Sunday, 21 February 2016

Blue Brick Bistro by Yoku Moku - the cheapest four course meal ever?

I've been watching with great interest the development called The Avenue, in Wan Chai.  There's a couple of reasons for this, firstly, the spot looks great with shops and restaurants, it seems to be the perfect blend of east meets west in the area.  Secondly, we're about to move away from our Mid Levels location and The Avenue is one of the three or four spots we're really keen on.

We'd arranged to meet a real estate agent to look through a couple of properties in Wan Chai and as it turned out, we had about ninety minutes spare that we needed to fill.  Contemplating heading to Causeway Bay and hitting our default restaurant, Din Tai Fung (see post here), we paused by a newly opened restaurant in The Avenue.  In fact, we did more than pause, we looked over the menu and decided that the Blue Brick Bistro by Yoku Moku was to be our lunch destination.

Yoku Moku is a well known and acclaimed Japanese patisserie, who has followed the steps of many a brand by creating a cross over concept.  The Avenue was selected as the first location for a Blue Brick Bistro outside of Japan and the funky bistro sits above the more well known Yoku Moku patisserie, which is on street level.

Dessert bar by Sift - My Valentine's concession

Valentine's Day is the one day of the year that I avoid booking at a fancy restaurant like the plague! I'm not sure what you think, but in my experience, it's the one day of the year where there is so much pressure on a restaurant to get it right, and people's expectations are way too high.  You have desperate couples looking for that perfect meal to celebrate their (sometimes) perfect relationships. I also really don't love the set menu options filled with crap that I'd normally not love to eat, all shaped like love hearts - blergh!

So we grabbed a quick pizza for Valentines day!

But this post isn't about pizza or even Valentines day, although I will admit, that it's a funny coincidence that we hit up a specialist dessert bar on that one day of the year where there is a special connection with desserts!

We were walking home from our cheep and cheerful pizza dinner, when we decided that we wanted some dessert to finish off the evening.  Now, I love the pizzas at Pizza Express (see post here), but their desserts leave a lot to be desired.  So, it was onto my trusty Open Rice iPhone app to see where the closest dessert bar was to our SoHo location.  As luck would have it, we were only 150 meters away from Sift, and so began our decent into a sugary induced coma!

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Breakfast Series - The Coffee Academics

We've been spending a lot more time in Wan Chai just recently. We're thinking of moving out of our Mid Levels location and the allure and action of Wan Chai has been calling out to us.

While the girl has had breakfast at Coffee Academics before, and we'd both stopped in for a quick latte every now and then, it was time for me to visit the little cafe for food.  Interestingly, Coffee Academics in Wan Chai opens a lot earlier than most of the cafes around Hong Kong, which means you can actually get a breakfast (and not brunch).

It was pretty quiet when we walked in just after the opening time, but we weren't the first there and there was another westerner taking advantage of an 'early' morning opening.  That is if you'd call 9am early!  

Taking a seat at one of the many available tables, we were given one of the snazzy looking menus to look over, which had a photo of a beautiful looking European 'fry up', which included a strip of delicious looking bacon.  One of the options on the menu was the Academic's Breakfast, which included all your typical breaky goodness like fried eggs, baked beans and of course fatty (oh so fatty) bacon.  The rest of the menu was quite contemporary by Hong Kong standards, and reminded me of some of the breakfast menus back home in Brisbane.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Ivy - Is it Italian or French? The French Riviera

One of the things I still find a little strange, even after residing in Hong Kong for over twelve months, is the placement of restaurants in shopping centres. Throughout Australia, Europe and the Americas, shopping centres have designated areas for restaurants and food outlets. They're often quite fancy places with a range of restaurants from renowned chefs and up-and-coming dining establishments.  Harrods in London and KaDaWe in Berlin are great examples of major shopping outlets that have specific locations for restaurants.

Hong Kong is quite different, with restaurants dotted through out major shopping centres, often spread around shopping centres in unusual locations.  Ivy is the latest restaurant from the Gaia Group and is one of those restaurants that's tucked away on it's own in the IFC, so you stumble across it almost by accident!

It's a little known fact (well, I didn't really know!) that the French Riviera was a part of Italy until it was handed over to France in the 1800's. Which explains why the French restaurant has more in common with an Italian eatery than your traditional French bistro.

We'd initially hoped to get along to the annual Winter Carnival recently, but changed our mind pretty quickly once we'd seen the queue to gain entry, so had an evening free and no dinner plans.  We were feeling pretty lazy, so wanted to check out something close by, and the Ivy seemed like a pretty good option.  With no reservation made, we rocked up to to the restaurant and were relieved to find plenty of tables available.  

Solo dining at Lobster Central

I love that you can be wandering around a part of town that you thought you knew well, but realised that you didn't.  I had this feeling when walking down Stanley Street in Central a couple of weeks ago, where I noticed a new little 'hole-in-the-wall' restaurant that was right up my alley.

I'd developed a real taste for lobster rolls when visiting New York a few years back (see post here) and have been lowly tracking down all of the dining spots that have lobster rolls on their menus.  You can imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled across a spot that specialised in lobster rolls!

Deciding that I'd check it out for lunch one day, I made a beeline for Lobster Central and discovered that the little hole-in-the-wall spot was a lot bigger than I'd first noticed.  There was room for about twenty or so diners to sit down and enjoy the simple joy of a lobster roll.

The menu at Lobster Central is pretty short and to the point, which is really what the team are trying to achieve, with a view to stripping down the roll to it's 'most naked form'.  What does that mean you might ask?  Well, it means that the lobster rolls at Lobster Central are stripped down and dressed minimally - there is a brioche bread roll, lobster and a light coating of a house made lemon butter with a secret spice mix.  No fancy salad and a generous amount of lobster.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Beef & Liberty - bloody good burgers

I'm a sucker for Australian beef, and even more so when that beef is ground up and forms part of a spectacular burger!

That's what I was hoping for when I visited Beef & Liberty, the latest in a long line of burger joints to hit the shores of Hong Kong.  Beef & Liberty started its life in Shanghai of all places, and picked the gentrified part of Wan Chai to establish it's first HK outlet.  

The team behind Beef & Liberty are pretty confident in their product and proud of their location, which they proclaim on their website as being the best location for burgers in Honkers!  I'm not so sure about that, but trendy Wan Chai is changing pretty quickly and the second floor location (above Pizza Express) in Wing Fung Street is very convenient.

Paying homage to the beefsteak clubs of old, Beef & Liberty takes its name from the beefsteak club phenomenon that (apparently) formed part of the 18th century's gastronomic culture:  I didn't really know that there was a gastronomic culture in the 18th century (outside of Paris), but you live and learn!  Whether or not the team have replicated the essence of the 18th century 'Sublime Society' founded by John Rich (look it up) or not is probably not too relevant, but what is pretty darn relevant is the approach Beef & Liberty takes to creating their burgers.

AMMO - home made pasta, simple flavours and deliciousness

Tucked away behind Pacific Place shopping centre at Admiralty and a part of the HK Asia Society Centre is AMMO, an amazing little restaurant that specialises in homemade pasta.  It's a little difficult to find, but well worth the effort.

As you walk past the Banyan tree, which was stuck by lightening  during a typhoon in 2008 but continues to grow, and round the cultural court of the Asia Society, you're instantly taken aback by the shiny, shiny building that houses AMMO.  The heritage listed site, which was once home to a 19th century explosives compound, has been transformed into what has to be one of the funkiest restaurants in Honkers.  

The most striking element of the Joyce Wang designed interior was the liberal use of copper throughout, which gives off a luxurious yet industrial feel, that with imagination hints at the site's military history.  Especially the design and pattern behind the restaurant's bar.  The restaurant itself is almost entirely enclosed by floor to ceiling glass, which enhances the modern feel of the dining room. Surrounded by the lush tropical jungle you find throughout Hong Kong, it's impossible to believe that civilisation is only meters away.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Restaurant Petrus - fine dining with views to die for

I think I've found the most spectacular and stunning views of Victoria Harbour, and quite possibly the most wonderful vista in all of Hong Kong.  Located on the 56th floor of the Island Shangri-la, Restaurant Petrus is a French fine diner that had been on my 'must visit' list for some time. I'd heard that there were some spectacular views from Petrus, but nothing could prepare me for the view that greeted me as we were shown to our table.

Matching the spectacular view of Hong Kong, was the plush interior of the Island Shangri-la's showpiece restaurant that was literally at the top of the world.  Old style French opulence sprang to mind as we surveyed the gilt chairs surrounding crisp white linen at each table.  A grand piano underneath hanging chandeliers and cherubs guarding the entrance were just some of the features that added to the feeling of pure luxury.

Matching the regal setting was a menu that was not short of luxurious ingredients, along with a wine list that showcased the restaurant's twelve thousand bottles of wine (yes, you read that correctly).  We had a choice between a special black truffle degustation and a la carte, but with an unusual take on our normal dining habits, we chose the 'simpler' options of the standard a la carte menu.  

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Steak Frites by the Butchers Club - quality steaks at a price

We'd only just sat down at our table when an enthusiastic chef from the kitchen was presenting huge slabs of raw meat for our perusal.  We could have had the full story about dry aged beef, but since I knew a little bit of the process of dry ageing, we skipped the lecture.

That's the way they roll at the Butchers Club, to say they are fanatical about beef products might just be underselling the team's devotion to bringing top quality meat to Hong Kong.

The Butchers Club are very well known for their burgers and for a while there, I was pretty darn addicted to their fat and juicy hamburgers (see post here).  While their burgers are arguably the best in town, I was keen to find out just how devoted to the art-of-the-cow the Butchers Club were, and visiting their Steak Frites joint on Staunton Street seemed like the best way to find out.

I'd walked past the entrance to Steak Frites countless times on the way to work each morning, so was well acquainted with the entrance actually being around the corner in Aberdeen Street. Walking up the stairs into the dining room was an interesting experience, with decor that included exposed bricks and a rustic feel that was enhanced by the slight red glow of the numerous hanging lights.  The space was a little smaller and more intimate than I was expecting, the tables quite close together.  Our table afforded us a clear view of the kitchen and fridge stocked full with the specially acquired Australian and US beef.


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