Thursday, May 29, 2014

2 Course Lunch, 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo

Michelin 3 Stars

 It is not any news that 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo in Hong Kong is the first and sole Michelin 3 Starred Italian restaurant outside of Italy.   I have been here quite a few times and you can find previous reviews such as at here (Review I) and here (Review II),  plus some other reviews on other platforms.   We came back for lunch 1 day with an overseas visitor from Singapore – and a 2 Course Lunch is now being offered at $420.   I won’t call it expensive but bear in mind that for a little extra more,  one can get the full amuse bouches courses and a dessert or three at places like Pierre,  Petrus,  or Caprice.    Here,  all we received was bread and no desserts.   At least some dishes were cooked really well.   But 3* really?



Grissini, Bread and Pane Carasau -
These were ok decent,  although not exactly Michelin 3* trend setting stuff.   In fact when I checked against my past reviews,  this seems to have been scaled back in offerings.  Eg. (Review I)




Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar -
I never combine them together personally.  But I did try them separately,  they were both just ok if I am to be frank.  The verdict over the years remain exactly the same.  Olive oil is ok,  Balsamic vinegar is kind of thin watery and acidic,  which is uncommon to find in HK or even Italy   ~  6/10



White Asparagus with 24 months Culatello di Zibello ‘Oro Spigaroli’ Ham, 
Citrus Dressing -
The White Asparagus was cooked well,  it had better be.    The Culatello ham is one of my favorites despite being cured not bone-in,  and this version was very potent and gamey.  My dining companion didn’t like it but I was ok,  the side citrusy juice was almost like a Hollandaise sauce.  Overall this is not bad but for a Michelin 3* lunch -  I can cook better at home.  Do you agree?   ~  7/10



Soup of Fava Bean,  Green Pea, Asparagus,  Zucchini,  Spinach & Parsley Emulsion -
This was so suitable for Spring.  The soup was viscous and had a lot of different vegetables taste,  the slightly milky parsley emulsion foam brings to it a 2nd dimension.   The pureed soup was filtered properly so it was smooth and not grainy.   Whilst I really liked this soup,  I can’t help but think that this is more about execution than anything once again.  I mean,  I know 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo didn’t credit themselves with the Michelin 3* status automatically.   But this was at most 1* quality to me,  so don’t blame the chef,  blame the Michelin tire guy I suppose for exaggerating.   ~  7.5/10





Fresh Tagliatelle, Mazzancolla Prawn with Broccoli, Tomato & Hot Peppers -
Actually I have had this before if you check my previous reviews,  the Mazzancolla prawn is super sweet and prized alongside the prestigious Mediterranean Red Prawns for a reason.  I have had this right here before and also in Italy say at Touch in Florence, Italy.   This definitely isn’t losing out in the bursting sweetness either.   The base prawn bisque which the pasta was coated in was also very flavorful,  although this time there were no heads given,  which was 1 step back from last time here.   We thought this was really tasty as are almost all pastas served at 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo,  although there were certainly no upside surprises again for a 3* setting.  But did the chicken or the egg come first?   I really liked this but 3* seriously?   ~  8/10




Mayura Beef Shoulder Cut,  Roast Vegetables,  Pommery Mustard, 
Potatoes,  Red wine and Beef Jus -
The beef was crusty outside and very flavorful and medium-rare within.   I have never doubted execution here as it is always cooked spot-on,  except for some desserts.   I mean I really loved this beef dish for it’s balance and taste,  but as I mention again and again over several visits,  I just don’t understand how this can be of Michelin 3* graded food.   And before you criticize me,  yes I have had the full dinner degustation here before,  and yes I have eaten at other Michelin 2-3* restaurants around the world to compare.  Call me harsh,  but whilst I still really like the food here,  it is getting very pricy even during lunch for $420 with only 2 Courses and it doesn’t even include any Canapes nor a Dessert.  At this price point for lunch,  I would rather pick Caprice or Pierre.


Pasticcini -
I remember back during the Toscana days,  they already served a similar ending platter.   We didn’t opt for any desserts today since we were ok to just re-explore the latest Spring menu.   Fortunately these Pasticcini have improved and all of them were better than the 2* AMBER Petits Fours I just ate last week.    But AMBER’s other dishes are easily a grade above here,  even if only for wine lunch.   Call me stubborn or deprived.   I have always liked the food here and it’s great execution,  and what more can a foodie ask for?   But Michelin 3*?    Even NOMA was and is only Michelin 2* when I visited.   The Pellegrino’s Top 50 restaurants have French places in Paris which don’t even carry a star but were more inventive.   I like here a lot mind you,  I just don’t understand the hype and the pricing point personally.     





Price:   $420 Lunch 2 Courses + 10%
Food: ♕♕♕♕ to ♕♕♕♕ 1/2 

Opening Hours -
Mon to Sunday  12:00am - 22:00pm

Address:  中環德輔道中5-17號歷山大廈2樓202號舖
Shop 202, 2/F, Alexandra House, 5-17 Des Voeux Road Central, Central
Ph: 2537 8859

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Enoteca Wine Cellar & French GourMay -

 Enoteca is a popular wine shop originally from Japan,  and it was actually one of my to-go places in Tokyo to purchase Italian wines especially,  since Japan back then was much more advanced than HK in sourcing artisanal quality Italian wines.   The Hong Kong outlets of Enoteca have also been trustworthy whenever I needed a quick recommendation on purchasing wines before dinner.   The IFC Enoteca outlet,   ups a level and offers a bar area where customers can pay for some weekly drink offerings and simple bar snacks,  or even a full course dinner.   Since it is May,  we arrived here again a bit later than planned to experience their Le French GourMay Wine & Food Pairing,  thanks to the invitation by Enoteca IFC. 



Opposite IFC’s Fuel Espresso -



Le French GourMay 2014 – Rhone Valley Wines




There are more than the above 5 Wines available at the Bar Area -




Plenty of Japanese and local Enoteca selected Fine Wines -
I buy a lot of wines from both Enoteca and Winebeast in Hong Kong,  the former has a good hit rate with recommendations,  the latter has a great offering of niche products which punch above their weight.  



Foie Gras Entier -  Duck or Goose Liver
These are entire blocks of livers which must satisfy a selection criteria,  in order to be sold as such.   They are being offered for sale here at Enoteca IFC store. 

Porcini Saucisson and Duck Cured Sausage -
These hailing from LYON,  close to Rhone Valley.  The Porcini version initially was quite peppery but some pieces had a good porcini flavour ratio.  The Duck version was a mixture between duck & pork,  it almost reminds me of Chinese Sausage or Liver Sausage in texture and fat distribution.  


Pate en Croute -
The version for sale here was really good.  It has layerings of Turkey,  Pork,  Duck mousse made with duck parts and liver,  pistachio,  mushrooms,  stock jelly,  and encased in the brioche like pastry case.  A well structured version with good textures in all layers, which befits the versions available in multiple Michelin starred restaurants.   



Gerard Bertrand Aigle Noir Brut 2004 – Cremant de Limoux $160
I have always thought that a bubbly petillant is like a Cava to Spain and Prosecco to Italy,  which is more like a compulsory aperitif before the big meal.    But most Champagnes are too prestigious for this purpose,  and this Cremant version produced outside of the Champagne AOC is bony with dry crisp lemon,  sweet pear and balanced mineral.  Not much hint of toastiness as hinted,  this was a clean and lovely balanced sparkling.   ~  8/10



Charles Hours Happy Hours Cool Sec 2007,  Jurancon – $170
The initial nose was very ewe’s milk cheesy with a grapefruit acidity,  it was quite likeable but unique.  Usually I drink the off-dry or sweet versions of the Jurancons but I also happen to have dry versions of some at home.  These are unique in tasting profile,  they are likeable but only if you’re open minded.  For me I love them and think they could pair well with a Grana Padano in profile.     ~  7/10




Domaine des Escaravailles La Ponce 2009,  Cotes-du-Rhone Rasteau $260
Actually this polarized the table.  For me and the sommelier who helped to pick this,  we thought this Cotes-du-Rhone was sophisticated and punched above its weight and price tag,  albeit it was quite sweet.   It initially was slightly green peppery and spicy,  sweetish jammy,  with hints of animal fur and some vanilla oak,  but also likeable raspberry notes.  It was complex in a sweetish way.   It was an interesting exercise because I find that personal preferences aside,  one tends to judge wine versus it’s intentions and potentiality.    I mean I knew the CdP below was going to be more sophisticated with higher aging potential,  but for me,  this outperformed it’s category.   ~  7.5/10




Domaine des Bosquets 2010,  Gigondas – $350
Whenever I see this wine,  I can’t help think of the Vaucluse region it is produced in,  as it is famous for it’s Asparagus.  But Asparagus is famous for one of the hardest ingredients to pair with wine – and it is usually white wine,  which Gigondas AOC doesn’t produce.  See the conundrum here ?    Anyway this 2010 Gigondas opened up easier and carried the most perfumed nose,  slightly white peppery spicy with dark stewed berries.   It was quite likeable and I was told this would perform better at this stage of it’s bottle life.   ~  8/10




Domaine Durieu 2010 – Chateauneuf-du-Pape $420
A 2010 CdP wouldn’t instantly open up as expected.  After around 1 hour of bottle opening and a further 20 minutes in the glass,  did it finally reveal glimpses of it’s potential.   Not a professional wine writer unfortunately,  but this changed during the development than I could keep track!  Initially this was quite restrained and more about tar,  tannin and sweet dark fruits.   Eventually,  this settled down to something so different and more ripe cherries and raspberry like.   It was the most sophisticated Rhone for today’s bunch,  and rightly so.   It was elegant but sweet for now.   ~  7.9/10



Price:  $350 – $500  (This was a Le French GourMay review by Enoteca’s Invitation)
Food & Wine:  ♕♕♕♕ – ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Address:  Shop 3027,  IFC Tower,  Central,  Hong Kong
Ph: 2234 5100

Friday, May 23, 2014

Le French GourMay Menu at Café Causette -

 HK Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s Café Causette is currently doing a French Lyon style Bouchon menu until the end of May.   We arrived later than usual during the month but it is never too late to report back the good news.   I even came here 2 nights in a role by coincidence with arrangements.   The 2014 French Le GourMay menu is more focused on Rhone Valley wines and the nearby Lyon food items,  which is otherwise known as the ancestry root of French gastronomy.




Some Wines -
Actually this was my 3rd visit within 2 weeks somehow to be precise. 
So some Pinot Noir during lunch.



Cheese Bread Loaf -
This is one of the main reasons we return to here often,  isn’t it?   ~  8/10





Spring Rolls -
I think they had too much julienned vegetables within,  which after frying,  released a bit too much water moisture and also slightly oily.   As a food snob it is easy to criticize on these points,  but try making it yourself is the ultimate benchmark as a litmus test.   ~  6.9/10



Chicken Rice Set – $280
Not my 1st time having this but it was the 1st time I was more impressed,  especially with the really fragrant rice with chicken and herbs flavour,  together with individual rice grains.   The sauces were also the same as you will find in Singapore,  which is slightly different from the Hainan versions.  The chicken is decently tasty although I think it is still a close 2nd or 3rd to HK Grand Hyatt’s Café.   Yet the rice and also soup and sauces here were easily more convincing to me.   In fact,  this chicken set is quite expensive but it performs better than Singapore Mandarin’s Chatterbox these days.   ~  8/10


Beef Pho Bo -
I didn’t try this but at $200+ a pop,  this looked a bit inauthentic.  My dining friend said this was just ok but not too shabby,  if not looking too right even at a hotel pricing point.   ~  N/A



Baguette Bread for Le French GourMay -



Kitchen -
I noticed they use a Lava Rock Grill for their meat items.


Kir Royal -
Made with Champagne and Cassis,  one of my favorite aperitifs.  


Seared St Jacques Scallops,  Jerusalem Artichoke puree,   Steamed and Fried Artichokes with Barigoule Dressing – $228
I love Jerusalem artichokes but they aren’t actually artichokes but a root vegetable,  but here it’s combined with the seasonal artichokes in 2 textures,  a smart combination.  The scallops for once were seared well to medium-rare although remaining almost meaty.  ~  7.5/10


Pork Pate de Campagne with Plum and Pistachio – $178
Served with a drop dead gorgeous spicy Grape Chutney,  also cornichons and crusty bread.  The French Breakfast radishes were surprisingly served as a whole.  The Pate itself was chunky and had a nice meat and alcoholic taste,  together with the fruits and nuts.  Definitely one of the best courses tonight.  It is just missing a bit of fat though it’s good for a Hotel setting.   ~  9/10


Goat Cheese and Zucchini & Eggplant Tart Provencal – $178
The pastry was nice,  the goat cheese component was surprisingly not too gamey or grassy.  This is more approachable than it sounds on the menu.   For mild cheese lovers,  this is really built for you.  If you have a strong palate for stinky cheese,   I think the baked Crottin de Chavignol also available was also exceptional.   ~  7/10



Andouilette Pork and Veal Chitterlings sausage,  Choucroute & Crispy Potato Strips – $258
The portion was bigger than I imagined,  it is priced really well.  The slightly stinky aroma was quite potent actually,  I like it how the prestigious Mandarin Oriental Hotel thinks it is cool to present such a powerful dish and which might affect the next table’s appetite,   just for the sake of promoting their Lyon Bouchon concept.  As a foodie this is always appreciated and always educational.   ~  9/10



Pan Roasted Skate Wing,  Brown Butter sauce,  Fennel and Lemon Salad – $288
This is a dish which is very unique in Hong Kong,  although my friends were right.  It was grilled crispy on the outside but a tad too dry inside,  and I think it needed more beurre noisette sauce or just some creaminess somehow.   ~  6/10




A Glass of Volnay Premium Cru -
Initially it has the forest berries note when it finally opened up,  but interestingly this carried a graphite note after waiting for 30 minutes, which wasn’t so apparent before.


Seafood Bouillabaise – $258 for Two
This had trimmed potatoes inside,  and lots of clams and mussels,  but to me can do with more fishes.  The usual rouille on the side,  was more like an aioli and not much saffron or chili input.   I initially thought there should be more soup to be a true bouillabaise,  but the bottom was lined with a thickly reduced seafood broth which I came to appreciate.   ~  6.9/10




photo 3-1
Bernard Antony Cheeses – $188
A bargain if you ask me.   Here we had a Livarot that isn’t as usually ripe,  but the crispy crust had a strong Crustacean or Salted fish taste to it.  It really grew on me as this is not a usual livarot representation but it was so unique.  The Bleu de Sassenage was my next favourite,  it is sharp and tangy but not too salty,  but it was the slightly powdery gritty base which intrigued me,  as no other blue cheeses ever gave me this sensation.  The other Camembert,  Buche du Gers,  Comte,  Pelardon were also good athough a bit young,  which when eating Summer cheeses,  I don’t mind.   Everyone is different in their opinions.  ~  9/10

Tarte Fine de Pomme Apple – $98
The tart looked really neat,  the pastry was buttery.  The Vanilla ice cream on the warmish tart,  surprisingly didn’t melt at all even after taking photos for a while.   This was neat looking.   ~  8/10


“ile Flottante”  Floating Island -  $98
The egg white meringues were poached well and smooth,  served in a vanilla crème sauce.  A lovely and classical dessert.   ~  8/10


Chocolate Macarons only for Le GourMay Menu -
Presented on top of a bed of cocoa nibs.  These macarons were actually dense in both shell and fillings,  but the taste was excellent with the quality dark chocolate.  Really wanted more of these but can’t fit them in.   ~  8/10


photo 4-1
Oh more Rhone Cotes du Rhone wines -  $850
This was recommended by the staff,  it was really complex and lovely for the price.



photo 5-1
Baked Crottin de Chavignol with Pear & Walnut Salad – $188
Usually Crottin de Chavignol is such an accessible cheese and affordable,  but it happens to me one of my favourites as it can be really refreshing though gamey.  This baked version was done well enough,  the side salad was also seasoned to be likeable.   I still think somehow that the baguette slices can be sliced thinner though,  as it is not easy to bite it through with the cheese easily.   ~  8/10 




Price:  $350 – $850 + 10% Per Person  (This was a review over 3 separate recent meals)
Food:  ♕♕♕♕ - ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Address:  中環干諾道中5號香港文華東方酒店 Level M
Level M, Mandarin Oriental Hotel,  5 Connaught Road, Central,  Hong Kong
Ph:  2825 4005

Monday, May 19, 2014

Three on Canton - Turkish and Seafood Buffet

 Three on Canton is a relatively new buffet restaurant in Hong Kong.   As a foodie,  I am always curious and I have been monitoring it’s progress over the last few months,  as I really foresee it to become one of the up and coming rising stars in the Buffet World.   They have great seafood and meat options,  including Lobsters and Spanner Crabs,  also Singaporean Curry Crab,  Baked Crab Carapace, etc.   Their Foie Gras station was also attractive and the quality was better than expected,  and they also offer unlimited Peking Duck so I somehow combined them together to eat!  I think if they improve their Roast Beef option,  it will be even harder to resist!  

Photo Credits:   Taken by SONY A7. 
Lens:   SONY FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6


Turkish Raki and Dress -
Currently for this month from May to June,
Three on Canton is doing a Turkish food promotion.



Freshly Shucked Oysters,  Spanner Crabs,   Halved Lobsters.  
Alaskan King Crab legs and Sashimi -
These were all decent enough.   I liked the Australian Coffin Bay Oysters,  they were at their primest state and unlike many other places serving the same,  these weren’t just salty briny,  but in fact retained the original minerality.   This is how they actually taste back home in Australia.  The lobsters were also decent.   The spanner crabs require more work in order to extract the meat,  but they were in fact the sweetest.   ~  7/10




Curry Station -
There is a good variety here.   This is actually not easy to find in HK context,  but as a food snob?  I honestly think the Naan can be cooked more charred.   This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I never understand why Naans in HK are always so pale looking,  I do become frustrated sometimes because this is never the case overseas.  It’s like the Naan turned into an Albino somehow Confused smile     ~  7.5/10




Unlimited Peking Duck – with condiments to suit
This was actually crispy,  despite looking easily tired being dried out on the buffet table.   There used to be around 2-3 buffet restaurants in HK offering this unlimited,   but they do dry out fast easily.   The one here tonight was actually more decent than I can judge visually.   ~  7/10




Pasta and Cheese Station -
Both also thoughtful.   I wanted more sauce options on the Pasta station though.  As it is,  it is mainly a Red or White sauce,  also with the expected bacon and onions,  mushrooms, etc.  I personally will grab some seafood from another station and chuck them into the pasta.  Much most satisfying that way!   ~  7.5/10



Fried Eggplant.   Singaporean Curry Crab -
Both are unique within HK Concepts.   For a buffet setting,  they were definitely inventive.  ~  7.5/10




Grilled Goose Foie Gras & Roasted Beef Prime Ribs
The Foie Gras was good actually,  grilled well and gamey.   The Roasted Beef was a little too dry to my personal liking,  I still prefer the versions at The Greenery and also at The Chinnery,  Mandarin Oriental hotel.   But this one comes a close 3rd or 4th.     ~  6.9/10





Roasted Lamb Rack.    Beef Tongues cooked in Red Wine -
All part of the buffet.   They look smart indeed!




Seasonal Soba noodles,  also Black Forest Hams and Coppa -
No Jamon tonight.   Actually from a Food Proprietor’s point of view,  this was actually performing above it’s weight as it is unique enough but not too expensive.  A lot of customers just know how to whinge,  but most will never know how expensive food produce will cost to source in HK.  Restaurants need to make money too,  and here they are giving the right products ~  8/10





Oysters from Coffin Bay Australia.  Roasted Beef.




Turkish Platters,  with Lamb and Eggplant dip -
I really enjoyed the latter,  it was both tender but flavorful.  Hard to find this Turkish concept easily in HK.  It is so appreciated.  ~  8/10




Vine Leaf Stuffed with Rice and Minced Meat.  Also Peking Duck with Foie Gras -
The former is a trusted flavor for me,  but the vine leaves in this instance can be quite sour.   It can be distracting for most people but I grew up on them and miss them so much.   The Peking Duck Crepe with Foie Gras was more of my own preferred taste   ~  8/10




Lobster and Squid Ink Pasta -
I combined this myself,  just because I can and wanted to eat it.   You will have to de-shell the lobsters yourself though.   ~  7.5/10



Choux Pastry Puffs.   And Bread & Butter Pudding -
Both looked really good.   Unfortunately, I didn’t have space to try them both.




Movenpick Ice Cream Station -
HK People are so hard to please.  They expect either Haagen Dazs or Movenpick ice creams.  Here they also offer one of the options.   I like Movenpick Vanilla ice cream.



Waffles with Vanilla and Coffee Ice Cream.  Turkish coffee $38 -
The Bread & Butter Pudding looks good above,  the waffles in the meanwhile in comparison,  can be more crispy and the batter be more aromatic.   The best Buffet Waffles I have tried in HK are at Café Hyatt and at Café Neo.  Both of these were exceptional and as good as the ones I ate in Belgium believe it or not!  Here it is only ok for now.   ~  6.5/10



Turkish Coffee Reading with it’s patterns - 
Apparently a cat is looking to the side with a Rose,  and someone is assisting me in my occupation. Let’s see if that is really the case soon!  I need all the help these few months : )




Price:  $518 + 10% Per Person  (15% Off with certain Credit Cards)
Food:  ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Address:  尖沙咀廣東道13號海港城三樓 Gateway Hotel Marco Polo
Level 3, Gateway Hotel, Harbour City, 13 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Ph: 2113 7828




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