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!

Pierre Hong Kong - Lunch at the Mandarin Oriental

In roughly thirty six hours I head off to Paris for a Gastronomy tour of arguably the home of modern cuisine.  To say I'm excited is an understatement.

I've been dining out at quite a few French fine dining restaurants of late, really getting myself psyched for the real deal in Paris.  I did have a cunning plan to go on a short hiatus from French food in the month leading up to our Paris trip, mainly so I didn't overdo a good thing.  It didn't work out so well though, barely a week into my self imposed ban, I found myself booked into Pierre at the Mandarin Oriental.

I like to tell myself that it was because I was having lunch with a mate from the UK that I needed to go somewhere special.  I also told myself that since I'd made a booking for Pierre Gagnaire in Paris, and surely I needed to have dined in the Hong Kong outlet before sampling the French maestro's own cooking.  In reality, I'm just a sucker for French cuisine and any reason seemed like a great idea a the time.

Located on the 25th floor of the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Pierre is one of the dozen or so two Michelin Starred restaurants in Hong Kong.  Pierre Gagnair is a culinary genius who needs little introduction in the world of modern French cooking and his Asian outlet is fronted by Gagnaire protégé, Jean Denis Le Bras.  At just 39 years of age, Chef Jean Denis was the perfect choice to lead the Pierre team in Hong Kong, accumulating an impressive amount of experience in his native home before spending time honing his skills in London.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Robuchon au Dome - Macau's finest?

Riding up the lift to the 39th floor at the Grand Lisboa in Macau, I was able to reflect back on the journey that had us about to visit one of the world's great restaurants.

We were heading to Macau for the very specific purpose of seeing Russell Peters live in concert, perhaps one of the funniest comedians on the planet at the moment.  Our second trip to Macau in twelve months, we didn't need to do the sight seeing thing, our plan was to laugh, relax and lounge by the pool of our hotel.  Of course there was never any doubt that we'd be hitting up the best restaurant Macau had to offer.

With a string of accolades that very few restaurants can match, we chose the very refined three Michelin starred Robuchon au Dome.  Michelin stars are just the beginning for one of Robuchon's top restaurants!  Ranked number six restaurant in the world by Elite Traveller's top 100 restaurants; thirty five on the San Pellegrino's top 50 Asian restaurants and the second highest ranked Joel Robuchon restaurant in the La Liste top 1000 restaurants, the French fine diner's a must on any serious foodies list of restaurants to visit.

The trip to Macau hadn't started off as I'd have planned.  Meeting the girl at the Macau ferry, her first question me was 'where's your camera?'.  D'oh, I'd forgotten my camera for what I'd hoped would be a meal for the ages.  What would I do?  Well, I seriously contemplated buying a new camera, just for the meal.  I mean seriously contemplated it.  That was, until I saw that the camera I had my eye on was twice the listed price in HK.  

Luckily the iPhone 6+ camera has improved significantly - while not ideal, it would have to do.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Prego Italian - simple ingredients but full flavour

Sometimes you just want something simple to eat.  I've been feasting on a lot of French fine dining recently, including stints at two and three Michelin starred establishments with incredibly rich food.  Fun for a while, but boy, you can get over that pretty quickly!

When you want nice simple food that tastes great, then you really can't go past great Italian food, where the whole philosophy is to use as few ingredients as possible to extract maximum flavour.  We've only recently started to find some great little Italian restaurants in Hong Kong, after finding a few shockers initially.

One of the better Italian diners we'd loved was Dining Concepts Cecconi's, which was really conveniently located in Soho, a place that we walked past most nights on the way home from work.  It would have been a perfect foil for the rich French food we'd been consuming in the last month, but it had moved out it's Elgin Street home to Wyndham Street - just a little too far out of our way.  

Luckily, the team at Dining Concepts had done the old 'switcharoo', replacing one great Italian restaurant with another.  I'm not really sure why, but Cecconi's was replaced with Prego Italian, a more relaxed style of Italian more closely resembling 'Mama's home-style cooking, from kitchen to table'.  

It sounded perfect!

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon Hong Kong - the tasting menu

Right, just about everyone who loves French cuisine knows who Joel Robuchon is, so I'm not going to bore you with too much detail, suffice to say....  He's good.

If you want the full low down, you can check out more detail at some of my other posts - here.

I've been on a bit of a Joel fixation of late, mainly because of his incredible mashed potato, which it must be said is the best I've ever had.  So, as indulgent as it sounds, we booked into the three Michelin starred L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon just so I could have some more of that fantastic mash.

We've been to the Hong Kong outlet for L'Atelier before, and to be honest, I'd been just a little bit disappointed with the meal (see post here).  Don't get me wrong, it was good, but just not what I'd come to expect when dining at a Robuchon establishment.  

The last time, we'd selected our meal from the a la carte menu, so this time we wanted to sample the menu decouverte, or discovery menu, Robuchon's famous tasting menu.  I'd had the tasting menu at the Singapore outlet and had been blown away by the meal, so was hoping for the same for our latest visit.


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