Sunday, 31 May 2015

SEPA - the Venetian Experience

While I was away on business, my better half had snuck into a little Venetian restaurant on the edge of SoHo that delighted her.  How did I come to this conclusion?  Well, she didn't stop talking about the cute little restaurant and the amazing food on offer.  Of course, I needed to check out a place that left such an indelible mark my girl.

SEPA: Bacaro Veneziano, is a cute little bar & restaurant located on Caine Road, just underneath the escalators in SoHo.  It's hard to miss from the street, from an amazing looking wall mural along the side of the building to the stone fronted facade that could easily have been transported from Italy.  The distinctive blue stones and the style windows that remind me of an old tavern, SEPA certainly stands out.

There is a stand out in the kitchen of SEPA too, with world recognised Italian chef Erico Bartolini at the helm.  With a history that included the issuing of two Michelin Stars, the youngest Italian chef to do so for his restaurant Devero in Milan, the lure of Hong Kong became too much.  Like a number of European Michelin Starred chefs, Erico made the move to front Hong Kong's first Venetian style restaurant.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Drunken Duck - Gastro Pub re-imagined?

I'd normally get really excited about a restaurant opening, walking by the construction and keeping an eye out on its progress. I don't really have the same level of excitement in Hong Kong, it's not possible; there are so many new restaurant openings in HK that I'd be walking around in a perpetual state of excitement.  But, for some reason, the Drunken Duck was one new restaurant that we'd been keeping tabs on, with a view to checking it out ASAP.

The latest in a number of British style Gastro Pubs that have opened in the last twelve months in HK, the Drunken Duck is the most recent creation of the Enoteca group. who also run a couple of Enoteca restaurants, as well as Iberico & Co in Soho.  

David Tamlyn, who was the head chef of Iberico & Co has moved over to the new venture.  David is one of the multitude of chefs who trained under culinary legend Marco Pierre White then went on to work in a number of well known Michelin Starred restaurants such as Pied-a-Terre and The Square.  David then took a bit of a change of direction to run Michelin rated Gastro Pubs The Bridge and the Salt House, before moving to hot and steamy Honkers.

With pretty high expectations, we braved a wet and stormy Sunday evening to wander along to the Drunken Duck (without reservation, of course) and found ourselves seated at a table right in front of the kitchen.  Like a lot of English style gastro pubs, the Drunken Duck has quite a warm and welcoming feel to it, and it was a lovely refuge from the stormy weather outside.  You could tell that the restaurant was still brand new, it had that new building smell and feel about it, everything was still shiny and new.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Lei Garden - Franchise. Chinese. Michelin

When thinking about Michelin Starred restaurants, I have a picture in my mind of unique little and sometimes large restaurants with a mad chef toiling in the kitchen striving for perfection. Sure, there are some exceptions, such as the global phenomenon Joel Robuchon and his chain of L'Atelier Joel Robuchon restaurants (see post here and here).  But those restaurants are spread across the globe, and until recently, I thought an exception.

Lei Garden is a bit of a local success story in Hong Kong, starting from humble beginnings in 1973 with a lone outlet in Sham Shui Po to a restaurant empire with twenty four branches across Hong Kong, Macau, China and Singapore.  Most impressively, in Hong Kong along, there are six outlets that have acquired coveted Michelin Stars. While that sounds impressive, the business hit its peak in 2012 when it held eight individual stars and even more impressively, a two star restaurant at Mong Kok.

We'd walked past a number of the Lei Gardens in our time exploring Hong Kong, with many of them being located in some of the larger shopping complexes.  It wasn't until one Sunday evening, wandering around ICF in Central that we'd decided to give the restaurant a try.  There is a fun game I play at times, trying to get into Michelin Starred restaurants without a booking, something that would be impossible in Europe, but quite achievable in HK.  As luck would have it, we managed to score a table....  With the proviso that we would be finished within an hour, so we didn't have too much time to waste.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Yardbird - the bits of a chicken you'd normally not eat

What are the chances, I mean seriously!  We're living in a city with over seven million inhabitants and more than 79,000 restaurants. So what were the chances of inadvertently sitting next to our dining companions from the previous week's dinner catch up? (see post here

Well, if you're talking about one of the hottest restaurants around, one so desirable, that it's almost impossible to get a table, I'd have thought pretty non existent.  Apparently not!

Yardbird is a tiny little yakitori place that SC had visited a few weeks back, while I'd been travelling OS for work.  She'd been so impressed with the place, she'd pretty much not stopped talking about it, so of course we needed to get along so I could write about it.  With a no reservations policy, you need to take your chances with Yardbird, and we'd had a couple of false starts before we eventually scored a table.

If you've not been to a yakitori restaurant before, they pretty much only serve the many different parts of a chicken, including the heart, liver, oyster, neck, skin etc.  Usually cooked over a traditional binchotan charcoal grill, Yardbird is perhaps the best example of the modern izikaya-style restaurant I'd come across.  Not surprising though, given that Yardbird is from the crew that run funky little Sunday's Grocery (see post here) and uber cool bar/restaurant Ronin.

Fish & Meat Co - farm to table dining

I don't like to think of myself as your typical Expat living in a foreign city, hitting the Expat spots, drinking away in large groups and generally trying to carve out a little slice of 'home'.  Not that there's anything inherently wrong with that, it's just not my scene.  It's why I try not to spend much time in the typical Aussie and British watering holes and restaurants near Wyndham Street and parts of SoHo.

Drinking aside, I am drawn into all parts of Hong Kong to check out dining spots and I was recently lured back in to what you'd normally think of Expat territory to visit a restaurant that seemed to tick all of my 'must try' boxes.  We'd arranged to meet some fellow Aussie Expats for dinner and after comparing our list of 'not tried' dining spots, found ourselves at Fish and Meat by the Maximal Concept Group.  

If you've been living in Hong Kong for any period of time, it's likely that you've been to at least one of the Maximal Concept Group restaurants.  Running a diverse portfolio of restaurants, including the amazing Mott32 (see post here) and the down and dirty Double D Burgers (see post here), food director Malcolm Wood has a knack of putting together a winning restaurant experience.  Malcolm has teamed up with Head Chef Russell Doctrove, formerly of 3 Michelin Starred restaurants 'The Waterside Inn' and 'Restaurant Gordon Ramsay'.  

We'd arranged to meet at Fish & Meet for a Friday night dinner and as is often the case in Hong Kong, it had been a ridiculously hot and sticky day, so by the time we walked up the hill from Central, we were bathed in sweat.  Thankfully, the air conditioning was blasting inside Fish and Meat, so we made our way to our table and ordered a bottle of cool water while we waited for our dining companions.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Bo Innovation - X-treme Chinese perfection

We've been attending the 2015 'Chefs Talks', organised by the Fringe Club and Slow Food Hong Kong, where Hong Kong's best and most popular chefs come along and have a candid chat with an audience.  They've been really good.  One that I was really interested in getting along to was Bo Innovation's Alvin Leung Jnr, but fate wasn't on my side and I missed it due to work commitments.  SC on the other hand was able to get along and hear Alvin's view on the world, which was apparently quite amusing!

As fortune would have it, when I suggested that we book a table for arguably Hong Kong's best restaurant, we were able to secure a spot at the Chef's Table the following Saturday night.  With three Michelin Stars and a string of other accolades including appearing in the San Pellegrino Asia's Top 50 restaurants (#28) and the World's Top 50 restaurants (#97), restaurants don't get much better.

Fronted by a man that's been called the 'demon chef' (well, he calls himself the demon chef), Alvin Leung presents as quite the character.  Walking out of the elevator that took us from Ship Street in Wan Chai, we were greeted by a large wall mosaic of the demon chef himself.  Once we'd walked the dozen or so steps to the front of the restaurant, we'd been greeted warmly by many of the multitude of wait staff on hand to make our night's dining experience a memorable one.  

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Double D Burger - in the heart of LKF

Even thought I'd been easing off the burgers a bit recently (some Instagram followers might disagree), I've been grabbing the occasional burger from my current favourite burger joint, Burger Circus.  But being a food blogger is more than just going back to the same spot over and over, it's about checking out new places too.  So with this in mind, I'd arranged to check out somewhere a little different.

A couple of followers had strongly suggested that I check out Lan Kwai Fong burger sensation, Double D burger, so one night after work, I set out to find the fabled burger joint.  Even though I'm an Expat and LKF seems to be the centre of the universe for foreigners, it's not an area that I've spent a lot of time hanging out in.  In fact, to find Double D burger, I had to get out my handy little friend, Google Maps, only to realise that it was pretty easy to find on Wellington Street (yeah, a do'h moment!)

The girl and I now work at opposite ends of Central, so we'd arranged to meet in the middle at Double D, but since I'm a lot closer, I found my way there first.  It was hard to miss, there was a massive red neon sign out the front and a serious crowd inside (although, Double D is perhaps the smallest burger joint I've ever seen).  There seemed liker there no chance we'd be able to grab a seat, so I'd started thinking about where else we could grab dinner....  But then a strange thing happened, within minutes, the whole place cleared out.  Poof, the people were gone.  

Gogyo - Not just ramen specialists

One of the things I appreciate most about my move to Hong Kong is the shopping.  Well, not just the shopping, which is pretty amazing, but the extra time that shops are open in Hong Kong compared to my previous home in Australia.  I still marvel that I can be wandering around huge shopping centres at 10pm on a Sunday evening and almost every shop is still open and filled with Hong Kongers.  There are a lot of shopping centres too, practically everywhere, and where you find people in HK, you find restaurants!

The International Finance Centre is the second tallest building in the city and is pretty easy to spot and houses one of the many 'luxury' shopping centres in HK.  IFC is one of my 'go-to' centres and is conveniently located in Central HK, close enough to my work and apartment that I'm there quite often.  Apart from being a kick ass place to hang out, there are a heap of great restaurants spaced out through the ultra modern site, including a Tim Ho Wan and one of the many Michelin Starred Lei Gardens (post coming soon).


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