Thursday, December 30, 2010

Yauatcha (London, UK) - ♕♕♕♕♕

Michelin 1 Stars

  I am not entirely a  fan of the pan-Asian ramen noodles served in the Wagamama chain, but from a proprietor’s point of view you’ve got to give kudos to Alan Yau for creating the highly profitable business in the 1st place!  Afterall if customers don’t buy the concept, it wouldn’t have been sold to another consortium at a premium price.  You need to have an astute sense of what’s going to work on the market or not, never mind whether it is honestly really good or authentic in nature!   Alan Yau was born in Hong Kong but grew up in London, and unlike the non-Cantonese cuisine served in the equally Michelin 1 Starred  Kai (owned by a Malaysian-Chinese), the likes of Hakkasan and 丘記茶苑 have menus more or less aligned with proper Cantonese cuisine, probably with a sensible nouvelle twist.  There didn’t seem to be any fusionised food on the menu, except the Westernised desserts on display.

丘記茶苑 wasn’t even on my agenda to visit, although I was always curious about it as I’ve heard aplenty about its story,,.  And believe it or not, as I became lost during a quest to find a nearby must-visit Cafe, somehow I managed to bump into this Yum Cha and Tea House anyway ~ speaking of fate!  Well I guess I’ll sacrifice my British pie or Cumberland sausages for a Michelin 1 Star Yum Cha session instead that day!

Downstairs of Yauatcha.
Not really my type of design for a Dim Sum dedicated shop.. but anyway

三陝龍井茶 (Dragon Well Green Tea from Taiwan) -
I believe I’ve never drank Taiwan produced Dragon Well before, as I normally drink the Chinese ones, one of my favourite teas in the world.  With a famous Taiwanese Tea Mistress Hsieh Chih Chang looking after the tea selections here including the cups and tea pots, this is being well looked after.  And this tea didn’t disappoint, it was lightly elegant, though more green than the yellow-green type I am used to.  Its definitely unique and very likeable, even slightly Japanese in style ~ 9.5/10

醃青瓜 (Chinese Dill Pickle!) -
This is meant to be an appetiser, and rightly so.  Actually this was quite sour and unlike most Cantonese versions which are milder or sometimes even chili-hot. Although occasionally you do spot them in Wonton Shops in Hong Kong as an alkaline cleanser.  Strangely, this worked very well in opening up the palate personally speaking ~  9/10


珍珠玉杯餃 (Wild Mushroom Dumpling) -
Made up of Oyster mushroom, Shimeji, Shiitake and Euryale Seeds (芡實), the skin was thin and elastic, the filling was drop dead gorgeous. Topped with 3 white glutinous pearls just to give it more texture.  I am not joking, I think about this dumpling every 2nd day still ~ 10/10

筍尖鮮蝦餃 (Prawn ‘Har Gau’ Dumpling) -
Don’t be fooled by the apparent gigantic size of these, as these were served in a cute and tiny bamboo basket – they are actually sized just like the normal ones available.  The skin was translucent and chewy, not too thick but more aligned with Mainland Chinese rather than its Hong Kong siblings. Very fresh tasting and excellent, balanced by some bamboo shoots ~ 9/10

Excellent Chili Sauce

黑椒鹿肉酥 (Baked Venison Puff) -
This isn’t a dish you’re likely to see in Hong Kong, where venison game meat is scarce.  In this instance, it was adapted very well into Chinese cuisine and with novelty.  The meat and sauce was perfect, not overly gooey or peppery, and had enough diced meat to give it a gamey flavour. Pastry was also baked well, without being too lardy and oily, yet crisp and moist ~ 10/10


帝王蟹小籠包 (King Crab Shanghai Xiao Loong Bao) -
Real Shanghainese Crabs are not readily available outside of Asia or Japan.  White Crab Meat, rather than Crab Roe versions of Xiao Loong Bao are therefore not a rare scene outside of Asia, even 鼎泰豐 of Sydney needed to adapt to change their signature recipe. It might as well, as the version here was really sweet and balanced with the pork filling.  The skin might not be as thin as Din Tai Fung, but its right up there with the best of the rest, and it was surprisingly soupy.  Very enjoyable and surprising to see this quality outside of HK or Shanghai, albeit with a slight twist ~ 9/10

扣肉花酥盒 (Pork and Chive Box Dumpling) -
I wasn’t overly happy to see that there’re no pickled mustards in this dim sum, as it would have elevated it into a different realm. This to be fair tasted great, but the 扣肉 name was deceiving as it was not very dark braised nor came with aforementioned pickles! 
The chives have no place in a 扣肉 based dish ~ 7/10

Also known for their Western Styled desserts, which I was not interested in…
They should do some proper Chinese desserts instead.

The Outside, too blue for me!
Food was designed and executed very well.  The only restaurants I’ve been to in HK which can make dim sims of such quality so far, are YAN TOH HEEN, DYNASTY (traditional type done very well) and MAN WAH @ Mandarin Oriental, may be also TIM HO WAN.  Yauatcha is priced around the same as LUNG KING HEEN, YAN TOH HEEN and FOOK LAM MOON..


Price: £33.75 Pounds incld. VAT
Score: ★★★★★

Opening Hours:
Mon to Sat -    12:00pm – 23:45pm
Sun           -     12:00pm – 22:30pm
Address:  15-17 Broadwick Street. Soho, London, W1F 0DL
Ph: +44 (0) 20 7494 8888


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

La Piola, Gastro Enoteca Piemontese - ♕♕♕

Chef Stefano Rossi flew in all the way from Turin of Italy to present the Piemontese regional food to us lucky HK customers, although right now, I believe it still has a long way to go before it irons out some kinks first and truly impress.   Despite me brimming with expectations and anticipating its opening since a month ago, read below and you’ll see why I was still hoping for more from this newly opened regional Italian restaurant.


It has the look of a Tavern Wine Bar (Enoteca).
Note that Piemontese is spelt without the ‘d’ here, which is true Italian.

Grissini and Bread Basket -
Grissini is actually invented in Turin, and the one here is of the hard crusty type. This bread basket isn’t very impressive and its served COLD. But thís is pretty authentic, its just that we’ve been spoiled by good bread baskets in Hong Kong!   ~ 6.5/10

Olive Oil Dip

Nebbiolo Negro Envitaly (Negro, Piemonte) -
Good on its own, but eating this with food, some sort of metallic iron taste managed to creep out of nowhere, as opposed to minerality  ~ 7/10

Insalata di Faraona Sedano e Toma -
A Salad of Guinea Fowl with Celery and a Piemontese Toma Cheese, this was refreshing with a squeeze of lemon as dressing.  A very simple salad, but bites of this had sand in it!  ~ 6.5/10

Tajarin alla Salsiccia e Funghi Porcini -
Home Made Tajarin is a Torino specialty pasta. Here its cooked with some diced sausages and completely tasteless porcino (I’ll hazard to say its less then 1 mushroom).  There is no gravy like sausage ragu sauce, its just a simple pasta.  And despite ordering this with a reminder that I’d like it Al Dente, this came out steaming hot and mushy and sticky.  For $170, couldn’t they make or design this a bit more seriously?  ~ 3/10

Parmesan -
This wasn’t the crystalised, crumbly sharp Parmesan, its more cowy and fresh.
I actually prefer this not so aged version. Freshly grated in house, a welcome sight!



Price: $360 + 10% Per Person
Score: ★★★☆☆

Opening Hours:
Mon to Sun -      TBA, Currently Night Only

Address:  中環擺花街8號地下
(G/F, 8 Lyndhurst Street, Central)
Ph: 2851 2281


Felfela - ♕♕♕♕

Newly opened Felfela advertises itself to be an Egyptian restaurant.  Personally however its not as strictly Egyptian as it claims to be, it seems to serve a mixture of Lebanese or Iranian food, together with a few African dishes.  Think Mediterranean, Moroccan and Persian, which in my perhaps confused mind, I find that in the Near East and Middle East region one sees very similar styled food – the major differences between them mostly lies in the minute spicing details and dish spellings, which often offers a clue to its intended authenticity. This is classified as a proper HALAL restaurant by the Islamic group locally in HK.

Appetiser of pickled Cucumbers and Olives, with a bit of sumac influence..

A Chardonnay from Lebanon from Chateau Ksara, which was crisp and dry,
which went well with the food despite the use of spices throughout.

Felfela’s Signature Mezza Platte, $120 with no 10% Service Charge
This was pretty good value for money locally speaking, with 7 kinds of food to be trialled all in one go ~  7/10

Hummus Chickpea Dip -  a little undersmoked but still good.  Taboulah surprisingly lacked that very fresh parsley herbal taste I was after, which really lets it down, but then again the same could be said of anywhere.  Baba Ganoush eggplant dip was a bit too watered-down for my liking, not much smokiness trait or that slightly tingling feeling.

Pita Bread was home-made and very excellent, one of the best I’ve ever had before..

Samak Makly, marinated Salmon cubes were ok.

I am used to eating Falafels which are slightly less browned and thicker, also with more herbs and chickpea influence. Invented by Egyptians, the version here were actually made of fava beans, which explains why it tastes a bit different from what I’m used to.

Shish Taouk, basically chicken grilled on a pole with tahini sauce. Enjoyable.

Felfela Fingers were made of parsley, feta cheese, tomato and olives in a fried filo pastry wrapping.
Not bad, but seemed a bit moist on certain bites.

No 10% Service Here, and the food and drinks are a bit of a bargain within the Lan Kwai Fong rectangle.  They also serve my favourite shisha water pipes.  All in all, not as Egyptian a cuisine wise as I was thinking, but its close enough. Afterall, who really can tell the difference?
(Certainly not me!)

Price: $180
Score: ★★★★

Opening Hours:
Mon to Sun -  TBA
Address:  中環蘭桂坊榮華里15號地下
(15 Wing Wah Lane, Lan Kwai Fong, Central)
Ph: 2840 1140


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Caffe Nero (London, UK) - ♕♕♕ 1/2

I’d say its lucky to be a Londoner, because Coffees available here are of a pretty high standard overall, bar the 2-3 really bad ones I had trouble gulping down during this trip.   Even for a local UK Chain selling Italian styled caffe, this was definitely drinkable, more so than many HK Cafes.  Come to think of it, may be this being situated just a stone’s throw away from the local favourite Monmouth Coffee on the same street, could have something to do with this branch performing so well.


A fair few bites and cakes available, and a no fuss Coffee menu..


Single Espresso -
This was fairly Italian style in taste,
a little smoky but minus that signature Southern Italian body or herbal/spice,
or the slightly Brighter taste of the North.  Its somewhere in between. Drinkable ~ 6.5/10

Address: 30 Monmouth St, Covent Garden
Opening Times -
Weekdays: 7am - 7pm
Saturday: 7.30am - 7.30pm
Sunday: 8am - 7.30pm


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Nadaman (なだ万) – ♕♕♕ 1/2


Japanese New Years Kaiseki

The Tokyo branch of なだ万 at New Otani Hotel
has been awarded the prestigious 2 Michelin Stars, which is  well known for its traditional Kansai style 懐石料理 (Kaiseki Ryouri)! Carrying this knowledge in mind, I was hoping to give 1 of its 2 Hong Kong outlets a try.  We arrived here during early January 2010, as after a few calls around I found out that the Hong Kong side of Nadaman serves a full Japanese New Year’s 御節料理 Course during their lunch session, whereas the Kowloon branch of Nadaman surprisingly does only a breakfast session costing around $200 cheaper per person (Update – in 2011 Kowloon branch will also offer an additional Dinner New Years Course).  So ensure you book at the right outlet depending on what you’re after and its only served in early January.


御節料理 (おせちりょうり) in Japan is normally served as a multiple layered bento boz,  bought as take-away in a 重箱.  The original idea goes that everyone including house-wives should finally deserve a break from cooking during that important January 1st to 5th holiday period, and so they shall prepare this Bento Banquet a couple of days in advance.   Its quite a sophisticated new years cuisine and probably shares linkage to the famous Chinese 盤菜, and similarly the upper-end Japanese versions are more extravagant, which top grade Bento’s often include delicacies such as Abalone, Prawns and Lobster from Ise.    
In Nadaman’s instance, this New Year’s feast has been converted from a sophisticated Take-Away Bento Box, into a Multiple-Course 懐石料理 dine-in meal instead for lunch session only.

Remember to book the Sofa’s

The Starting Three Courses of 祝肴 (いわいざかな)  :
The prerequisite course in any New Years Osechi meal,
this has also replaced the usual 先付 starter in a normal 懐石料理.

胡麻豆腐、生雲丹、べっこう飴、山葵 -
House made Sesame tofu with sea urchin, a special sugar sauce and wasabi -

紅白膾、イクラ、結び昆布 -
This has the lucky Red and White colours, with the shaved veggies, Ikura roes and ribboned konbu ~ 6/10

鯖小袖ずし、伊達巻、紅白蒲鉾 -
Salmon scroll, Black sweetened beans, etc. These all have associated meanings in terms of work, prosperity, luck, study and love, when pronounced in Japanese ~ 9/10

御椀 Bowl Course - 雑煮椀: 
The ingredients down to the amazingly orange carrot is imported from Osaka or elsewhere.
This is a soup with mochi which is also always eaten in New Years Meal ~

御造り Course :
Sashimi consisted of Winter Buri, Honmaguro Tuna, Snapper.
The あしらい visual balance has been carefully contructed to be appealing. apart from the fish the use of certain edible plants such as 金魚草, Konbu, pickled ginger, raw wasabi, etc is equally important.  As is normal in Kaiseki courses these fishes are NOT very fatty deliberately. The tuna especially is the leanest part with a metallic/acidic taste, but this happens in Kyoto as well, where Toro is not given out. So one cannot compare the fish to those in a Sushi shop ~  8/10

多喜合 Course :
Steamed Tile-Fish on glutinous rice was the highlight of this Course,
which kind of went downhill from here.  This was amazingly sweet and velvety,
very balanced and visually stunning, I would come back just to eat this ~ 10/10

家喜物 Course :
This was just super fishy and the texture wasn’t velvety, something one’d normally expect from this traditional Saikyo-miso marinated Cod fish. It makes Nobu seem like God!  And there was also none of the advertised pickled 千枚蕪 slices, although the usual pairing with red ginger はじかみ is there. The Prawn and taro croquette was boring too, there’s not much taste in it ~ 3/10

食事 Course :
The carbs course is always the last savoury course, but I had a lot of trouble understanding why they give you 2 rice dishes. I liked the above Steamed 多喜合 Course with the glutinous rice, but here came a another fish based Salmon rice.  The chef designing the menu here just didn’t give it much thoughts, especially for a Kaiseki Course, which needs to be balanced from 1st course to the last.  In this regards, and with some of the lack of ingenuity or perfect executions, NADAMAN Hong Kong,  really loses out to the many Kaiseki restaurants within Japan ~  4/10

This was served cold to me… hmmm.
And it tasted like its been reheated.

デザート Course  :
Dessert finished without even a slice of Orange or Japanese fruits given, which is disappointing as its required to balance out the meal. Although this Japanese-Western slice of Black sesame pudding with Vanilla ice cream looked good, with its raspberries, this was set so solid the edge was curled up and hard. Sad smile The vanilla ice cream didn’t even have vanilla seeds either ~ 4/10

煎茶 – Green Tea
The most traditional way of eating (Traditional Kaiseki) 懐石料理, is to pair it with Tea, as the monks who invented it are not allowed to drink.  It destroys the delicate taste of the food usually. The similarly English named (Kaiseki) 会席料理 can sometimes be confusing, but that’s more of a semi-formal way or corporate way of eating pretty much similar food – and with that, you can choose to pair it with some mighty fine alcohol. 

Price: $520 + 10% Per Person
Score: ★★★☆☆

Opening Hours:
Mon to Sun -      12:00 – 22:30pm

Address:  金鐘金鐘道88號太古廣場2座港島香格里拉酒店7樓
(7/F, Island Shangri-La Hong Kong, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty)
Ph: 2820 8570



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