Wednesday, April 30, 2014

An Alumni Event: Kin's Kitchen

I realize that my blog has become a food blog as of late.  It's just that food has been taking up a lot of my time!  Work was kind of crazy in February and really crazy in March and still pretty crazy in the first half of April.  I guess I am making up for lost time by eating a lot of food now that I have some free time to chill before work builds up to a crazy frenzy again.

The Princeton Hong Kong Alumni club outdid themselves again with a fantastic event at Kin's Kitchen  in Wan Chai.  The same owners of Kin's Kitchen own the private kitchen, Yellow Door, a traditional Sichuan restaurant in Central.  Kin's Kitchen was a very small restaurant / private kitchen in Tin Hau (and actually when we first moved here I looked at booking a table there for my parents).  Due to their success (in my opinion rightfully deserved) they have expanded into fancy new digs in Wan Chai.
This was our special menu for the night:
I loved the pattern on this teapot.  There were two types of tea, chrysanthemum tea and Iron Buddha Tie Guan Yin.  I loved the chrysanthemum tea and probably drank two pots of it by myself throughout dinner.  It was a slightly yellow color and had a light, sweet, flowery scent and taste.   I am pretty sure the sweetness was natural and not due to any added sugar.
This is the fried, half fermented Puning tofu on a bed of dried kale.  Apparently this tofu is really special and delivered from the province of Puning, the only place that this tofu is made.  I really enjoyed the flavor and consistency and texture of this dish - it was compared to haloumi because it has a firm, creamy consistency that is unusual in tofu.  The accompanying sauce, a slightly fermented yellow soy bean sauce, really caused the tofu to sparkle and shine.  The dried kale chips had a light sprinkling of chili flakes on them.
 This is the traditional three treasures with a twist: the beef is layered on top of fish paste and all placed on top of a green string bean split lengthwise (instead of a large bell pepper).  This is a much more delicate preparation because the string bean is much narrower.

This is their version of the classic char siu, barbecued pork, marinated with a particular kind of soy.  Rather than using the pork belly, the traditional cut of meat, they used the pork collar.  This was very nicely flavored and not too fatty.  I find it nearly impossible to complain about char siu, so I'm afraid I don't have much more to add to this one...
 This is the soup, made from amaranth flash frozen in a cube of ice, shredded into tiny particles of dust and then cooked into this incredibly dark, rich green puree. (I know, what?!  The chef came out and personally explained this process and you could tell everyone was just too polite to ask why this incredibly complicated process was necessary.)

Befuddlement and curiousity turned into deep, slurping delight when we tasted this soup.  Who cares about the process, when you are sampling the nectar of the gods!  I may be prone to hyperbole but really, this soup was aromatic, delicate yet rich and flavorful at the same time.   Clearly whatever crazy process they are implementing behind the scenes works.

The lids were revealed with a flourish:
This is the smoked chicken, which was very tender and had a very lovely, subtle but definitely smokey flavor.  I know, chicken is so bland and boring.  But this one was really well done and I went back for seconds.  The skin was sweet and salty and the meat perfectly cooked.  The chef was careful to explain how they handled the chickens and sourced them over 100 days old (apparently most chickens bought nowadays are 80 days old or less).  
This is the deep fried prawns with accompanying sweet and sour sauce.  The prawns were huge - approximately the size of my fist.  They were fresh and firm but the flesh was not as sweet as I would have preferred.  They were just lightly fried though, so that the grease and crisp of the batter did not overwhelm the flavor of the seafood.
I love these mustard greens.  This vegetable falls into the category of vegetables that I hated and loved to hate but now love.  Funny how that happens.  I really do not know when my love affair with this vegetable began.  I could not really care about the Yunnan ham.  That was kind of tough and stringy and slightly salty.  The point of the dish was to eat the vegetable, cooked to a meltingly tender point, stewed in the fat and salt and broth of the Yunnan ham.  I could have eaten this entire plate by myself.  
This is the lotus leaf rice, which contained scallops, shrimp, beef, mushrooms, chicken and various other ingredients.  These things were really large!  Two of them fed thirteen people.  I wonder how long it takes them to cook this stuff… I personally prefer the sticky rice variety of this dish so often found in dim sum restaurants, however, they used a fragrant rice that was still quite nice.  Unusually for me, I finished my bowl of rice at the end of the meal.
Finally, dessert, my least favorite part of the meal, consisted of a deep fried water chestnut "stick" and a sushi-roll like of (not very sticky) sticky rice cake.  I was not impressed with this one.  It is such a shame when dessert is a complete disappointment because that's your last memory of the meal.  

At HK$450 a head without alcohol, this was not a very cheap meal.  However, the quality of ingredients and the tastiness of every dish convinced me that it was worthwhile.  This would be a really nice place to bring out of town guests who wanted to sample some very nice Guangdong cooking without breaking the bank.

Kin's Kitchen
5/F, W Square
314-324 Hennessy Road
Wanchai, Hong Kong

A Girls' Lunch at Isola

Sometimes there is nothing better than a good, leisurely lunch with a gal pal, spent munching healthy foods whilst catching up on each other's lives. 

Isola provides the perfect place for such a meal.  Located in IFC, the restaurant is full of clean white lines, crisp edges, and, on the rare and mystical day in Hong Kong, bright sunlight.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Heartbreak Sour and Spicy Noodles (傷心酸辣粉)

Continuing in the trend of the Chongqing potato noodle that I have fast become obsessed with... I bring to you these very well named noodles. 
I mean, heartbreak?  How romantic and sad at the same time.  I think the name refers to how the noodles are so spicy and sour that you inevitably sniffle (if not sob) as you eat them.

I happened to be in Causeway Bay tonight so popped into this restaurant on the fifth floor of the Island Beverly right next to the world trade center.

I know that this is just a chain restaurant, so its broth may be lacking some quality.  And the pork bits are not that generous. 

However, at HK$28 a bowl (unless you go for the "Super" "Gold" recommended bowl, which is HK$33 a bowl instead), there is really no harm in coming here for a quick snack.
They must put something in these things because I start drooling just by thinking about these noodles (much less tasting them).   That hit of spicy and sour, followed by the nearly painful tingling in the lips... hit me!  Can one be a numbing spice addict?  Hmm... After I slurped down my first bowl I was kind of tempted to get a second.  But I ignored the impulse and paid for just one bowl.

I asked for "medium spicy" because - look at that broth - spicy would probably have hurt my esophagus and burned a hole in my stomach lining.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bibo - Hong Kong's Newest, Hippest Addition to Hollywood Road

I went to check out Bibo with some girl friends on Friday night.  It is a new restaurant / bar space in Hong Kong on Hollywood Road.  It is a super hip, beautiful space with street art from the likes of Banksy and sculptures from the likes of Jeff Koons scattered all over the place.

The whole time I was there I kept thinking that Bibo would be the perfect place to have a party.  They have a good music selection, perhaps played just a little bit too loudly for my taste, but very upbeat and energetic.

The entry to the restaurant is very narrow and small.  While walking on Hollywood, watch out for a sliding gold door with just a little bit of art over the doorway as a hint of the cavernous subterranean space.  Blink and you will miss it.

Thankfully they have a man (who barely speaks) stationed as a guard/bouncer/signpost.  It was the only indication to me that I had walked past the restaurant entrance.
The little entryway
Once inside, you are greeted by the hostess.  You then immediately head down a steep set of concrete stairs.  The bar is immediately to your right, and then there is a little cocktail/lounge area, and then, down a couple more steps, the dining area.  This is a painting directly across from the bar.  This one was my favorite.

The dining area of the restaurant is encased by glass and confusingly there is an entrance here, but you can't actually enter the restaurant from here.

This provides a good panoramic picture of the dining space of the restaurant.

The menu kept with the street art / graffiti theme.
 I loved the plates.
I spent most of my dinner giggling with my friends and staring at this relief carved into the wall.

We started with an amuse bouche of foie gras topped with some kind of milk foam.  In keeping with the theme of street art, each plate that came out was stamped / tagged.  I thought that was a whimsical, fun touch.
Next up were Japanese eggs (and these eggs were completely legitimate because they had the amazing, deep, dark orange yolks) paired with a mustard mayonnaise and crumbled sourdough.  The eggs were slow cooked at 64 degrees Celsius, which meant that the yolk had a slightly congealed but still oozy and gooey consistency.  Quite delicious.  My only complaint would be that it was a bit rich, especially coming after the foie gras.
This was the pork shoulder pate.  This one did not do anything for me - I thought it lacked sufficient flavor. Or maybe the bread that the restaurant served was too doughy and weighty for the airy pate.  Maybe it would have been a little better with the thin toast that accompanied it.
 This was one of my favorite dishes of the night - a macaroni and cheese with anchovy butter and a rather strong, aged Parmesan.  For someone like me, who loves pungent cheese and adores anchovy, this was perfect.
I did not manage to take a picture of the next dish before we dug in.  This was the wagyu beef paired with mashed potatoes and topped with slices of black truffle.  The black truffle was pretty flavorless, surprisingly - to the point where I had some trouble ascertaining that it was indeed truffle.  It tasted more like a thinly sliced, watery beet.
This is the dover sole paired with a fried potato wedge and anchovy paste, topped with taro chips and micro greens.   It was the largest plate and the most expensive.  While I loved the fried potato wedge (it somehow seems wrong to call it a mere french fry), I was not otherwise impressed with this dish.  Perhaps dover is just not my type of fish - unlike the other dishes, I had one small serving and did not go back for more.
For dessert, we ordered the berry soufflé and raspberry sorbet which turned out to be quite nice.  I am so used to chocolate soufflés that at first I thought there was something wrong with this soufflé - where was the molten chocolate center and the deep chocolate flavor?  Well, duh, it was not a chocolate soufflé!

This was no wimpy soufflé.  It had a lot of rich, deep berry flavor.  The flavors sang through the light, spongy cake without any hesitation.  The depth and intensity of the raspberry sorbet was also delightful - a cold, tart and utter pop of surprise on the tongue.

The food is definitely what I consider "piled up" food - bits and pieces of fancy delicate components all piled up together into a delicate and pretty array.  The ingredients are good, the presentation very nice (if not a little bit too much foam for my taste), but one thing Bibo really, really needs to work on is the service.

I understand it has just recently opened so they are likely still working through the kinks, but man oh man, the timing was awkward.  Dishes started out in good order and then went off a cliff.  They came very quickly, then the fish did not come out for what seemed like hours.  We were asked if we were done with dishes when there was still a lot of food left on the plates, and then we were ignored as dirty, empty plates sat in front of us.  We ordered the soufflé early in the attempt to stave off the twenty minute wait, only to find out that the order had not gone in.

Not justifiable for such a fancy restaurant with food at these prices.

At the end of the meal when we ladies pulled out our wallets, we all turned out to be Kate Spade fans!  Love the colors…

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Michael and I went to dinner with a good friend of ours this week.  She suggested Sanche, a modern Korean restaurant in Central.

I checked out the website and the menu and was impressed by the sleek design.

It is on one of my favorite streets in Central, Gage Street:

I thought the food was very tasty.  I couldn't get enough of their dipping sauce for their kimchee pancake.  Someday I will make it to Korea to sample the food there…
Light appetizer of octopus tossed in a yuzu, ponzu dressing

The really tasty kimchee pancake and the dipping sauce I was obsessed with
The pepper pancake.  I liked the kimchee pancake better.
Deep fried calamari, with the restaurant's ubiquitous homemade sauce
Korean fried chicken, with chili paste
One of the specials that night - the Korean bulgogi quesadilla, which they adorably spelled "quesadia"
There may have been more deep fried things on the menu than prudent from a health-conscious perspective, but I quite enjoyed all of the flavors.

I got quite a kick out of their "Bloody Kimchee Mary" but did not try it.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Oriental Harmony at the Landmark

I had the chance to indulge in a really lovely, decadent massage experience at The Landmark in Central, Hong Kong recently.  It was called the Oriental Harmony spa package and was 120 minutes long, consisting of a foot bath, an hour long body scrub and a soothing massage by not one but two (female) therapists.  It was pretty awesome.

I could not take any pictures in the spa, not even in the lobby, due to privacy concerns and all that nonsense, so this is a picture free post, sadly.

An hour before my scheduled spa appointment, I showed up to enjoy the Landmark's ridiculous, souped up heat and water facilities, which included a vitality pool, experience showers, tepidarium chairs, stimulating ice fountain, laconium and amethyst crystal steam room.

They also have something called a Rasul room, which is the equivalent of a mud bath, except much fancier, but requires advance booking and an advance fee.

I started in the laconium, so called from the Roman baths when the Romans would begin their bathing experience in a moderately heated, dry room to kickstart the purifying and detoxifying process. 

From there, I tried out the cold experience showers (the ice plunge and then the mist) both of which were freezing and scary.  I could feel my lungs physically contract, as though I really could not breathe.

They also had an ice fountain that was exactly that - a fountain piled up high with crush ice.  I skipped the ice fountain.  No way was I going to scoop that up and plop it on myself.

I then dipped into the warm vitality pool, which is actually a lounge chair made up of metal rods submerged in water that emits very strong jacuzzi-like pulsations for a vigorous two minute massage.  The strong water jets made me feel like I was levitating.

Then I tried another warm experience shower, which consisted of a series of nozzles that sprayed me at various angles from head to toe.   In short, at this point, my spa experience was akin to a very expensive car wash!

I then dried myself off and tried the tepidarium chair, a hard stone lounge chair mildly heated to body temperature that is supposed to help revitalize sore and tender muscles.  I was unimpressed because I did not feel any effects from this chair.

In contrast, I had a nearly violent reaction to the crystal amethyst steam room.  I sat in there and almost immediately was drenched in sweat.  After two blasts of steam that seemed to elevate the temperature in the room astronomically, I stumbled out of the crystal room slightly dizzy.

I promptly retired to my tepidarium chair, chastened.

The foot bath and scrub was so wonderful that I pretty much dozed off.  After I showered off the scrub, the two masseuses went to work.

I will admit that the massage by two therapists simultaneously (four hands/limbs all at once) is a little bit unsettling and, dare I say it, kinky?  But don't worry, nothing untoward happened and after about five minutes I was completely relaxed and too blissed out to give it any further thought.  The hour passed way too quickly. 

Oriental Harmony was awesome and its relaxing effects did not wear off for a while.  Glad I got to experience it!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Celebrating Grease and Star Anise at Yat Lok (一樂)

I've previously posted about greasy spoon lunches at Yat Lok, but it has been a while and this time I decided to take pictures. 

I took my visiting friends there for a second breakfast (or a first brunch) this past weekend. 

The goose leg rice noodles have gone up in price by at least HK$20 since I was last there.  I could have sworn it was HK$48 (maybe HK$60) the last time I was there.  Now it is HK$80.  Likely Yat Lok's landlord got greedy again and decided to raise the rent. 

I am appalled, but sadly not shocked.  I am also appalled that I am not shocked.

But the taste of Yat Lok is so good - the goose so fatty and juicy, the broth full of depth and flavor and just the right hint of star anise... that we decided to succumb and still buy a bowl or two.  My only complaint is that it is quite greasy. 

I always inhale my meal here and then feel vaguely sick as my stomach gurgles and my lips shine unapologetically with the grease of fatty roast goose, but the flavor is so good that I do not mind. 

I make an exception for Yat Lok.

It is quite hard to find this kind of rice noodle (lai fun) outside of Hong Kong.
I don't even think I'd had it before coming here. 
A bird's eye view:
Clockwise from top left: BBQ pork and roast goose combination rice noodles in soup; hot milk tea; braised goose leg with rice noodles in soup; cold milk tea.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Al Fresco Brunch at Java Java

Had myself a lovely solo brunch at Java Java in Sheung Wan on Good Friday.  Those waffles were really good and hit the spot.  I particularly loved the set up, which was nothing more than a small marble table with cast iron legs, a dusky Moroccan tiled floor, and mini wooden stools all perched on the front stoop of the restaurant.
Good times.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Dim Sum Easter Weekend

This was a dim sum heavy weekend.

Tim Ho Wan for my friends right when they got off of the Airport Express, dim sum the next morning with my aunt and cousin at Luk Yu Teahouse, and then dim sum shortly thereafter at Dragon King with my friends again.

I should probably go for a very long run…

This was some of the spread at Luk Yu Teahouse:

The various pictures below are taken courtsey of my friend (check out her website at weheartpaper) when we were at Dragon King.  You can also follow her beautiful instagram at weheartpaper.

We ate quite a bit at dim sum (not all of which has been captured in these pictures). 

I guess I have become a bit spoilt for choice with all of the dimsum options in Hong Kong.

The quality at Dragon King is quite good and, in my opinion, quite dependable and consistent.  I like to bring out of town visitors here because the food is always hot, prices are not too ridiculous, and the view of the harbour, with oil rigs and junks drifting slowly by, is quintessentially HK.