Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Lobster and Mussels by Paul's Kitchen - the best lobster rolls outside of New York

I'm forever being surprised by the sights and sounds of Hong Kong, around every corner is something new or different, even areas you think you know well.  It's amazing how many times we'd walked down Aberdeen Street to visit Sheung Wan, never detouring down the many side streets to see what other exciting adventures we might enjoy.  Little did we realise that perhaps one of the coolest streets in Hong Kong was right at our finger tips, all we had to do was veer left.

Gough Street is right at the end of Aberdeen Street and walking past in a hurry, you'd never guess that the street was home to a veritable hive of little shops full of knickknacks and funky dining spots.  It was only leading up to Christmas and some promised Christmas markets that ensured we did veer left, a direction that opened up a world of funky shops and would ultimately lead us to Lobster and Mussels by Paul's Kitchen.  

Formerly just plain old Paul's Kitchen, the tiny 'hole in the wall' dining spot would be easy to miss if you were not paying attention.  Paul's Kitchen had been around for eight years before a move necessitated opening up a few doors down from it's original location.  The move also led to a change of concept and name, hence Lobster and Mussels by Paul's Kitchen was born.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Giando - simple ingredients for classic Italian

I'd been certain that I'd picked poorly when deciding to check out Giando Italian Restaurant and Bar, absolutely certain.  We'd felt like Italian and while there are some great Italian restaurants in Hong Kong, there are as many pretty ordinary ones too.  It was a case of picking a restaurant that looked OK from their web site, then spending an hour reading mixed reviews about Giando, leading me to contemplate cancelling and looking elsewhere.

Originally located at Fenwick Pier at Wan Chai, Giando had recently moved to the ever popular Star Street, which was familiar territory to me and was the final deciding factor to keep my reservation.  My scepticism about my decision came back though once we walked into the dining room, which was so new, it still smelled of paint and construction.  It was also the weirdest looking space I'd seen in a restaurant for a while, with lots of pokey spaces set up with tables around a larger central area that held a huge central table.  What seemed so weird about the interior was that it looked like a throwback from the 70's with loads of exposed light brown brick.

By the time we were seated and perusing the menu's, I'd reached the conclusion that I'd made a terrible mistake and there was no way I'd enjoy the meal.  There was nothing that really jumped out at me on the menu and I really struggled to find many options that appealed.  A small positive seemed to be the white truffle specials on offer, which seemed to be the only shining light in an otherwise uninspiring menu.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Frites Central - Authentic Belgian frites

Not every meal can be had in a Michelin Starred restaurant (unfortunately) and sometimes it's just basic pub food you're looking for.  I'd just met the girl after work and we had to decide on a dinner location close to Sheung Wan, somewhere nice and casual.  I'd not had a heap of luck when deciding on casual dining spots in HK, with more than a few being quite the let down.

It just so happened that we were walking close to The Wellington, right on the border of Central and Sheung Wan and I remembered that there was a Belgium Beer House on the 1st floor. Frites sounded pretty interesting and the Belgium people are pretty well known for their frites (fries), so it seemed like an easy place to stop by on the way home.  We didn't have a booking and didn't really expect that it would be too hard to score a table.  Boy, were we wrong!  As we stepped out of the lift, the place was rocking with suits enjoying an after work beer.  Luckily, we were given a table on the promise that we'd be out of the place by 7:30pm - it was 6:15pm and an easy request to fulfil for a couple of speed eaters!

We were shown to one of the many bench style seats in the main dining room, which reminded me of an old style European bar; bench seats at one end and a traditional bar at the other.  It was quite comforting and warming inside, especially since it was a very rare cold winter's day outside. Placemat style menus were already at our table and showed off a wide range of typical pub fare, including a whole section dedicated to Mussel Pots, which were available in half or full kilo options.  A big pot of mussels sounded a tempting way to start a meal, but given we'd promised to vacate our seats in record time, we decided to forego starters and jump straight into mains.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Taipei: L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

There have been a number of cool new restaurants opening up in Taipei over the last twelve months, highlighting the growing popularity of fine dining in Taiwan.  Andre Chiang is perhaps the most well known of the new breed with the opening of his future #AsiaTop50 Restaurant RAW (See post here), but he is not the first, or best know chef to do so.  

Joel Robuchon is arguably one of the most well regarded chef of the last fifty years, with restaurants spanning the globe combining a total of 25 Michelin Stars across his global gastronomic empire.  Chef Robuchon had obviously seen the potential in Taiwan, opening an outlet of his famed L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon restaurants in 2009.  I'd been lucky enough to have dined at the Singapore  (see post here) and Hong Kong (see post here) L'Atelier restaurants, and wanted to add a third to my ever-growing list of top Asian restaurants I'd visited.

It took my third visit to Taipei to finally convince my buddy to come along and check out L'Atelier in his adoptive land.  The Big Boy had been living in Taipei for quite a few years and it had been a source of contention that he'd continually avoided committing to taking me to L'Atelier.  It was only with the promise of the fromages that I was finally able to convince the Big Boy that a classic French fine dining meal was just the ticket leading into Christmas.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Nobu Hong Kong - Japanese doesn't get much better

I'll start off by saying I wish that I'd visited the original Nobu when we'd been in New York a few years back, it was my silly decision not to.  Instead, I'd made a visit to the Melbourne Nobu and had a  pretty mixed experience.  It's why I'd put off going to Nobu in Hong Kong for so long, that lingering doubt in my mind that renowned Japanese chef Nobuyuki (Nobu) Matsuhisa's vision didn't translate so well when the master was not overseeing the kitchen.

Known globally as the master of Japanese cuisine, Chef Nobu has a chain of restaurants that spans the globe, with accolades that include Michelin Stars and James Beard Awards.  So well recognised is Chef Nobu, he was noted as one of the eleven most influential chefs of the decade by Madrid Fusion in 2009.  Chef Nobuyuki started his dining empire with an interesting story: a collaboration with Hollywood legend Robert De Niro with whom he partnered in opening the original Nobu in New York City (1994).  I guess having a celebrity A lister as a business partner is a good way to start an empire!

Nobu Hong Kong one of the restaurants in the InterContinental, and while it doesn't have a Michelin Star it is rated as one of the 100 Top Tables in Hong Kong, usually a reliable indicator of a quality restaurant.  Continuing our recent trend of checking out lunch time menus, we'd decided to make our way over to the InterContinental on a Saturday afternoon and check out the Nobu Signature tasting lunch.  The facade of the InterContinental was quite dated, but as we walked through the lobby of the Hotel, we noted that the inside was had been completely remodelled at some point and looked pretty plush.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Mercedes Me - Luxury showroom and fine dining restaurant?

As far as luxury brands go, Mercedes is one of the most enduring and well known brands on the planet, especially if you're a car nut.  I've always been more of a Beemer guy and BMW is my luxury car of choice.  But the world of luxury car brands is a competitive beast, and many of the well known brands are looking to expand their base with more accessible entry level cars.  It seems that Mercedes is taking another approach to help their luxury brand become a little more accessible with the introduction of the Mercedes Me concept.

Partnering up with Maximal Concepts in Hong Kong, the crew that run Mott 32 (see post here) and Blue Butcher (see post here), Mercedes Me is one of the first concepts stores that blends a Mercedes showroom with a full restaurant.   Located very conveniently in the Entertainment Building in Central (underneath HMV), the restaurant slash showroom is noticeable with a stylised logo that is both serious and whimsical at the same time...  Oh, and don't forget the flashy Mercedes vehicle that on the night of our visit was the safety car from Formula 1 Grand Prix.

I'd been keen to get into the restaurant for a while, and had been stymied by trying to book in on a Friday and Saturday night, it seemed that Mercedes Me was doing well enough that you couldn't book a decent time on a popular night.  As it turned out, we were able to secure a table as a 'walk in' early on a Sunday night, which suited me just fine.  Not knowing what to expect from a restaurant in a car showroom, I was impressed with the fit out.  I shouldn't have been surprised by the lux fit out that combined a very modern restaurant with a homage to one of the most recognisable car manufacturers on the planet.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Ocean Repulse Bay - A tale of two lunches

I should have known something was up.  We'd just placed our orders and one of Hong Kong's hottest new dining spots and I wasn't feeling the love from our waiter.  There had been a level of enthusiasm from our waiter as he'd taken down SC's entree and main choices, in fact, he'd enthused that they were exactly the choices he would have made.  I'd received no such assurances when I'd placed my order.  As I said, I should have known something was up.

But I get a head of myself.

We'd picked probably the worst day imaginable to check out the new fine dining seafood restaurant over at Repulse Bay.  The sky was angry that day my friends, stormy clouds abounding and precipitation falling from the sky.  By the time our taxi dropped us off behind the Pulse Shopping centre, it was definitely anything but a great day for the beach.

Arriving for our 1pm lunch sitting at The Ocean restaurant, we were walked to our table in the middle of the restaurant.  I noticed a couple of things, there was an immense feeling of space in the dining room, with huge comfortable seats, arranged facing floor to ceiling windows, that in summer would provide spectacular views of the beach and islands further out.  There was a decent amount of space between the seats too, giving the feeling that we were alone in our own little paradise.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Zurriola - a game menu that fell short

You know those times when you have no idea what you want to eat?  If you're like me, you can spend hours and hours just looking over restaurant menus to see if anything 'grabs' your attention and gets you out of your lethargy to make a booking.  There's no rhyme nor reason for me selecting a dining spot sometimes, it could be a particularly appetising photo on a web site, or an interesting and different menu, or even just a cool name.  Our visit to Zurriola was based simply on the fact they had a winter 'game' menu with venison on offer.

Winter in Hong Kong brings a couple of very appealing options, it's obviously truffle season, and I don't really need to explain what's so great about that!  But it's also 'game' season, which means pheasant, wild boar and most importantly venison.  If you've not had venison before, it's a very strong flavoured red meat that is quite simply delicious.  Venison is usually deer, but throughout history, it's been a general term used for game and at one time or another has referred to hares, wild pigs and goats.  It also happens to be one of SC's favourite things to eat (after bacon, truffle and duck fat).

Zurriola is a Modern European style restaurant, which means that it takes a bit of a contemporary view of traditional dishes.  I'd been quite excited about visiting, after reading some local HK blogs about how amazing the place was and in particular, one blogger thought the tasting menu was amongst the best in Kong Kong.  Located at TST, we were again struck speechless by the skyline that was recently rated as the best in the world.  We were seated at a table that afforded us the most incredible views of the island and our only regret was that it was raining outside, otherwise the balcony windows would have been open.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Taipei - Mume an Aussie in Taipei

I keep hearing about how the Taiwan food scene is changing and rapidly evolving, and glossy articles like this one (Taiwan: The world's next foodie travel destination), would certainly have you believing the hype.  You might ask why a Hong Kong blogger is paying attention to the food scene across the South China Sea, but with a best mate trying to break into the food scene, and regular visits to the tiny island, there's not much to wonder.

My first visit was a bit of a bust to Taipei, I really thought the food scene was over inflated and the restaurants I visited average at best.  Not so on my most recent trip, where I managed to get into hotshot restaurant RAW (see post here) and it's closest rival Mume.  Mume is part of the new style of restaurant globally that has taken it's inspiration from restaurants like Noma, looking to capitalise on fresh local produce and cutting edge culinary art.

Mume is run by a trio of young gun chefs from around the world, including Aussie chef Kai Ward who had worked at arguably Australia's best restaurant Quay in Sydney.  Kai, along with Richie Lin and Long Xiong have taken their combined experience operating around the world to bring a slice of European style and combined it with local produce to try to create something unique in Taipei.

Seasons by Oliver E - a lunch to remember

I've been really stupid.  Hong Kong is rightfully known as one of the foodie meccas globally, with more restaurants than any person could ever visit in a lifetime.  A place with many Michelin Starred establishments, Top 100 tables and Tatler Top 20 restaurants, so many in fact that you could eat yourself poor by trying to visit them all!  And I've been doing just that, trying to visit and write about as many of the best restaurants in this giant of a city as possible and grumbling about the cost.  As I said, I've been really stupid.

There's another way.  Lunches!

Hong Kong's finest restaurants have been serving set menu lunches for a long time, a fact that I've recently clued into (yeah, I know, stupid) and taken advantage of.  

We booked in to Seasons by Oliver Ezra for a Saturday lunch recently.  It felt a little strange getting dressed up to hit a fancy Michelin Starred restaurant for lunch, but as we made our way to Causeway Bay's swanky Lee Gardens 2 shopping centre, it all started to make perfect sense.  

Seasons is culinary wiz Oliver Ezra's first foray into his own restaurant.  French born Ezra is better know as the former head chef of Three Star L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon's Hong Kong restaurant.  Tutored by legends of the culinary world Joel Robuchon and Pierre Gagnaire, Chef Ezra has food in his blood.  With a grandfather who was a chef to the last Tzar of Russia, there was never any doubt that Ezra would follow in his grandfather's footsteps and was one named in the best 22 young chefs in France by Gault Millau in 2007.


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