Friday, October 13, 2017

Mott32 卅二公館 [Hong Kong] - Chef Lee from Michelin 1 Star Mandarin Oriental now Helming the Kitchen

  At Mott32 Hong Kong & Vancouver,  Head Chef Lee Man Sing now cooks and overlooks the kitchen duties,  when he was previously poached from the admirable kitchen at Michelin 1 Starred Man Wah Restaurant at Mandarin Oriental Hotel HK.  In fact Chef Lee has been running the kitchen at Mott 32 for over a year already,  although with his persona as such a low profile Chef who is more into actions than words,  we noticed that we have hardly felt his presence in the social media limelight these days since his latest career move.   I do owe him an overall write up and introduction too,  since I have been here a few times but never had the time to officially put him onto my website for reference.  One thing that triggered and motivates me to do a write up about the updated Mott32 - is that we notice most customers arrive in for their famous wood fire oven Peking Duck,  BBQ Iberico Charsiu Pork with Yellow Mountain Honey,  and also the Truffled Siu Mai dim sum, and that's where it ended for them as a culinary destination.   However,  this is not what Chef Lee was originally famous for when he ran the kitchen at Mandarin Oriental Man Wah,  and he certainly created some labour intensive and creative dishes for the Mott32 Menus,  to which I can hopefully showcase to you some of his best dishes..

The Peking Duck Oven -
We had this a few times previously,  it is admirable, but this overall review is not about this aspect of Mott32,  which is well proven as a formula !

Sichuan 'Lantern' Air Dried Beef  燈影牛肉 - HKD $105
A beautiful rendition of this tedious dish to make, which actually requires steaming, air drying and frying,  to give it the thin translucent look,  but with a crispy crackle rather than a jerky-like texture.  Here, it is quite Ma La numbing as well as Spicy, definitely one of the best versions in town and a must order after Chef Lee has arrived into Mott32 from Mandarin Oriental. ~

Seasonal Yunnan Mushrooms Sang Choi Bao Lettuce Cups -
Neatly done.  In Hong Kong nowadays,  Sang Choi Bao does not make as much an appearance on menus,  but usually as a supplementary dish to say a Peking Duck's carcasse meat being used up as a 2nd dish.  Or perhaps wrapping a Spring Roll.  Here,  it definitely appeals to foreigners and expats who love to eat exotic Chinese food..

椒鹽鮑魚仔併金菇 Salt & Pepper Fried Abalone with Enoki Mushrooms -
Another Signature starter here,  this time around it appeals more to local Hong Kong customers,  especially when in the recent decade or so,  it has become popular again in the ex Fishing Village area restaurants in town,  especially near Saikung.  Here it is paired with addictive enoki mushrooms.  I was joking that this dish would pair exceptionally well with Whisky or X.O. based Cocktails..

Iberico Pork Charsiu with Wild Yellow Honey -
This was originally one of the Signature items here since the inception of Mott32 opening,  even before Chef Lee's time.  However,  these days it has evolved into two versions - here is the cut which uses the Iberico Presa instead of the Pluma,  which gives it slightly more texture and melty connective tissues,  and closer to what Hong Kong-Cantonese style Charsiu is expected to taste like.  Customers can still choose between the both cuts on the menu these days.

Iberico 'Presa' Cut Charsiu -
Despite looking almost the same,  this is actually an alternative muscle cut used...

Quail Egg Truffled Siumai Dumpling -
A part of the trio of Signature items here, apart from the Peking Duck & Charsiu,  again these were already here and preceded Chef Lee's arrival,  the latter is more contributing towards the labour intensive and chef dependent dishes here.  We order this every time during Lunch or Dinner,  but I am glad to say this time has been the best version we have tried,  with the pork bouncy and not too solid,  the quail eggs still runny and wrapped inside rather than placed on top,  the traditional way.

Seasonal Autumn Yunnan Mushrooms Soup with Fish & Pork -
Double boiled and sweet tasting, aromatic. 

Shanghai Smoked Fish 熏魚 - HKD $260
A dish that Chef Lee does very well of,  the traditional Shanghainese version is actually not smoked but only called so for its similar flavors after braising and frying,  but here it goes the extra step to fulfil it's potential.  Again a dish that we have to order every time nowadays in the revamped Mott32 menu,  and definitely one of the best authentic tasting versions in town.  The other is at Michelin 1 Star Zhejian Heen in Wanchai.

Yunnan Morel Mushrooms with Scallops -
A stir fried dish that is quite typical Cantonese,  but here the thickish scallops had a more caramelized surface from wok frying,  which seems to be a food trend nowadays.  Previously the Cantonese version of this dish had softer, wetter versions of the scallops which were more thinly sliced, and remember that previously in Hong Kong we actually ate more of the Pen Shells varieties,  than the Hokkaido or European style scallops.

Scallion Stir-Fried Angus Beef -
This is a newer addition to the menu here.  The Beef are thickly sliced,  which differs slightly from the thinly shaven Beef or Mutton version which is predominantly eaten in Beijing or Mongolia for this recipe.  To me,  I think it could handle more wok searing aroma of the scallions and spring onions,  or leeks,  which was the essence of eating this dish.

鹽焗野菇法國春雞 Salt Baked Mixed Mushrooms & French Spring Chicken - 
A seasonal recipe using fragrant Mushrooms as stuffing, in a Chinese style with shadows of French cuisine.  The Lotus Leaf was of the fresher variety which imparted a greener aroma.  Inside were stuffings of mushrooms and pearl barley.  Someone said online that this resembles a bit of a Beggars Chicken,  which in hindsight is probably quite true,  just without the pickled vegetables lying the bottom of the poultry,  but using mushrooms instead.

Fried Beancurd Skins with Gingko Nuts, Red Dates, and Broccoli -
A Vegetarian dish that has some crispy elements,  and definitely appeals to locals and foreigners alike.  In fact I have hardly seen this typical Chinese medicinal vegetables dish done in this fashion.  Bravo.

Lobster Rice -
This is a relatively newer Crustacean rice dish,  and it was also served recently at the Singapore F1 Grand Prix circuit by the Mott32 team.  It has a decent amount of lobster bisque for cooking the rice,  and there is actually a history to this dish too...  Initially Chef Lee wanted to cook his Crispy Rice in Lobster Bisque dish,  which he exceled in at Man Wah at Mandarin Oriental.  In the end he created this drier version just for Mott32,  to distinguish itself from the previous version.  Having said that,  I have actually eaten that wetter version here too on a previous visit luckily..

Blood Orange & Guava Mousse Cake with Oatmeal & Jasmine Ice Cream - $105
A new dessert creation here.  Pictured above is the updated version of the Soy Sauce Ice Cream with Strawberries and White Chocolate Panna Cotta, which is a perennial favorite here. 

The Latest Food at Mott32 -
It is not my first visit after Chef Lee arrived into the kitchen, but it has stabilized and found a footing.  Of our multiple visits to Mott32,  we can tell instantly that there are two crowds which patron here - those who are more dining here for the Peking Duck, Truffled Siu Mai and BBQ Iberico Charsiu who might be lured into the space as these dishes appeal to foreigners from Asian to ABC,  Expats alike.  And then there are some of us who followed Chef Lee from his Mandarin Oriental days and come here for his Signature dishes,  some of which are unique and deserving merit, and which he helped to re-create for the Mott32 kitchen.  Which camp do you belong to when you arrive here to dine next time!! 

Price:  Around HKD $350 to $550 + 10%  (Media Invitation Meal for Autumn Yunnan Mushroom Dishes + Multiple Self Visits combined)
Food: ♕♕♕♕ 1/2 to ♕♕♕♕♕

Address: Basement, Standard Chartered Bank Building, 4-4A Des Voeux Road Central, Central
Phone: +852 28858688

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Frank's Library [Hong Kong] - A New Bar inside a Bar, Through a Hidden Doorway in Foxglove

  After Dinner,  we were headed to Foxglove, a British Bar in Central that has garnered some followers for their fine selection of Whiskies and Cocktails.  About 45 minutes after we were sat down,  one of the owners said let's come this way and we should take a look inside...  Without any prior knowledge of its existence, we were led to a Doorway which required pressing some right keys to get into Frank's Library..

Inside Foxglove and the Performance Stage -
Where we were initially seated,  and sipping on a Woodland Breeze cocktail made of Aperol, Apple & Lemon Juice, Kaffir Lime Leaf Syrup & Egg whites - HKD $110

We were then led into Frank's Library...
A bar inside a bar, inside Foxglove.  Of which I did not take a lot of pictures in the dark.  Now if you knew about the ownership behind Foxglove,  it is owned and run by the guys behind Dr Fern's Gin Parlour,  which was instantly well received and got recognized as a Top 50 Asia Best Bars in the 2017 list...   The naming of the businesses behind Dr Fern's,  Foxglove,  Mrs Pounds and now also Frank's Library,  are all related characters from a conjured story plotline.  And Frank's Library is Frank Minza's most secluded private space..  which is here

Drinks inside Frank's Library -
Consisting mostly of rarity Whiskies and Cocktail Drinks,  which are naturally more exclusive and priced higher than outside at Foxglove

Silk Road Sour $230 -
Made with Hibiki 17 Years Old & Plum Wine

Sultan's Spice Bazaar $220 -
Cocktail with Date Sweetened Milk

America's Manhattan - $220
Leather infused Rye Whisky, etc

An Amazing Bar inside a Bar Experience -
I was totally unprepared and only tagging along for the Journey into Frank's Library, so did not ask too many questions about how to access this private bar area which has recently just opened.  Yet I think next time upon discovering the way to return back to here,  it will be a whole experience in itself again,  and there seem to be some Secret codes involved that you need to press right ~ !  Now that the Bar scene is heating up in Hong Kong and Macau,  here is another space worth exploring and is shrouded in mystery and enveloping a bit of privacy

Price:  HKD $110 to $230 + 10% Service Charge
Drinks: ♕♕♕♕ 1/2 to ♕♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Address: Inside Foxglove,  6 Duddell Street, Central
Phone: 21168949

Sunday, October 1, 2017

El Cerdo [Hong Kong] - Great Tapas & Pricing, Spanish Tapas Bar from Tsuen Wan Now Open in Wan Chai

  My 1st visit to El Cerdo in Tsuen Wan was purely by luck whilst strolling past,  and the outside menu board carried authentic Spanish items at an affordable pricing point,  which sprang a surprise considering Tsuen Wan is out in the New Territories area.  Fast forward to mid-late 2017 and El Cerdo, which means 'pork' in Spanish,  has expanded to Wanchai Lockhart Road side.  UK Chef Simon Lynch used to help during the latter stage of the popular Tapeo Tapas bar and nowadays the El Cerdo recipes seem to carry even more personal characters of the Chef's intentions. 

Menus for Lunch & Dinner - I have visited 4 Times in recent 2 months Myself
Spanish Tapas bars are flexible for diners like me,  as I could come grab a quick bite or a full on Lunch and Dinner meal,  and at flexible hours.  The prices on the Menus are highly reasonable too..

Jamon Croquetas - HKD $34
The prices in Wanchai are slightly higher than in Tsuen Wan shop, but still affordable.  But that's not the point - I have ordered these every time I visited El Cerdo at both outlets,  and they are consistently the best croquetas in town,  with a loose bechamel gooey texture inside,  and plenty of diced Jamon hams.  ~  9/10

Egg Tortilla Omelette with Chorizo - $68
The A La Carte menu carries only one plain Tortilla option,  but they actually have a Chorizo,  Mushroom or a Crab meat tortilla version.  In my personal opinion, the best runniest Spanish Tortilla in Hong Kong is found at Catalunya  (soon to be moved to Central and renamed),  and also at Cassio in LKF.  The El Cerdo version meanwhile tastes the best overall,  simply because it has the right combination of potato and egginess taste, a runny texture, and in this version bitey chorizo's with the sausage oil and smoky paprika seeping into the omelette.  Got to order this every time too  ~ 9/10

Cold Gazpacho Soup -
Refreshing and accurate tasting.  Truth be told at first, I didn't know what magic Chef Simon is pulling sometimes,  considering he is actually British,  but his cooking tastes more accurate Spanish than most Spanish restaurants in town.  I have a feeling it's because in London and the UK,  expectations from a Spanish place have set a very high bar..

2 Pieces Crispy Pork Belly with Quince Aioli, Peppers - $72
*Currently With Estrella Damm Lager Beer as Promotion - Only $88
Another item that was famous from the Tapeo era,  but now carried to El Cerdo and a must order every time.  The skin is crackly and the meat is not dry,  perfectly cooked,  and I think it actually over performs over the ex-Tapeo's version somehow too.  ~ 8.5/10

The Signature 'Cerdo' Pork Belly, a Must order here Every Time -
I have eaten this 4 times in the recent 1.5 to 2 months already myself,  it is that addictive

Gambas al Pil Pil - $88
The Prawns are sizzling in the garlic and olive oil,  with some chili.  It is served bubbly hot and the prawns are crunchy and bitey.  This ajillo dish in Hong Kong context is not always nailed right,  but over here at El Cerdo and also at Ole Spanish Restaurant,  they are both serving my favorite versions in town!  ~ 9/10

Pincho Cordero Lamb Skewers with Mojo Verde sauce - $88
On the other hand, this was my first time ordering this after a Magazine Staff recommended it to me,  and it was gorgeous with the right seasoning,  and a crust outside the tender lamb.  ~ 8.5/10

Talo con Txistorra - Basque Style Corn Tortillas with Chorizo Sausage $88
With Red Pepper chutney.  A Traditional Basque dish that seems to somehow relate to the Mexican tortillas and taco's,  this is a unique dish in Hong Kong context.  The tortillas were hand rolled here and carried a strong corn taste - which you can't say a lot of corn tortillas at Mexican Taquerias in town have actually been able to achieve...  ~ 8/10

Spanish Churros with Nutella Chocolate Hazelnut sauce - $48 for 4 Pieces  
I think most customers who have been to El Cerdo,  agree that these are the best Churros in Hong Kong consistently.  I don't normally make the 'Best' claim but I have had most of them to compare with by now.  Here they are never fried too hard,  nor too greasy when eating with your hands.  Personally I prefer to have a Dark Hot Chocolate Drink to go with my churros or porras,  but a Nutella variation works well in this situation too.  ~ 9.5/10

El Cerdo Wanchai -
It is packed during Lunch hours already,  and Dinner depends at this outlet.  Over at Tsuen Wan side you will need to make a Reservation on almost any given night time.   I have also eaten other dishes here,  and will try to add back onto here when I find or tune my photos.  A typical Lunch here is only around the $108-148 mark and Dinner with a Drink,  probably around HKD $250-300.  Food Quality is high and consistent and for an Islander like myself,  this is one of my best Picks and a to go place right now in 2017,  I have been frequenting here almost once a week whenever I am in town !

Price:  HKD $108 to $250 + No Service Charge,  Please Tip
Food: ♕♕♕♕ 1/2 to ♕♕♕♕♕

El Cerdo Wanchai Address: G/F, 114 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai
Phone: +852 28329222

El Cerdo Tsuen Wan Address: G/F, 77 Tai Pa Street, Tsuen Wan
Phone: +852 28823811

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

S.Pellegrino Young Chef Award 2018 - Our Semi-Finalists Representing Hong Kong & Macau Region

  The [S.Pellegrino Young Chef Award for 2018] competition is now well underway,  with the announcement of the regional Semi-Finalists cooking and advancing onto the Global Stage in the coming months - representing our Hong Kong and Macao region are 3 Young Chefs who have created some Signature dishes and aiming for the Top Honorary spots.   Initially I thought about not posting too much information online,  in case this might give other regional competitors more heads up advantage,  but since most dishes to be presented are fixed by this stage already,  I guess I could write more of my true feelings about them from a 'customer's' perspective in terms of taste and execution,  since from now onwards it will be more about the micro-management and fine tuning of the dish and components which could score the final brownie points.   Hopefully some kind of constructive criticism can help them progress right into the Finals and reach the Top Podium steps to represent our region and Culinary cities!   Hope no harsh feelings below because to be concise and not boring everyone else, I might just cut down straight to some points I wanted to raise : )

S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 - Semi-Finalists Preview
3 Young Chefs from HK & Macau,  have already been selected as 3 of 10 Semi-Finalists in the North East Asian region.  Best of Luck !

The Chefs Preparing in the Kitchen,
and thanks to S.Pellegrino for inviting us to sample their Competing Dishes..

Menu and Wines are Today Paired by Jebsen Fine Wines -

X.O. Bouillabaisse Dish representing Tai O Hong Kong Fishing Village Seafood -
by Chef de Cuisine Noël Berard from The Ocean
This dish was intriguing to me because it tried to amalgamate a France-Marseille Seafood Bouillabaisse concept,  with the Seafood the Chef was able to source from Hong Kong, itself full of famous fishing villages in the past due to the many Islands and proximity to the sea.  The Hong Kong style Seafood X.O. Sauce is house made by the young French Chef,  and although it is quite nice already and with the Onion compote replaces the Rouille spread in a true Bouillabaisse,  I think it could handle a smidgeon more heat or even more powderized Dried Prawns or Ham input.  The Monkfish Liver and the almost-raw Squid are decently pleasing, but the Eel filets I think might benefit with less poaching time and a slightly crispy skin on top just for contrast?   The base Crab broth to me was a slight weakness too,  as it was rather thin watery plus it could definitely handle more concentrated Fish & Crustacean flavors,  especially to counter-balance the Black sesame custard's potency.  Overall my favorite Concept today,  but it just needed slightly more fine tuning to really stand out in the taste department!

Ikan Bakar with Purple Sweet Potato Puree - 
by Chef Zack Fong from Conrad Macao

Chef Fong explained a lot about this Malaysian/Indonesian dish orally, but behind his enthusiasm and sentences, I think a lot of the specific terms behind the recipe and concept could be more manifested clearer,  or written concisely.  For example,  the composition of the Sambal sauce,  the use of Candlenut,  also the oceanic Jellies and Molecular Caviars used (which these two components I found, had some irregular murky colors or shapes, and affected the presentation).  Obviously I am not a Professional Chef,  lest a true Food Critic,  but overall I also found the String Ray part used was too meaty and thick versus the Sauce/Sambal proportion, and too filling too.  Plus it could have more of the Ikan Bakar exotic aroma,  either that or the aroma of burnt Banana leaves or just from better Flame Grilling,  which is one of the spirits and essences of eating Grilled fishes from this region even if it is made more Upscale in recipe.  The pertinent question to ask is - given a choice to pick,  will I want to eat the Original beach versions more or this version?  In order to Win over the eaters' hearts,  it will need a very convincing and compelling quality to definitely choose the latter over the former. 

Glazed Veal Sweetbreads, Langoustine with X.O. Sauce Emulsion,
Lemon Thyme & Crispy Chicken Skin -
By Chef Eric Räty of Cafe Gray Deluxe, The Upper House
This dish was loved by quite a few people,  although some of us preferred the concept of the X.O. Bouillabaisse too.  For me this is simply because a Ris de Veau aux Langoustines is already a trusted French Surf & Turf combo in my eating books,  and as such I could compare it directly to other similar versions I had in my memory bank, and I think so could other Judges in the end.  The X.O. Sauce emulsion over the perfectly cooked Langoustine was excellent, with the Lemon coulis and zest beside it together with similarly herbal citrusy Lemon Thyme components bridging the slightly spicy Crustacean with the Sweetbread's richness.  The sweetbread itself to me could be sous-vide cooked slightly softer in the centre and more resembling normal French style Sweetbreads, which usually have a texture like that of lamb's brain or hard tofu at most. The Chicken Skin was an amazing idea but ultimately it tasted more like a smashed floury croquant than real Chicken skin taste.  Anyway this was a very lovely dish as is,  but I really did thought 1-2 things could be easily fixable and instantly make this even more amazing!

Good Luck with Our S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 Semi-Finalists from Hong Kong & Macau -
I just wanted to write some encouraging words about my preview experience with these amazing Chefs,  not as an expert but just from another angle as a diner!  Especially knowing that they will be up against a group of very fierce and well trained competitors globally,  or even within North East Asia or China, Japan itself already.  And here's hoping that somehow a wee bit of feedback and hopefully if they could be interpreted as some constructive comments,  but obviously through the very hard work of the talented Chefs themselves, can all encourage our Hong Kong and Macau Chef Representatives to take up the Top S.Pellegrino Young Chef Award Honors!  Good luck Guys and see you again soon !


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