Sunday, 25 September 2016

Tosca at the Ritz Carlton - where everybody knows your name


Just about everyone of a certain age brackets should remember the TV show 'Cheers'.  It was a half hour sitcom about a bar in Boston and the catchy theme song for the show was called 'Where everybody knows your name'.  If you're not familiar with it, rekindle your memories or experience for the first time here.

Anyway, there's a memorable line in the song that goes something like 'Wouldn't you like to get away?  to a place where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came'.

That about sums up my experiences when I visit Tosca in Hong Kong's Ritz Carlton.  Granted, the Ritz Carlton's about as far away from a dive bar in Boston, but you get the drift.

I've been to Tosca many, many times now and there are a couple of things that keep drawing me back, the amazing setting, the incredible food but most of all, the impeccable service that only comes from a team that genuinely believe in what they're doing and love to provide the best service imaginable. 

Our last visit was an opportunity for the girl and I to share one last special dinner before I went traveling to the UK for work, a trip that would take me away for a couple of weeks (and lead to a series of food adventures!).  

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Ippoh - tempura perfection from a 5th generation chef


You really do need to stop and look  at what's behind the curtain.

For over twelve months I walked down Aberdeen Street in SoHo, wandering by a little yellow restaurant that had it's door partially obscured by a heavy curtain.  Sure, I knew that it was a Japanese restaurant, the name gave it away.  A little research may have piqued my interest much sooner, but the name of that little restaurant really meant nothing to me.
Ippoh!

Boy has that changed!

It wasn't until a workmate, lets call her Zoe, wanted to help me celebrate my recent birthday with a special lunch time treat.  She'd been telling me for a long time that her favourite Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong was Ippoh, and wanted to see if I agreed; so we made our way through Central to SoHo and our midday booking.

It was a lightbulb moment for me.

Finally the curtain was pulled back and we entered the tiny little tempura style restaurant, and seated at one of the eight spots available at the bar style dining room.  All eight seats put diners right in the action where the Ippoh head chef (I never did get his name!) was busy preparing the tasty morsels that would be lightly tempura and fried right before out eyes.

There were a couple of options for lunch, the YUKI course which consisted of eight pieces of tempura or the OMAKASE lunch, which was a much more comprehensive journey.  No prizes for guessing which we chose.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Carbone - A taste of American Italian in Honkers


I have to say, I'm not a fan of the huge portion sizes renowned by US style restaurants.  I remember tooling around New York hoping that we wouldn't get massive sized meals that we'd feel guilty about not eating.  Thankfully, restaurants in Manhattan seem to be immune from the oversized meals, with the exception of one restaurant (that we visited).  


That restaurant was Carbone and we simply could not eat all the food that was placed in front of us.

It's possibly one of the reasons why we'd not been to Carbone in Hong Kong, even though it had a reputation for first rate American Italian cookery.  

But, as these things go, we had a real hankering for some Italian and after trying to book at a couple of other HK hotspots, managed to secure a last minute booking.  

The Honkers outlet of Carbone is a collaboration of New York's Michael Carbone and the ubiquitous food group, Black Sheep.  I'd heard and read that the experience at Carbone was over the top and very 'New York' and it only took a few minutes at our table to realise that the stories were true.

Ce La Vi - more than a restaurant; an entertainment hub


A month ago, my best mate was across from Taiwan for a quick visit. We were feeling a little bored and thought that a trip to LKF to check out the night life would be a great way to kill a bit of time.  A quick bus ride later and we found ourselves in Hong Kong's party district on a Sunday night with no real idea about what we'd do!  Looking through a list of clubs to visit, Ce La Vi was the one that stood out, but alas it wasn't open.

So instead of looking for somewhere else to go, we just wandered around then made our way back home.  Yeah, sad!

Fast forward a month and I was looking for a restaurant to hit up on a Saturday night and it was again Ce La Vi that caught my attention.

Looking into the joint, it became clear that Ce La Vi was a lot of things, bar, club and restaurant, making it more of a destination hub than either of its sum parts.  In fact, as I delved deeper, it became apparent that the team behind the entertainment hub were responsible for a host of other night time locations spanning the globe.

I was intrigued, so made the reservation; interestingly late on a Saturday afternoon, I had no problems making a booking for dinner the same night.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Yuu Wanchai - very tasty casual Japanese fare


I'm sorry to say, but sometimes I'm really, really lazy and can't be bothered looking for new restaurants to try.  I know, shock horror, I'm a food blogger and it's my job to inform you of the latest and greatest; blah blah blah.

I'm also at heart a creature of habit and love going to a familiar place and having comfort food that is simple and I don't have to think about it.  Lately, that place has been le Relais de l'entrecôte (see post here) and we've been eating there a lot!  Unfortunately, the girl gets a fed up by going to the same spot a little easier than me, so I've been forced to find a new local spot that we can frequent when feeling lazy.

SC had visited The Yuu Japanese restaurant while I'd been away travelling and had been pestering me suggesting that we visit together, so I finally bit the bullet and agreed to walk across the street to check the place out.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

ALTO Bar and Grill by Dining Concepts - wow, what a view


Dining Concepts is one of the leading restaurant groups in Hong Kong, running a heap of restaurants from some of the world's leading chefs.  Names like Gordon Ramsey and Mario Batali are associated with the group, which gives Dining Concepts star power.  So much so that the group launched on the Hong Kong stock exchange this week with shares rising an amazing 1900% at one point.

Amazing really.

One of the key things about Dining Concepts is that they sure do know how to open a restaurant, often with much fanfare, sometimes low key.  ALTO in Causeway bay was the most recent restaurants to join the stable and after reading some of the press about the joint, we decided to get along and check it out.

Located in the very new V Point building, which it must be said was still not fully occupied at the time of our visit, the very modern space resides on the 31st floor of the building and had simply stunning views of Hong Kong.  You're instantly assaulted by the stunning array of lights that dangle from the ceiling, very much looking like floating orbs or golden suns at first, but as you get closer, more like bright amoeba - all different shapes and glowing.  The rest of the restaurant is a mix of comfortable modern chairs and tables that seemed like a cross between picnic and traditional restaurant tables.  

Designer Tom Dixon of internationally renowned Design Research Studio had done a superb job of building a contemporary looking restaurant that has moved away from the semi industrial feel that seems to be so prevalent nowadays!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Spoon by Alain Ducasse - classic and beautiful French flavours


I'm not really sure why it took over eighteen months to finally get around to visiting legendary chef Alain Ducasse's Hong Kong restaurant.  It ticks pretty much every box that I ever look for in a restaurant, French, modern, Michelin Starred and as a bonus, a restaurant from one of the top chefs in the world.

Perplexing really.

Anyway, I finally managed to get along to Hong Kong's Intercontinental Hotel, the home of Spoon by Alain Ducasse.  I've dined at the Intercontinental before, for another legendary chef's HK outlet; Nobu, which I found to be quite outstanding (see post here); so I had an inkling of the amazing view that awaited us when we were shown to our window seat.

Hong Kong undoubtably has the world's most spectacular skyline, and the view from Spoon gave us unfettered access to the Island's many skyscrapers.  We were seated just before the sun set and were able to watch the skyline come alive as we consumed our meal.

The incredible service that you'd expect from a Michelin starred restaurant in a five star hotel commenced from the moment we were greeted by the front staff, who took us to our table and introduced us to our two waiters who would pamper us for the entire evening.  We were the first to arrive in the restaurant, ensuring that for the first part of our meal we were the complete focus of our team.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Le Reve - Japanese ingredients and French fusion cooking


Fusion is a term that's going out of fashion if you listen to some chefs, it's a term that's reluctantly used to describe the blending of cuisines. Others wear the term with pride, looking to purposefully blend cultures, cuisines and ingredients, constantly challenging themselves to come up with something new, something indescribable, something totally delicious.

You might not hear rising Japanese chef Ryogo Ozawa specifically use the term fusion anywhere, but the technically brilliant chef has perfected the art of blending traditional Japanese ingredients with innovative French cooking, a blending that he calls French cuisine, new style.  Having worked at three Michelin starred L'Assiette Champenoise in Reims, Chef Ozawa has created a menu that is both technically brilliant, visually stunning and most importantly, wonderful to consume.

Le Reve has only been open for a few months, but the contemporary French restaurant is the culmination of five friends' vision and dreams.  The five friends were all students in the UK, traveling the continent and consuming all of the delights that Europe has to offer, when the idea of one day opening their own restaurant.

Oh how those boys must feel now that Le Reve is open.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Yum Cha - the most Instagram ready food in Hong Kong


I love that Hong Kong is a central hub for many flights coming from Europe to Australia (or vice versa). It means that we often have friends stopping by, sometimes for a few days and other times for just 24 hours.  One of the girl's great friends and her family were coming back from a family holiday and managed to spend a fun filled day in our new city.

We're no strangers to having meals with Fi and Kev, with the girl and Fi having regular get togethers in the Indian restaurants of Brisbane.  I'd even bumped into Kev in the UK one time and we shared an interesting dinner at Two Michelin starred Hibiscus (see post here).  For this short trip, we'd arranged two dining extravaganzas, the first of which was at one of Hong Kong's most interesting and fun Chinese restaurants, Yum Cha.

Now, yum cha is both the name of a restaurant and also a style of cuisine, which roughly translates to  'drink tea' and/or 'going for dim sum' - small, bite sized portions of Cantonese cuisine.  What makes Yum Cha the restaurant so incredible is the fun and unique manner in which they present their dim sum.  In fact, some of the dim sum is so interesting to look at, it's almost a shame to eat!

Covering a massive 6,000 square feet on the fringes of Central, Yum Cha distinguishes itself with it's high ceilings that are reminiscent of a New York style loft.  With it's high ceilings and large windows, there is a bright and airy feel to the dining area.  What I loved as I wandered up the escalators to the entrance of Yum Cha was the full scale truck that dominated the entrance and was used for displaying the restaurant's opening times (of course, seems legit!)

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Atelier Vivanda - Akrame's other global restaurant chain


Akrame Benallal seems to be a man on a mission.  Not content with a Two Michelin starred restaurant in his native France, the young gun chef has been looking to expand and create a global culinary empire.

I'd been to his self titled restaurant, Akrame, located in the very hip Ship Street Wanchai, recipient of a Michelin Star in its own right and thought his take on French cuisine was nice (see post here).  So, when we were looking for an alternative to the steak frites dinners that we'd been consuming lately, Akrame's other global outlet sprang to mind.

Atelier Vivanda is located right next door to Akrame, but while Akrame is quite hidden from view, Atelier Vivanda is much more open and easy to find.  A bold and striking brand sits above an open window that brings the vibe of Ship Street right into the dining room, enlivening the feel of the restaurant.

We'd had quite an early reservation for dinner and arrived earlier still, so were the first diners to be seated at our table, in a prime position right in front of the open style kitchen.  The bold styling of the logo translated to a clean and modern fit out inside, with each of the tables created with spots to hold the specially made steak knives that are a feature at Atelier Vivanda.

The menu at chef Akrame's steak restaurant is quite simple and like many steak frites restaurants, is largely fixed.  I say largely, but there were quite a few options and combinations available on the menu, so for a set price, you were able to pick and choose from a wide variety of options.  At the crux of the menu however, you chose an entree and main, then get to select from the unlimited sides selection; which ran to five different styles of potato.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Rhoda - Nose to Tail cooking with bags of flavour


You can tell a lot about a chef by the way he sets up his kitchen.  Walking into Rhoda for the first time, I could tell that head chef and culinary director Nate Green was a confident man.  

The internationally renowned Joyce Wang designed restaurant has the kitchen as the centrepiece of the restaurant, with the highlight being an open fire grill.  My eye was drawn to the back of the room, where Chef Nate was overseeing the open flame and charcoal grill that was slowly cooking one the restaurant's signature dishes.

You might recognise the name Nate Green, having worked with the likes of Gordon Ramsey and Jason Atherton, Nate was most recently in charge of Wanchai's 22 Ships as well as Ham & Sherry.  Nate was also recently on local TV for the locally produced Hungry Foodies lifestyle program, a shared experience with Nate appearing on episode three, while I was a little later on episode eight.

The concept behind Rhoda is very much nose to tail dining, with very little of the 'beast' going to waste.  With a menu that changes daily, depending on which beast Nate can secure, the best local ingredients are used to create simple but delicious modern comfort food.  Comfort food is the heart of Nate's current style, drawing on memories of great conversations over a good meal.  Taking the vision one step further, there is a large communal table at the centre of the restaurant, aiming to mimic that homely feel.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Caprice - The return visit was perfection


My best mate had not been to visit for over eighteen months, so when he set out the criteria for our reunion dinner, there were two considerations.  It had to be French fine dining and there had to be a memorable fromage.

There are many high quality French fine diners here in Hong Kong, but there is only one with a cheese platter that can only be carried to your table by two wait staff.  It ended up being an easy choice, so we booked into Caprice, located at the Four Seasons.

My first and last visit to Caprice had been memorable, enjoyable, but not spectacular, so we were taking a bit of a risk by recommending it to the Big Boy.  If it didn't live up to expectations, we'd be hearing about it for many years to come.

With Two Michelin stars, Caprice is one of the best restaurants in our adopted city, and even though it lost a Michelin star in 2014, chef Fabrice Vulin has maintained an incredible standard of dining.  (For more information on Fabrice Vulin, check out my previous post).

Access to Caprice is through the beautiful Four Seasons hotel, and you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd entered ancient Greece with all of the marble leading up to the front of the restaurant.  An interesting dichotomy, there is just a simple plaque leading up to the doors that open automatically before you're granted access to a decadent and plushly decorated dining room and a magnificent and massive open style kitchen.  

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Le Garcon Saigon - a taste of Southern Vietnam in Hong Kong


There is a long history of French domination in Vietnam, including a more than passing influence in the cuisine from the Indochina region. You might not know, but France conquered Vietnam's largest city in 1859 and held sway there until 1945 - where there was quite a bit of global realignment of nation states.

Everything from language to architecture and food were influenced by the French invasion of Vietnam and as a consequence, some incredible food was created by the melding of two nations palates.  Traditional Vietnamese food was most certainly influenced by the French (but then again, this could be said of most countries cuisines) and le Garçon Saigon in Wanchai perhaps epitomises this best.

Le Garçon Saigon is a collaboration between Vietnamese-Australian Chef of Bao La and the boys from Black Sheep Restaurant.  Keeping up their affinity for Australian chefs, le Garçon Saigon has helped deepen the options available to all that live in arguably Hong Kong's fastest growing foodie district.

We'd booked for an early dinner and were surprised that le Garçon Saigon was already half filled by the time we arrived for our 6:30pm reservation, and even more surprised that by 7pm, the place was completely packed.  Hong Kong is a place where dining is done later in the evening, so it was a testament to the concept that it was still drawing so many people many months after opening.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Jinjuu - Contemporary Korean and oh-so-tasty


I have to say, I was pretty dubious when the girl suggested that we visit Jinjuu for our monthly lunch date.

After all, our last couple of 'long lunches' had been at Michelin starred restaurants.

I had no real reason to be suspect about the Korean fusion joint, the girl had recently been with workmates and was really keen to get my thoughts about the food.  Now, I'm not saying that I don't trust the girl's judgement when it comes to food, it's just that I couldn't see a place called Jinjuu floating my boat.

Then there was the fact that it was in LKF.

A fact that had me completely confused when I initially tried to find Jinjuu in it's listed address of the California Tower - a spot that I know well.  Jinjuu is 'technically' in the California Tower, but in reality is on street level, just around the corner from the tower's main entrance.

As I walked into the Judy Joo owned restaurant, I was very much reminded of the fact that LKF is Hong Kong's party district.  On one side of the entrance was your typical counter gracing restaurant entrances worldwide, and on the other was a DJ booth, with electronic decks at the ready for the setting of the sun and presumably the transformation of Jinjuu from restaurant to hip bar.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Beefbar - tasty food but small portions for lunch


Worth the wait?  

A good question!

I'd been trying to get into the Beefbar in Central for a while.  I'd ring up to try to make a booking, only to be told that they were completely booked up.  The few times I'd taken the chance of a walk in resulted in an almost comical response from the Beefier 'gate keepers'.

And that's how I'd started to think about the phone booking team, as well as the door staff; gate keepers.  Getting in became insurmountable and I eventually gave up and forgot about trying to get in.

It wasn't until my regular lunch date with a colleague and friend that the prospect of visiting the Beefbar arose again.  When JP suggested visiting, I gave a whimsical 'why not', thinking that it would still be nearly impossible to get into (even six months after opening).  You can imagine my surprise when the reservation was confirmed.

I guess a Monday at lunch might be the perfect time to hit a new(ish) restaurant in this city!

Our lunch date/meeting was at 12 and I'd arrived on time but heard from JP that she'd be a few minutes late after finishing a meeting in head office.  I was cool with that, it gave me the opportunity to 'sticky-beak' around the place once I'd arrived at the eerily familiar front desk (yeah, I'd tried to get in a few times!)

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Mercato - Jean-Georges in Hong Kong


I had to make some serious decisions during my visit to New York, admittedly not life or death decisions, but important to me.

So many restaurants and so little time meant that I had to carefully choose where I would spend my hard earned money.  One of the very last nights left in Manhattan came down to a choice between three star restaurants, Daniel and Jean-Georges.

Daniel won out on the day, but I'd always felt as if I'd missed out on something special.

A couple of years down the track I learned that Jean-Georges was opening an outlet of his slightly more casual Mercato in Hong Kong and I was excited.  I was finally getting to check out the fare of one of the United States' top chefs.  So cool.

Located in California Tower, one of  LKF's funkiest buildings, I'd managed to sneak into Mercato at the right time.  Not yet formally open and running through a soft opening month, I happened to dine on a day where Jean-Georges himself was hosting with some of his crew responsible for designing the restaurant and lighting.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Arcane - not so hidden or mysterious after all


I'm probably biased, but Australian chefs are taking over the world!

It seems that every day, a new Aussie chef is hitting Honkers to open a new restaurant or join part of an established team.

This invasion, of a sort, arguably started when Perth born chef Shane Osborne, moved from the UK to Hong Kong to establish his own take on a simple yet delicious fare.  Having achieved two Michelin Stars at well known London restaurant Pied-a-Terre, Osborne threw it all in to travel for a while, before ending up at HK restaurant St Betties.  Turning the fortunes of the under performing restaurant around, Osborne eventually developed his own restaurant in Central.

Arcane

"Understood by few" and "mysterious and secret"

An interesting name for a restaurant from a Chef that had run one of the world's top restaurants, perhaps hoping for anonymity in Hong Kong?

We arrived for our 7pm reservation and unsurprisingly, we were the first to arrive, seemingly the only couple in Hong Kong that think dining at this hour is normal.  Located near LKF, we had no trouble finding the restaurant and were so early, LKF was actually really, really quiet!  

The Drawing Room - was replacing Vasco a good idea?


Vasco Fine dining was one of my very favourite restaurants in Hong Kong (see post here and here).

When I found out that it was closing, I was devastated. Why hadn't I gone and supported it more!  I still remember so fondly the olive oil sommelier and the incredibly inventive and tasty Spanish cuisine.  

Sigh, that's Hong Kong for you!

Then, I found out that the space that Vasco occupied at historic PMQ was to be taken over by by The Drawing Room, a restaurant that held the hearts of Hong Kongers so well before closing down a few years back.  Not to mention having held a Michelin Star for many years also.

My excitement grew, when I found that, Drawing Room Concepts, the team behind Vasco were driving the new iteration of the Drawing Room.  In fact, the chef that had provided the taste sensations that delighted me at Vasco, Chef Gabriele Milani, would continue to be the driving force in the kitchen.

My acceptance was complete.  Spanish would make way for Italian.  Bring on The Drawing Room.

Like many new (or reborn) restaurants in Hong Kong, it was difficult to make a booking for TDR, so much so that Saturday nights were booked out more than a month in advance, so I had to make do with a Friday night spot - after work.

There was a very familiar feeling as we made our way from pre drinks at Aberdeen Street Social (see post here), up through PMQ to the very top floor.  It was almost a case of deja vu as we were met at the level six reception and were escorted upstairs.  As we were given our seats, it would be easy to forget that Vasco had demised and a new restaurant had taken it's place. In fact, the only real difference that I could see was the change of name; everything else remained the same.

It would be so easy for me to reflect and comment about the differences between Vasco and The Drawing Room, so I will try to refrain!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Burger Joint - The Burger Room Causeway Bay


I have to say, I really like Causeway Bay.  It's one of the most densely populated spots in Hong Kong, which makes it one of the most densely populated places on the planet.  It's crazy to hang out and watch people rushing about....  Come to think of it, it might be one of the only locations in Hong Kong where I've seen anything remotely frantic in it's pace.

But, it can wear thin pretty quickly and you increasingly get a sense that you need a quiet moment away from the masses and hysteria.

Surprisingly, there is a place in Causeway Bay that has a much less frantic pace, and even better, has a heap of restaurants and funky shops to stroll through.  All at a much more leisurely pace.

Fashion Walk is a little bit removed from the hustle and bustle of Times Square, but it's increasingly becoming my go to spot when in the area, just for me to catch my breath.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

AnOther Place by David Myers - great food but shame about the pacing


In a world filled with celebrity and Michelin awarded chefs, unsurprisingly I'd never come across US based chef, David Myers.  

That was until I'd arranged to catch up with my Singaporean based food buddy James, who'd booked us in for a dinner at Adrift at Marina Bay Sands.  James had come across David Myers on his travels and assured me that I'd have a fantastic meal at Adrift.

You can't find a more glamorous spot in all of Singapore than Marina Bay Sands, and the flashy looking and well kitted out Adrift ended up being a superb meal.  Our dinner was served to us as we sat in chairs suspended by wires from the ceiling and the ultra modern dining room felt like it would be at home in swanky parts of Los Angeles.

I really enjoyed the meal, but was pretty lazy and didn't write up the visit.

But I did remember the meal fondly and when I saw that David Myers, also known as the Gypsy Chef, was opening a restaurant in Hong Kong - knew that I'd get along and check out his interestingly named AnOther Place.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Amber - The 4Hands with Andre Chiang


I love the concept of 4 Hands dinners.  Two chefs working out of the same kitchen, producing a meal that highlights their best work.

I've been to a few.

But never one with the caliber of chefs from the recent dinner showcasing the skills of two of the world's top chefs.

Richard Ekkebus from Amber and Andre Chiang from Restaurant Andre, are two of the best chefs in Aisa, with their restaurants featuring in both San Pellegrino's Asia and Worlds best restaurants. It's fair to say that attending the special, two-nights only event, was high on my list of priorities.

I'd eaten at Amber before and rated the experience as one of my favourite meals of 2015 (see post here), and while I'd never dined at Restaurant Andre in Singapore, I had travelled to Taipei to visit Andre's Taiwanese outlet RAW.  Unsurprisingly, it was also one of my top meals of 2015.

Andre's visit to Amber formed part of his global tour to promote his publication of 'Octaphilosophy: The Eight Elements of Restaurant ANDRÉ' - a book that all diners would be given at the end of the 4 Hands dinner.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Gin Sai - tempura does not get better


What's with the obsession with Japanese food in Hong Kong?

With a plethora of amazing Japanese restaurants opening across Hong Kong, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was the predominant Asian cuisine.

One of my all time favourite meals in Hong Kong comes from Wagyu Takumi (see post here), the two Michelin Starred restaurant located on the fringes of Wan Chai.  So when the girl suggested we do a double date with some mates at Gin Sai, it was easy to say yes.  After all Gin Sai is the sister restaurant to Wagyu Takumi and is located right next door.

A late bout of food poisoning (not related) to one of our dining companions meant that instead of a double date, it was just the two of us for our Gin Sai experience.  Which was amusing since we'd been booked into a private dining room by the girl's mate, whom just happened to be cousins with one of the head chefs, Chef Eric!

So we arrived for our dinner and were taken to an amazing looking private dining area that could easily have taken twelve.  It was one of the more spacious table settings we'd had!

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Missy Ho's - Funky in Kennedy Town


It's interesting where the night takes you!

My original plan for Friday night was to hang with the girl and some mates at a Japanese restaurant in Wanchai, but a bout of food poisoning put paid to those plans (fortunately, not my food poisoning this time!)

The change in plans enabled me to join in with an after work drinks for a colleague who was moving back to the UK after many years in Hong Kong.  It was a sad and joyous occasion saying goodbye and I guess it's pretty normal in a transient town like Honkers.  People come and people go.

It also left me open for dinner, which ended up being a train ride away in a burgeoning dining hub, Kennedy Town.

I'd heard nothing about Missy Ho's, apart from the fact they did two sittings and we'd only been able to book in for the 9pm session - a bit late for this little foodie's dining tastes, but I'd been assured by the group that I was in for a treat.

A short walk from the Kennedy Town MTR, we came across a plain looking building that could have been anything at all but was striking due to it's outrageous poster of that dude from the Hangover movies.  It was first sign that we were about to enter the bizarre night, I mean, you can't take a place too seriously when there is an invitation to 'Have a sick night bitches' - right?

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse Wanchai - the steaks were a little bland


As an Aussie living in a foreign city, there is a natural propensity to gravitate to what you know, to what is familiar and what make you comfortable.  I'm sure that's true of most expats living in a place like Hong Kong, you only have to wander past a 'British Pub' to see plenty of pasty white guys spilling onto the sidewalk, beers in hand, taking about the latest premier league game (football for the uninitiated).

Anyway, this post isn't about pasty white guys in pubs, it's about an Aussie in Honkers finally getting around to visiting an Aussie steakhouse.

Wooloomooloo is one of Sydney's most iconic inner city suburbs, the home of the rich and famous and just happens to be the name of a chain of steakhouses here in Hong Kong.

With a number of outlets across HK, Wooloomooloo caters to a range of diners, from their very cheap and cheerful Chop House (see post here), all the way to their fine dining establishment Wooloomooloo Prime.  Our visit was to their mid range steakhouse, conveniently located just down the street from our new place in Wanchai.

Located on the 31st floor of the Hennessy, the Wooloomooloo Steakhouse at Wanchai has pretty much unrivalled views of Hong Kong.  Exiting the lift and making our way to our table reconfirmed our view that we were living in one of the most spectacular cities on earth and our table had a jaw dropping vista of the many skyscrapers that make up Wanchai and Causeway Bay.  Floor to ceiling windows helped provide a sense of space in the modern looking dining room that screamed Aussie Steakhouse.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Burger Joys - great burgers but a little too cheesy?


I'm always on the lookout for a new burger joint and moving to Wanchai has certainly opened up a few more options.

I'd been noticing posters all over the place advertising a place called Burger Joys, so set about tracking it down for a spot of lunch.

Wanchai is an interesting location, it's got a wide variety of dining options that range from three Michelin Starred fine dining restaurants, hip and happening 'now' spots, as well as down and dirty grungy bar cum restaurants.  

We'd moved away from the glamorous end of Wanchai to the much seedier side, where the nightlife runs from seedy bars to strip clubs.  Burger Joys finds itself right in the middle of the Wanchai red light district, which is pretty benign during the day and pretty darn racy in the evening.

I was pretty surprised by how small Burger Joys actually was, expecting something a little bigger than the 'almost' hole in the wall diner on Lockhart Road.  Small as it was, there was still room for a half dozen or so tables to be crammed around the serving area, which looked very much as if it doubled as a bar once the sun went down.  We'd arrived for a Saturday lunch and the place was pretty empty, so we had no trouble finding a table which surprisingly was managed by table service.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Zafran - Spanish Cooking Master Class


Those of you who know me would be familiar with my foodie adventures and be well aware that I'm not a great cook.  My Instagram feed is full of restaurant meals and the very, very rare photo of a home cooked meal.

So when I get the opportunity to participate in master classes and learn something new in a kitchen, I jump at the chance.  Chope Hong Kong had partnered with the Aqua Restaurant group and Zafran Spanish restaurant to have new Chef Pere run a small group of bloggers through his famous "Black Paella".  Interestingly, the last time I'd had a masterclass, it was at Mondo Organics in Brisbane and a Spanish feast fit for a king (see post here).  

Seemingly, I am destined to improve my Spanish cuisine repertoire, which is certainly ironic living in the heart of Hong Kong.

I'd always thought that Zafran was a nightclub in the few times I wandered down Wyndham Street, but was surprised to find a funky looking basement restaurant as I descended the stairs to the Masterclass.  We were met by Zafran's new chef, hot off the boat from his native Barcelona, who seemed a little nervous to be fronted by so many food bloggers and cameras.

Mak Mak - secret entrance to Thai heaven


I had no idea!  Seriously.

Every morning, I'd been walking through the Landmark on the way to work and had passed Mak Mak thinking that the funky looking little spot was a blend of Thai grocery store and a cafe doing 'take away' coffee in the morning.  On first appearances, Mak Mak is exactly that; a small kiosk like area that served take away drinks.

And it is that, and so much more.

My first experience that there could be so much more to the retro looking replica of a traditional Thai grocery shopfront was having a quick bite to eat with a work colleague.  We had a short window in between meetings, and she suggested a quick bite to eat in a great little Thai restaurant that she knew, right next to our workplace.  Everyone loves good Thai, right?  

As JP took me to the front of Mak Mak, I thought to myself, where the heck are we going to eat lunch?

All was revealed when a secret button was pressed and a wall slowly recessed into the wall and the true nature of Mak Mak was revealed!  Hidden behind the grocery facade was a sixty seat 'Thai residence-style' dining area and it literally blew my mind!

That first experience in the newest restaurant in the prodigious JAI group string of restaurants was enough to get me talking, and it wasn't long before I'd arranged for a visit with the girl.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Tosca - insanely good Italian


Amazing food and service that is so outstanding that you can't wait for your return visit should be the aim of every restaurant, but is delivered by so few.

I'd arranged for a working lunch with a colleague and after a last minute change, found myself sitting on the 101st floor at the Ritz-Carlton's Tosca.  Of course I'd heard about the Michelin Starred restaurant, but until that moment, it had been some way down my list of 'must-visit' dining spaces.

In hindsight, that had been a huge mistake on my behalf!

I was a little early for my reservation, but from the moment I stepped out of the lift at the Ritz-Carlton to the moment my dining companion arrived, I was treated like royalty.  My table was close enough to the floor to ceiling windows of Hong Kong's tallest building to truly appreciate the magnificence of the view.  It wasn't too shabby inside either, with the very modern dining room, centred around an open kitchen, drawing my eye away from the HK skyline!  

No easy feat considering the view.

While I was waiting, sipping on my still water from a cut crystal glass, I was able to watch the kitchen preparing for lunch, led by acclaimed Chef Pino Lavarra.  That Chef Pino has found himself leading the Michelin Starred Tosca in one of the most recognisable and distinctive restaurant brands in the world is no accident.  A prodigious talent, Chef Pino has been recognised as "One of the Best Chefs in the World" by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, as well as running Two Michelin Starred Rossellinis.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Fishsteria - hip and happening fish joint


The district of Wanchai has been abuzz lately with the opening of a restaurant that's been causing quite a bit of good vibes.

Fishsteria is the latest restaurant from Executive Chef Gianni Caprioli, a name you might recognise from critically-acclaimed and FoodMeUpScotty recommended restaurant, Giando (see post here), as well as GIA and Eat.it.

Opened in September 2015, Fishsteria quickly acquired a loyal fan base and became everyone's favourite fish restaurant.  Conveniently located on Queens Road East, I'd walked past Fishsteria dozens of times where I'd peered through the front door and looked at the menu board; pondering going in for a meal.

We finally stopped pondering and made a decision to go one Friday night after work, making our way into the hip and happening joint.  We'd not made a reservation and were really there on a speculative visit and thankfully we were't turned away and were advised a table would be free shortly.  It gave us a moment to sit and soak up the vibe of the downstairs bar area.  


Vibrant painting adorned the walls and I couldn't help thinking that some of the works would look fabulous on our apartment walls.  Interestingly, the seat that we were waiting on was a faithful cement replica of a comfy looking couch.  There was a moment where we didn't quite believe our eyes, but the couch was indeed rock hard while at the same time looking inviting and soft.  Funky music played through the sound system, and I immediately felt like Fishsteria was my kind of place.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Le Relais de l'entrecôte - steak frites in the heart of Wanchai


Man I sure do love steak and chips!

We'd become pretty regular customers of SoHo's La Vache - mainly because by Hong Kong standards the traditional French 'steak frites' joint is incredibly great value.

La Vache is super popular too.  In the past, we've turned up just before opening, only to find a huge queue of hungry diners waiting to feast on some decent steak and all-you-can-eat frites!  The place fills up so quickly, it's pretty unbelievable.

So it's equally unbelievable that Wan Chai's own steak frites joint le Relais de l'entrecôte isn't just as popular!

I'd know about le Relais de l'entrecôte for quite some time, but it wasn't until we signed a lease on an apartment in Wan Chai that we decided to finally get along to check it out.  As much to get a feel for the dining scene in our new neighbourhood as anything else.

There are a couple of entrances to le Relais de l'entrecôte, there's an elevator that takes you upstairs to the rather grand entrance, as well as an escalator a little further along Queens Road East.  You get to the dining room through a long walkway that has bright red wood paneling, and has prints depicting cute and arty Parisian drinking scenes.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Continental - Contemporary UK cuisine


There were a couple of reasons why I visited the Continental, which is one of the many restaurants at Pacific Place.

A mate at work had been banging on about how great the place was and how well known the Chef was back home in his native United Kingdom (although I didn't recognise the name).  The other, and much more important reason was that I'd read an article that the Continental produced one of the 'best soufflés in Hong Kong' by Time Out HK.

I've been craving soufflés lately, so that was all I needed to get on in for a bite to eat after work.

First thing first, the Continental is a beautiful looking restaurant.  Designed by David Collins Studio with an eye to the sophistication of Europe's grand cafes, the Continental is a study of how to integrate a restaurant into it's local environs.  With amazing views of the Hong Kong city scape, the dining room is both cool and modern looking; instantly helping me feel right at home as we were seated.

The Continental was established in partnership with award winning chef and author Chef Rowley Leigh, a man who apparently needs no introduction if you're a UK native.  Acclaimed as one of the founding fathers of modern British cooking, Chef Rowley learned his trade at Le Gavroche and Joe Allen, before going on to head up iconic restaurants Kensington Place and Le Poulbot.  

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Va Bene - from LKF to Sai Ying Pun


I never managed to get to Va Bene when it was in its Lang Kwai Fung home, although it had very much been on my radar.  

Recognised as the original Italian trattoria in Hong Kong, the famous restaurant was one of the few places in the notorious LKF where you could escape the madness at any time of the night for a more-than-decent-meal.

Located just off Queens Road West in Sai Ying Pun, the new Va Bene seems just a little out of the way, and while not too far from PoHo, it required a little bit of an effort to find the place. Veering off QRW and down Wilmer Street, I was surprised by the size of the very sleek and modern looking facade.  There was no missing the place, bright neon pulled us in like a beacon!

Our penchant for arriving early saw us as the first diners to be seated, and we were placed strategically at one of the tables that were visible from the huge plate glass window that ran the length of the street frontage.  Our theory for many restaurants, is that the better dressed diners are always placed within sight of the street, with scruffy diners hidden out back.  This seemed to be on the money, over the course of our meal, we continually paid attention to where diners were being seated.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Paris - Pierre Gagnaire


When I was planning my trip to Paris, I had many possible restaurants that I could have visited.  Paris is one of those destinations that every foodie dreams about, where nouveau and haute cuisine mix willingly with the most traditional of dining.  

While my trip to the French capital was centred around my trip to Guy Savoy (see post here), I was also equally excited to be visiting fellow Three Michelin star and #16 on the La Liste (the top 1,000 restaurants globally).  I was so excited about the visit, that as soon as I'd confirmed my reservation at the well known restaurant at 6 rue Balzac, just of the Champs Elysees, I made a beeline to check out the Two Michelin starred Pierre Hong Kong (see post here).

Known as an innovator, Pierre Gagnaire has been known to 'tear at the conventions of French cooking by introducing jarring juxtapositions of flavours, tastes, textures and ingredients'.  As a food blogger, I love the concept of pushing the boundaries of flavour, I love that there are chef's that are willing to test themselves and innovate and dare to dream of a different culinary landscape.

Unfortunately, dining at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris turned out to be much more of a nightmare than a dream!

Let me start by saying that like the famous French chef's predilection for juxtaposition of food, our dining experience was indeed a juxtaposition, but just not in the way that the chef intended.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Le Pain Quotidien - finding a home in Wan Chai


Man, I really love crunchy fresh baguettes. 

There's something special about lathering a heap of room temperature hand churned salted butter on a fresh baguette that captivates me.  

Sometimes, when I go to a restaurant and there's a fresh crunchy baguette on offer, I make the mistake of filling up on bread and ruining my appetite for the pending meal!

As much as I love bread, it's nowhere near as much as Alain Coumont, the mastermind behind global phenomenon Le Pain Quotidien; "the daily bread".  Coumont opened his first Le Pain Quotidien in his home of Brussels in 1990, with his fanatical approach to producing the absolute best 'daily bread' leading to a global empire that as of today stands at more than 200 outlets, including a flagship bakery on Madison Avenue in New York City.

Coumont had always been around food, his grandparents owning a restaurant near Liege in Belgium and his father was a trained chef, so it seemed natural to continue in the same vein. After training at the same hotel school that his father attended, he eventually deviated slightly to become a baker as opposed to a chef.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Seasons by Oliver E - 2nd visit better than the 1st


Seasons by Oliver E is rapidly becoming one of my favourite restaurants in Hong Kong.

One of the few Michelin Starred restaurants I've been to for lunch that actually impressed me (see post here), I decided that an excursion for dinner was required.  After all, if the food was so good with the reserve team in the kitchen, it surely would be even better with the main team, right?!

With a resume that's impressive, including time at Hong Kong's Three Michelin Starred L'Atelier de Joel Rubicon and Two Starred Pierre Hong Kong, Chef Oliver has taken the best of both to come up with his own distinctive style.  With a mission to modernise French cuisine on his own terms, Seasons by Oliver E is a restaurant serves my kind of food.

The second visit to a restaurant is really important, especially if you loved the first experience. Investing time and hard earned cash in a city with tens of thousands of restaurants is no small commitment, and with so many great restaurants to explore, you need a good reason to return. I've been disappointed with a few second visits in HK, which unfortunately means that a third visit is unlikely.  I hoped that my second at Seasons would allow me to reap the rewards of that investment.

Paris - Le Jules Verne


When I was planning my gastronomic tour of Paris, Le Jules Verne was not on top of my mind, in fact, it wasn't on my list at all.

It was the girl's desire to finally do more than walk around the Eiffel Tower, which was all we'd done on our previous visit to Paris.  While I only had a few precious nights available for dinner in arguably the centre of modern cuisine, I gladly aquiesced to SC's request, after all, le Jules Verne was an Alain Ducasse restaurant!

Oh, and I'd secretly been wanting to scale the Eiffel Tower myself - seriously, who wouldn't?

Our last trip to Paris had been in the heart of winter, and even though it was freezing cold, every time we'd visited the Eiffel Tower, it was a bustling and busy tourist location.  This visit was spring and while it was still cold by Hong Kong standards, one thing was missing on our visit.....  

The crowds.

Our visit had coincided with the tragic events in Belgium and understandably, there was a nervousness around Paris, which had manifested as a severe reduction in tourists.  It was a little weird seeing so few people at one of the world's most recognisable landmarks.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Breakfast Series - The Cupping Room

The Cupping Room

I used to be a breakfast fanatic. Back in my home town of Brisbane, the climate allowed for a huge breakfast culture.  There were so many amazing breakfasts, that it was hard to keep up.

When I moved to HK, I was a little dismayed to discover that there's not even close to the same dedication to the first meal of the day - well, at least the Western version!  After checking out a number of cafes and restaurants, I eventually gave up seeking out breakfasts, I just couldn't take the heartbreak of another sub par serve of scrambled eggs.

My search is over!

The best discoveries are those that are unexpected and discovering that the Cupping Room did the best Western breakfast in HK happened pretty much by accident.  

The are a couple of Cupping Room outlets across Hong Kong and they are quite well regarded as producing a great cup of coffee.  I'd been into the Central CR a few times for coffee, but had never 'clicked' that there was an upstairs section that served food.  One morning, curiosity got the better of me, so I wandered upstairs and grabbed a seat.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Paris - Guy Savoy


It might sound a little indulgent but my recent short break to Paris was completely planned around visiting one restaurant - Guy Savoy.

Well, it's not unusual for a food blogger to plan their holidays around food, after all, I was chasing another Hong Kong food blogger around Paris for the week I was there (we'll meet up sometime Bianca!).  While it might seem natural for me to visit Paris, given my favourite cuisine is French, I'd actually been targeting another of the world's top restaurants, Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana, clearly the best Italian restaurant globally.  Boy is that place hard to get into, I couldn't even score a reservation three months out!

Thankfully, my second choice was available and I was able to secure a mid week sitting for Restaurant Guy Savoy, which in 2015 was voted as the number four restaurant in the world by La Liste.  If you're not aware of La Liste, it's France's alternative to the San Pellegrino top 50 restaurants and is sponsored by the French Government and takes a slightly more analytical view to ranking restaurants.  Using more than 200 food guides, review sites, gourmet blogs and major news publications on 48 countries, the list compiles a weighted aggregate score and then ranks the top 1,000 'Most Outstanding Restaurants'

Needless to say, I was pretty excited.

I won't bore you with details about how we got to Paris, but I will take a moment to reflect on how beautiful a city the heart of Paris is, simply breathtaking.  The buildings haven't changed in hundreds of years, and it's easy to imagine a time before motor vehicles, where horse and carriage were the only mode of transportation around the large and sprawling city.

Restaurant Guy Savoy is located in such a majestic building on the left bank of the River Seine, with nary a sign in sight confirming that our taxi had dropped us off at the right spot.  It wasn't until we were a little closer that we noticed the discreet sign letting us know we'd arrived at our destination.  Walking up a marble staircase, we came across a gilded door that was the entrance to culinary heaven.  

Sunday, 20 March 2016

The Crafty Cow - do I use the term hipsters too much?


There's a little pocket of shops around Sheung Wan (a.k.a PoHo) that could quite comfortably be called hipster central in Hong Kong.  Cute little shops with arcane and weird offerings, more than one spot selling micro brewery ales and more beards per capita than I've seen anywhere else.  Who could forget the #HKWalls exhibition where you could walk down the many laneways and alleys and watch hip young things strut their stuff on the many brick walls canvases.

That little strip around Upper Station Street even held a little food festival last year, where masses of dressed-just-so-right locals and expats congregated to enjoy the many food options available.  I'm not gonna lie, I love that little strip and am guilty of tripping out to many of the aforementioned activities.....  I may even have a beard.

We'd been eying off the Crafty Cow ever since we first spotted it, the tiny little space looking like an awesome spot to enjoy a Sunday afternoon sippin' on a beer (if that's your thing) or enjoying a good little feed (which is my thing).  I'd had plenty of opportunities to get along before we did, we'd even grabbed a Lemmy from the Craft Cow one sunny and super crowded afternoon.  A Lemmy for those of you that have never heard of such a thing is a Kiwi lemonade, and they're pretty awesome.  It was a Lemmy that also won me a free feed at the Craft Cow based on an #Instagram competition - sadly, a feed I never collected.

So, it was finally time to check out the Cow, one Sunday evening for a quick bite of dinner. Making our way down the hill from our Mid Levels apartment, we reflected that we'd miss wandering around Sheung Wan once our move to Wan Chai finally eventuated.  We'd made a booking, which probably wasn't necessary as we were guided to one of the many available seats in the tiny corner restaurant slash bar (or bar slash restaurant, you choose).

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Mandarin Grill and Bar - the perfect lunch?


I suspected that I might like the Mandarin Grill and Bar.  Having all of the hallmarks of a great restaurant helps: Michelin Star, world class home in the Mandarin Oriental and a head chef that trained under arguably this century's most innovate chef, Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame.  Yep, there was a fair chance that I was in for a beauty of a meal.

But I've been wrong before!

I have a love-hate relationship with Michelin Starred restaurants for lunch, love the fact that in Hong Kong you can access a Michelin restaurant for around quarter their usual price.  Hate the fact that more often than not, the star chef is not presiding over lunch time service and you're never sure if the meal will be at the same standard as a dinner.

With a reputation as an innovative chef, Executive Chef Uwe Opocensky has had the opportunity learn from more than just one master, having also worked with Anton Mosimann and Alain Ducasse. That reputation was the key ingredient for the Mandarin Grill securing its Michelin star in 2009, and more importantly, keeping the menu and restaurant fresh while maintaining the gold standard of a Michelin star.  I could think of no better place to have lunch with some colleagues - secretly hoping those lunchtime blues wouldn't become a factor.

Surprisingly, my dining companions had beaten me to the restaurant and were seated by the time I arrived.  I say surprisingly because I've a reputation for being early to dine and I felt just a little weird coming to the table last!

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