Saturday, 28 February 2015

Vasco Spanish Fine Dining - Incredible and Memorable

I'm normally pretty pedantic about the order in which I write my blogs, with each post in the order in which I ate the meal.  Normally.  Sometimes, I have a meal that's so magnificent, that I simply can't wait until I get through the backlog and I just have to write about.

Vasco, Spanish fine dining, was one of the most exquisite dining experiences I've had in a long time! Big call, I know, but there it is.

Located in the heritage listed and superbly renovated Police Married Quarters (PMQ) site on the corner of Aberdeen Street and Hollywood Road, Vasco is one of a handful of restaurants that calls the site home.  If you've not been to the PMQ before, it's probably worth your time, with restaurants, art studios and just an all round cool spot to hang out (especially once a month for the night markets).

We'd first spotted Vasco while visiting the aforementioned night markets and somehow knew that it was going to be a special event.  So, on a Tuesday night, after a huge day at work, we'd arranged to treat ourselves to the  mind and kitchen of Chef Paolo Casagrande formerly of two-Michelin-starred Lasarte Restaurant in Barcelona.  Located on the 8th floor, we took the large service elevator, then final few steps upstairs to the top floor of the PMQ and plush looking entrance to Vasco.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Not just a date night place - Upper Modern Bistro

Our recent move to Hong Kong has brought with it one additional bonus - being closer to The Big Boy, who lives in Taiwan.  Only a short plane ride away, The BB came over to see us not long after we arrived in town, and his main request for dinner was to go somewhere French (but not too expensive).  After doing a little research, I decided to book us all in for dinner at Upper Modern Bistro, which has recently been awarded a Michelin star in the 2015 guide, and is rapidly garnering a reputation as a great little bistro. 

Upper Modern Bistro is more of a French/modern Asian fusion, the brainchild of Philippe Orrico, a michelin-starred chef who creates a mouthwatering mix of dishes, based on his classical French training, with influences from his travels throughout Asia.   Located just off Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan in Upper Station Street, it can be found in an area bustling with dining spots, mixed in with the usual Hollywood Road antique shops.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Penthouse by Harlan Goldstein

It was one of those nights that I wanted to go perfectly.... 

My new boss was in town, visiting from London, and we'd arranged to have dinner.  Of course, I was in a new city myself...  Hong Kong being home for just over a week, I didn't really know too much about the dining scene and of course, I wanted to impress my boss!

So, instead of going for something safe, being the foodie that I am, I tracked down on of those pop up kitchens that are popular in Hong Kong at the moment.  If you don't know what they are, well, they're an interesting concept, a chef takes over a location for a while and just opens a kitchen.  Pretty simple and pretty cool.  My only problem was....pretty unprofessional.  About 45 minutes before we were to meet in Causeway Bay for dinner I got an email cancellation!

Now, I'm not going to 'name and shame' this place, but I was pretty unimpressed.  A quick call to try to find out why was pointless - the language barrier made it impossible.

Right, I'm going to admit that there were a few moments of panic.  New boss (from London), new city, 45 minutes before we're all to meet in one of the busiest areas in one of the busiest cities on earth.  What did we do?

Well, we hopped straight into a taxi for a speedy ride to Causeway Bay and then started looking for a restaurant to eat dinner.  Oh, I forgot to mention, it was a Saturday night....

I know what you're probably thinking, 'you dope!'.  Well, I was thinking that myself, but fortune favours the brave and after only my second call, I managed to snag a table for four at 7:30pm.  All we had to do was find the place and with fifteen minutes to spare, we managed to bustle our way to Penthouse by Harlan Goldstein.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Dumpling frenzy: Din Tai Fung

Dumplings, dumplings, dumplings. That seems to be all FMUS can say at the moment when thinking about food.  In particular, xiao long bao is his current addiction, and where better to satisfy that craving then the restaurant made famous by these little soup-filled buns of heaven - Din Tai Fung.

After trying out the Michelin-starred dim sum experience at Tim Ho Wan (see post here), FMUS decided that he had to now return to the place he visited in a recent work trip to Singapore, where he fell in love with xiao long bao.  So on the Monday evening after his first day on the new job, we decided to head out to Causeway Bay to see if the Dai Tun Fung branch there was as good as the Singapore restaurant.

While Din Tai Fung has a number of outlets around the world, the original was in Taiwan, and began as a cooking oil retail business in the 50s, before the restaurant opened in 1972.  Since then, its Hong Kong branch was awarded a Michelin star in 2010, and you can now find Din Tai Fung in countries such as Australia, the US, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, China, Malaysia and Indonesia.  Unfortunately the Hong Kong branches no longer hold a coveted Michelin star, however still made the 2015 Bib Gourmand list.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Butchers Club Burgers - The perfect burger?

The first wave of burgers came out of the United States (to varying degrees) in the late sixties and early seventies and pretty much dominated the fast food scene. Then, interestingly, there was a backlash against the major fast food chains and the humble burger was 'on-the-nose'.  Sure, they were still popular, but the fast food dollar started going to other franchises and cuisines.  It got really interesting when movies like 'Fast Food Nation' and the hit Morgan Spurlock movie - Super Size Me came out.  Burgers it seemed, had approached their use by date.

Then a strange thing happened, burgers were cool again and just about every celebrity chef and chains of alternative (and healthy) burger joints started opening.  It was about this time that I started loving burgers again and for the last few years, I've been on a journey to find the best burger joints, which has taken me to the home of the Burger - the USA!  (see post here)  For me, there is no doubt that some of the independent burger joints around are making the best burgers.

With this in mind, we'd stumbled upon an interesting looking burger joint in Soho, with a great name - The Butchers Club Burgers, which is part of a stable of shops, butchers, a deli and even a TV program.  Now, just about every burger joint you go into has a range of burger options, but you've got to respect a place that is so confident in their burgers that they only offer one choice - appropriately named the Burger.  In fact, the Butchers Club has a pretty simple menu, so simple, it has three items in total!  Burger, Duckfat Fries and Ice Cream Float!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Michelin Starred Dim Sum - Tim Ho Wan

After arriving in Hong Kong the previous day, our first full day was the Sunday, which we spent getting acquainted with our new city, and even doing a dry run for FMUS so he knew were to go for his first day of induction on the Monday.  From Olympic City to Elements Shopping Centre, it seemed that Hong Kong was nothing but shopping centres! We also wandered along the Avenue of the Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui, just us and a few thousand of our closest friends, before catching the MTR back across to Hong Kong Island and more shopping centres.  By mid-afternoon we were both pretty tired of walking but the very important task of deciding where to go for dinner still had to be completed.  

After spending the afternoon strolling past shop after shop of luxury brands, we were ready to explore one of Hong Kong's more famous cheap eats.  FMUS declared the place to try would be Tim Ho Wan in North Point.  This particular branch of Tim Ho Wan has been awarded a Michelin star in this year's Guide, along with its Sham Sui Po and Tai Kwok Sui locations.  Finding it was an adventure in itself, we hailed a cab and tried to explain to the driver where we wanted to go, and thanks to a taxi app (which converts addresses to Cantonese), were finally deposited just down the street from a nondescript looking strip of shops in North Point (with a very out of place Ferrari parked across the street...). We weren't sure if we were even in the right location as we don't speak Cantonese (yet) and couldn't read the sign!  If it wasn't for the little red Michelin sign we may have walked on by. 


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