Sunday, 21 June 2015

NOM - Not Only Meatballs, sure, but totally delicious

When writing a food blog, I usually like to tell a little bit of a story that leads into the meal, sometimes it's pretty easy and other times, well, it can be more challenging.  Very rarely do I have a few tales to tell, but it just so happened that with NOM, I had a couple.  So, instead of wracking my head to cut it down to one, I'll tell both!

NOM stands for Not Only Meatballs, which is ostensibly a specialist meatball restaurant that does serve considerably more than delicious little balls of meat.  I'd developed a little bit of a fetish in 2013, when I spent a month in Manhattan and went on a meatball finding odyssey (see post here).  New York is often considered one of the central spots globally (Italians would have something to say about that) when looking for meatballs and I have to say, I found some spectacular little spots, often in unusual circumstances.  

So, when the girl suggested we check out NOM, I was pretty darn excited, I wanted to see what the Hong Kong version of meatballs would be like.  Look, I know that HK is a global city and there is an amazing array of western style restaurants, but I can tell you now that there is a gulf between the good and the bad.  

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Ronin - a 'speak easy' of a restaurant

I'm sure you know what a speak easy is, right?  It's a secret location that came into prominence in the 1920's in the United States as a consequence of the prohibition on alcohol.  Almost exclusively, the speak easy is a bar, hard to find and normally a heap of fun.  

We'd heard some great things about a little Japanese restaurant called Ronin, which is the sister restaurant of Yardbird (see post here) and Sunday's Grocery (see post here).  Of course, after having an amazing experience at the aforementioned dining spots, we were pretty excited about checking out the latest restaurant.  Located in On Wo Lane in Central Hong Kong, Ronin has a reputation as a spot that's pretty hard to find, and as it turned out, we couldn't even find the entrance while we were standing right out the front.

Which brings me back to the concept of a speak easy.  It turned out that the door to Ronin was a little grey/black number that was almost impossible to see in the dark, but once we found the sliding door, we were transported to a super sleek and sexy set up bar.  We were shown to our seat, which was right in the middle of the bar and gave us an amazing view of countless bottles of Japanese whisky.  We were given a set of menus, that once we flipped through a few times, realised were whisky and drinks menu.  I leaned across to SC and whispered in her ear 'are you sure they serve food here?'

Sunday, 7 June 2015

L'aLtro - trading on former glory

I've often wondered what helps a restaurant lose a Michelin Star. The hard work and dedication that goes into an award winning restaurant is nothing short of hard toil and a fanatical level of detail. After going through the pain and effort to get a star, to lose one must be gut wrenching.  But, to lose one, there must be a reason and after visiting L'aLtro in Central Hong Kong, I have a better understanding of how this could happen.

A little bit of research had gone into finding a restaurant in Central that would allow us to grab a bite to eat on the way home from work.  We'd found a decent looking spot in one of the many 'restaurant buildings' in Hong Kong, you know the ones, where the first ten to fifteen floors are take up by restaurants.  The only problem in the research was that L'aLtro had lost it's Michelin Star in 2015, which on it's own wasn't too shocking, surely it would still be a decent place to eat?

We had an inkling of our answer when we stepped out of the lift to find that the concierge desk empty and a waiter hovering in the dining room, back to the entry just walking aimlessly.  It was a little strange and we waited to see how long this state of affairs would last, but after about ninety seconds, the maitre d' arrived with a big smile and asked us if we had a reservation.  After confirmation, and a quick exchange in Cantonese with the waiter, we found ourselves led to what was probably the worst table in a completely empty restaurant, right next to a building pylon.  We were a bit dismayed and were about to ask for another table, when the maitre d' magically appeared, apologised and offered us a much better table.

Bread Street Kitchen - Gordon Ramsay in Hong Kong

Gordon Ramsay is arguably the biggest name in the food industry. With a catalogue of restaurants that span the globe, as well as a number of well known TV programs such as Hell's Kitchen and Masterchef USA, Ramsey seems to be everywhere.  But Chef Gordon Ramsay is a polarising figure, his huge popularity is matched by his detractors, including another famous UK chef, Jamie Oliver.

With an incredibly interesting background that included time as a (semi) professional football player that culminated,  then ended when injuries took a toll while trialling for Scottish powerhouse Rangers.  Ramsay started his cooking career by accident after initially enrolling in Hotel Management.  It wasn't until Ramsay found himself cooking for culinary legend Marco Pierre White that a passion was ignited that would one day take him to the top of the culinary heap.

After almost three years of equal parts learning and terror, Ramsay tired of the 'rages and bullying' from Pierre White, which ironically would become the most recognisable traits in Ramsay himself, and moved on.  It was time spent with legendary French chefs Albert Roux, Guy Savoy and Joel Robuchon and a number of years in France that really honed Ramsay's skills in the kitchen.  Further enhancing his skills as a restauranteur, Ramsay went into several partnerships for a few years that helped directly gain Michelin Stars, but it wasn't until 1998 when Gordon opened his own restaurant, called Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, that things really started to heat up and by 2001 Restaurant Gordon Ramsay had gained it's third Michelin Star.

You know how the saying goes - the rest of course, is history!  So now I've caught you up with stuff you probably already knew.  

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Zelo Spanish Restaurant and Tapas - it filled in some time

Normally when I'm heading out to eat, I have an interesting story about the choice of the restaurant or a little bit of background about the chef.  Not this time, we did have interesting plans for the evening, we were going to see Tomorrowland and were then cracking on with a visit to Wagyu Takumi (see post here).  What we need though was a quick and simple lunch before heading to the movies, one that wouldn't ruin out appetite for an expensive dinner.

Since we were at Pacific Place at Admiralty, there were a couple of options that included Thai, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish.  Being a fan of Spanish cuisine, in particular tapas, we decided that bite to eat at Zelo would satisfy our need for a quick and light meal before the movie.

The thing that stood out most about Zelo was the beautiful cast iron dome that decorates the casual dining area of the restaurant.  It's an impressive looking feature that dominates the space and is clearly visible from most spots in that end of the shopping centre.  The feature also played acoustic tricks on us, while we were seated at a table right at the edge of the dome, by placing an ear next to the structure, it seems you could clearly hear people talking on the other side....  Cool.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Wagyu Takumi - as good as it gets

Some of the best meals I've had have been eaten sitting at a bar. Now, that might sound a bit strange, but the type of bar I'm referring to are 'bar style seats' that wrap around a kitchen, taking the drama and theatre that happens in a kitchen and bringing it to the diner.  The fact that there are more and more restaurants that either have 'chef's tables' or have open kitchens is testament to the fact that diners want to have more than just a meal.  They want the whole experience and that includes interacting with a chef.

I had a suspicion that I was going to have a memorable meal, I mean the very fact that I was heading to a Two Michelin Starred restaurant was enough to almost guarantee a great meal.  The fact that a couple of my favourite cuisines were combined surely had something to do with my high expectations as well.  We were heading to Wan Chai and Chef Mitsuru Konishi's Wagyu Takumi and my expectations were skyrocketing!

Chef Konishi is no stranger to Michelin Starred restaurants, apart from running one of the few Two Starred restaurants in HK, he spent time at fellow Two Star restaurant, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Tokyo, as well as a numerous Michelin restaurants in France, including Taillevent, Michael Rostand and L'Hotel De Carantec.  It's that type of pedigree that gets my heart aflutter!

In an amazing twist of good fortune, we were able to secure a table for two at Wagyu Takumi on the morning of our Saturday night reservation.  The food gods were indeed smiling down on us.  It was more remarkable when you consider the size of the restaurant, which seats a cozy twelve diners at a time.  As we arrived for our 7:30pm reservation, we almost got lost in the back streets of Wan Chai, but Google Maps had us at the slightly hidden front door just in time.  As we announced ourselves, the door slid open 'Star Trek' style and we made our way to one of those few precious seats.


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