back since there's so many other options for food at Old Airport Road.

Albert Street Prawn Noodles, Old Airport Road Food Centre