Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Top 50 Best Restaurants in the World 2013 - My thoughts

 This is the 1st time I have written about my true feelings about the so-called  Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurants in the world.    Viewing through the Top 1st to the 50th best placed venues,  all the way down to the 100th listing,   I really wanted to say that finally I am becoming rather skeptical of the whole game behind it all.     It almost seems to be some kind of arbitrary hierarchy game.    Obviously, I didn’t get around to visiting El Bulli before it had closed,   but I did penned my review about this year’s so-called  No.1  3* El Celler de Can Roca, Spainwhich ended up swapping positions with the previously crowned  2* NOMA,  from Denmark and which I somehow visited recently upon chance.   Nothing to be proud of either if you know how long it took me exactly down to the precise minute from 3 months to the day in advance,  to secure that table!     No.13  2* The Ledbury, UK  I have always admired for their accuracy of food cooking and sensibility.  former No.1 and now forgotten No.33  3* the Fat Duck, UK  was also one of the restaurants which was during a previous years named as the Top No.1 when it dethroned El Bulli during 1 year and  I admire them for their theatrical plays with food and fun approach rather than true taste.    Looking back upon the past 10 years,  I am surprised I have actually been to 3 of the 4 best restaurants in the world as voted by this annual guide with the exception of El Bulli.   I never felt a thing about it all and I had honestly had better meals in my life which might or might not have been named in this so-called Top List.  I don’t even care anymore.

  Dinner by Blumenthal which I haven’t been yet is much more casual by nature,  but is now appearing as the no. 7 most desired spot for dinner and over-shot it’s bigger and much more Fine-Dining sister restaurant at The Fat Duck,  as people jump on the band wagon and thinking to oust more expensive meals in Haute Cuisine at triple the cost.    Attica from Melbourne suddenly slotted itself into No. 21 spot,  which I have been a few times and despite possibly better than what is an almost over-hyped QUAY experience that represents Sydney or Australian food,  is still to me a NOMA wannabe and I personally believe Vue de Monde is  much more worthy of a having a mention and on an international level scale.   Even the now defunct Becasse in Sydney or Royal Mail Hotel in Melbourne were possibly better in their food philosophical approach and I haven’t ever been to some of the latter up and coming Australian restaurants.   My meal at the 3* Ledoyen in Paris last year was simply brilliant and one of my best ever meals in my life and ever so thoughtful,  and yet again it doesn’t get a mention.   Some dishes I ate in 2* Sur Mesure by Thierry Marx,  Paris,  were astonishingly good despite being Japanese inspired.     The previously 3* Le Meurice meal I ate in Paris,  where Chef Yannick has already left there,  also made me some of the best dishes that I do rate as mesmerizing and during this year managed to slot in at No. 99 anyhow to make at least an appearance.    Let’s not forget to mention that over at  1* Viajante,  they came running in at  Spot 59,     which I personally thought had cooked certain dishes that were more thoughtful than NOMA in it’s recipe.   And over at No. 71 listed  1* St Jonn,  I think it’s more about their food approach than actual taste of the food.



El Celler de Can Roca,  Girona, Spain  -
I like it,  but is it really the best Restaurant in the world?
Perhaps it is better than NOMA but just..




The Fat Duck,  Bray,  UK -
Liked it.  Theatrical rather than for the taste experience.  But in hindsight it was fun enough.  Once voted as the Top Restaurant in the world.  Now rapidly dropping down the order for no reason.




2* Sur Mesure by Thierry Marx -
Never-mind.  No one will have heard of him either but his meal was good despite being too Japanese inspired.  One of the best tasting meals I had in 2012.




NOMA,  Denmark -
Overall good and I liked their approach.   But probably too random and my menu planning was too seafood eccentric.   Wish I could revisit here without that 3 months wait as is required to be booked by the precise minute or 2.



The Ledbury - 
One of my favorites in London.   Sensible and well executed.




St John -
I can find better entrails and Nose-to-Tail meals in the world.  I guess being one of the pioneers,   they can still be proud of their achievements for pushing forward this movement ?    But the Romans or even the Scots have been devouring all parts of the whole beast during peasantry times I believe..




3* Le Meurice – Paris
One of the best Duck Foie Gras dishes I have had by a large margin.   So was one of their Agrumes and Pastry desserts.




3* Akelarre,  San Sebastian -
Had a blast at this restaurant.   Another amazing meal.
San Sebastian and Donostia in general was simple out of this league awesome.





1* Moo Restaurant,  Barcelona,  Spain -
Sister restaurant to the now so-called No.1 Restaurant,  3* El Celler de Can Roca.  This smoked Pigeon dish with Hazelnut with Pigeon foie gras is forever engraved into my memory.  Equally impressive were their desserts.  





3* Ledoyen,  Paris -
Ever so thoughtful and inspiring.  One of the best meals I have had in my life but not even rated in the Top 100 list.




1* Viajante -
The philosophy behind it was kind of NOMA inspired indeed.  But in terms of food and bread,  I actually thought of here more so than NOMA as an overall package in thoughtfulness and taste.




2* Ron Blaauw in Holland -
One of the best starters I have encountered in Holland.   I actually have had better too,  but  
unfortunately I can’t find my non-iPhone pics from 2* Ciel Bleu either for now…




Beef Tongue Salad at Melbourne’s Vue de Monde -
So lovely and sensible.   Now off the radar but to me,  still one of the Best Restaurants in the world..




Les 110’s,  Paris -
Le Foie et Rognon de Veau, Sauce Porto, Puree et Moutarde en L’ancienne -  Euro 24
Veal liver and kidney are cooked in it’s own jus and port wine sauce.   Served with a potato mashed with l’ancienne mustard.   The foie was a little dense but for a veal foie gras this was expectedly to be cooked more closer to well-done!   The Veal Kidney and the sauce was very well cooked and the sauce was compacted and reduced in flavours but not overly salty,  enhanced by a bit of thyme influence.  Lovely.   No one will care about here either though.





Venison Scotch Egg at 1* The Harwood Arms,  London -
Related to The Ledbury and led by the same team behind.    Sometimes I just don’t care about Fine-Dining anymore.  Been there and done that.   I would rather eat a meal at Harwood Arms than at NOMA or even El Celler de Can Roca that today got crowned No.1 restaurant in the world and was great but I don’t think is what I am after anymore.  




3* Lung King Heen – in Hong Kong
Yes it was decent good.  I liked the food after a few tries too.   But guess what,  I had really had better chickens and food.   As the best Chinese representative of Hong Kong food,   I would like to take this opportunity to say that the Top 50-100 Restaurants list is most probably compiled by someone who can’t read and write in anything other than English.



2* Ming Court’s Chicken with Fried Lotus Slices-
Ming Court
and The Chairman in Hong Kong,  are both regarded as one of the best Restaurants in Hong Kong.  So is Luk Yu Tea House during Dinner time for their best Sweet and Sour Pork in town and many other traditional dishes.   I have no idea what or who the Top 50 Pellegrino’s Guide or Top 50 Asian Restaurant Guide are trying to represent.   Certainly not the voice of the locals here..  And there is also no mention of  The 8 in Macau,  considered one of the finest Cantonese restaurants in this region without resistance.   As for Western style food,  I am almost certain that most HK foodies will not disagree that Mandarin Grill at Mandarin Oriental is one of the most engaging dinners to be had in town.   And for that matter,  Robuchon au Dome in Macau too.  As for best Italian,  is there really such a gap between 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo and Gold by Harlans?    I have so far never met a foodie in town who doesn’t think Otto e Mezzo is at best of 1 Star quality on the international scale especially when compared with Italy.  Somehow I think people are chasing after the Stars and Top 100 Ratings,  but what is the point when it isn’t the voice of the local foodies and a bit exaggerated?    Smile

Tin Lung Heen 天龍軒 (II) - Hong Kong

Michelin 2 Stars

 My last visit to Tin Lung Heen (I) inside the tallest hotel of Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong,  was during it’s infancy days and in that previous review,  I mentioned it was a potential Michelin-Star worthy restaurant but only if they do improve their food executions!   I was therefore happy to hear they ended up not only receiving just 1 Star by the following year,  but later on they have been upgraded to 2 macarons.   Job well-done !   In fact I have always been meaning to return to re-try but 2 separate issues prevented me from doing so.   Issue no.1 is that it is not easy to land a table here with short notice.   2ndly,  some other foodies who dined here gave it the death knell quite early on,  which sort of gave me social pressure to return back.    I discovered that some customers don’t really give a 2nd or 3rd chance to a restaurant and I therefore urge everyone to be a fair foodie,  and be ready to re-evaluate!    I should also mention that when I was asked to contribute some recommendations to Conde Nast Traveler  (Link to that Piece:  Best Dim Sums in Hong Kong),   I now regret about not mentioning here as this is currently one of my favourite dim sum restaurants in HK when we revisited.    Another dim sum place that I should also have mentioned is 新興食家 Sun Hing, which was closed during the time I submitted my choices but is now re-opened again recently,  it is a casual & cheapo type of dim sum place that is a potential Tim Ho Wan beater,  which the latter has just re-located but is not the same standards as the old Mongkok store.   My other highly recommended Dim Sum place that I really like is 1* 欣圖軒 Yan Toh Heen,  which surprising got omitted from the Conde Nast Traveler review.  Here’s to making up to the overlapping of timing of things..  And I owe here a re-review anyway.  



Honeyed Walnuts -




They have a Champagne and Dim Sum lunch nowadays -
Starting from $298,  I think it’s decently priced.  When the dim sums have lobster, caviar and bird’s nest involved,  even if we didn’t end up ordering these.




The 102nd Floored Tin Lung Heen is not that Huge -
Although 3* Lung King Heen opposite in Four Seasons Hotel is a natural competitor,  having visited over there so many times,  I think whilst their pastries are the best in the business,   Tin Lung Heen here also holds a clear advantage because the food tasted closer to their advertised recipe.  




Iberico Pork BBQ Char Siu – $268
I have heard either great or mediocre reviews of this item here.   My true thought is that,  I was kinda surprised how much pork taste this carried,  and it was really savoury to the normal honey-malted version!   Me and my dining companion were saying how we liked the meatiness flavour but wished it was more caramelized coated!   But yes I enjoyed this and no,  it wasn’t overly tenderized this day as some other foodies have said,  so I appreciate it’s natural texture.    This is a very unique version of Char Siu in Hong Kong indeed.    ~  8/10




XO Sauce -
We got one bowl each of this and it seems to have some whitebaits in it,  which gives it more of an umami taste.   I really liked this as it wasn’t just about being hot chili in your face.  Elegant!




Steamed Rice Roll with Deep Fried Seafood Spring Roll [越南米網海皇腸粉] – $83
We were recommended this by the Sommelier on duty but I have had a similar version before here too!   This turned up to be great and the silken textured wrap was spot on smooth and tasty,  the inside fried spring roll with prawns were strong enough in taste.     8/10




Golden Shrimp Dumplings with Bamboo Shoots and Asparagus – $78
The last time I had these here,  I couldn’t taste much of the asparagus or bamboo shoots.  This time it has improved a bit as I could taste some bamboo shoots and the pleating and transparency of this dumpling was more executed well.   ~  9/10




Abalone Puff with Minced Pork and Roast Goose – $108
Got to say I wasn’t fully satisfied with this.  1st of all the Abalone didn’t have much abalone taste for some reason,  and the roasted goose that was said wasn’t really detectable either.  A lot of restaurants are making this Abalone pastry case nowadays,  I have had a few and they keep changing.   Hope over here they do improve it even further soon!   ~  6.9/10




Scrambled Egg White Scallop Dumpling [賽螃蟹帶子餃] – $78
The price has crept up by $10 from my last visit which is fair enough, and surprisingly the look is now totally different!  I actually preferred the old look,  but taste wise it got better and is still one of the must-order items here at Tin Lung Heen.   ~  9/10




Baked Crab Meat Puff with Cheese [芝士蟹肉酥盒] -  $78
A lot of crab dishes just sound great but never deliver in the taste.   I am always rather disappointed,  especially with the so-called Crab cakes.  But today I was really surprised at the very sweet crab meat taste here and the buttery pastry case was equally wonderful.  One of the highlights of the lunch session definitely.   ~  10/10




Pork & Shrimp with Matsutake Mushroom Shiu Mai – $78
The shrimp was definitely there.  But we couldn’t taste much of the said Matsutake mushroom and the expected aroma.    It’s definitely not bad and enjoyable,  but reading the recipe again I think it is not very convincing right now.   ~  7/10




Baked Char Siu Bun [蜜汁蠔皇叉燒包] – $78
This is made famous by the likes of Fu Shing and Tim Ho Wan already.  The one I found here was too sugary sweet externally on the bun,  and even though the Char Siu pork filling was correctly diced,  it ultimately still ended up being quite sweet and not very smoky.     6/10




Dessert Platter -
We ordered quite a few desserts.   They somehow arrived on the same black ceramic plate and I must add,  looked very prettily presented!   Equally surprising was of the taste.  The Black Truffled pudding was so strong in the truffle essence and surprisingly it worked with the milky pudding.  The fried Doughnut with a Salted Egg filling was to-die-for material too!   Even the Fried Chinese pastry arrived with some candy floss adorning the top.   The Egg tart was also of very high quality,  almost on par with what I consider the most expensive but utmost quality Egg Tart in HK at Man Wah.     9/10




Dessert Close-Ups -
Although my previous visit to here was both promising yet needed adjustments to be made,  I am glad I came back to re-try despite the price rise and we ended up paying around $450-500 a person for lunch.   The quality has improved across the board and some items were much nicer than during a previous encounter.  Some could still do with minor adjustments still yes,  but overall we were pretty happy with this lunch meal for once!   Definitely one of the hottest tables you should land yourself a seat right now,  even if it’s not perfect as yet but nearly there.





Price:   HKD $450 
Food:   ♕♕♕♕ 1/2 to ♕♕♕♕♕ 1/2
Ease of Access:  4/5

Opening Hours:
Mon to Fri - 12:00pm - 14:30pm,  18:00pm - 22:30pm
Sat to Sun - 11:30am - 15:00pm,  18:00pm - 22:30pm

Address: 尖沙咀柯士甸道西1號環球貿易廣場(ICC)香港麗思卡爾頓酒店102樓38/F
102/F, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui
Ph: 2263 2270

Sunday, April 28, 2013

AVA Restaurant - (Hong Kong)

 Ever since AVA opened at the refurbished Hotel Panorama,  I have heard quite positive news about this space and in particularly that Rose Petal ice cream dessert which is apparently to die for!   Thanks to Steph from http://www.stephs852diary.com for organizing this French Le GourMay preview event along with the hotel organizers.   The price for the Le GourMay 4 courses dinner menu is $468 which is well priced.  I do suggest that you order a separate serving of their amazing Rose Petal dessert,  as it will definitely make an impression on your date.  I myself really liked it so may be it’s just me..



Gorgeous View -
The view from Kowloon side towards Hong Kong island,  never ceases to amaze!




So Romantic with this couple  -



Warm Bread with a Tri-Colored Butter - 

The layered Butter is made from Sun-dried Tomato, Pesto and Garlic Butter




AVA Martini -  $118
Came with a dry-ice smoky effect.  Made with a combination of Absolut Mandarin, Belvedere Raspberry vodka,  Malibu,  Orange and Cranberry juice.  Lovely Signature drink.. ~  9/10




The Le French GourMay Menu.  This year,  the focus is on Burgundy region -
The Wine Pairing is only $48/glass, 
or $248/bottle.



Flan of Asparagus on Saute Oyster -
The asparagus are flown in from Europe,  so was the French oyster.  Lovely starter ~ 8/10



Frog Legs & Mushroom Forest & Spiced Foam -
I liked the variety of forest mushrooms including diced porcini.  I personally think the frog legs were cooked perfectly,  but the foam can still have more spiced flavour !  ~  7.5/10


Eggplant Trout Filet with Creamy Potato Rosette & Tomato Compote -
The potato rose reminds me of the dessert coming next in shape!  Back to the topic..  The trout was quite flavourful yet also bony.  This is definitely a fresh water Salmon Trout,  Steel Head Trout or what I usually refer to as Rainbow Trout.   I think this could be grilled more charred and also less bony,  especially if you’re arriving in to eat with your date !  It also needed more sauce to complement it I believe?   Getting there  ~  6/10


Mixed Berries Charlotte -
This dessert is a work in progress actually!  The final version will be coated with a Chocolate Sphere but this was quite tasty as it is..    They were still setting up the final Chocolate mould but didn’t want to deprive us of the chance to try out the underlying flavour anyway during this preview dinner.  The external biscuits are like sponge fingers,  but it’s the berries crème inside which was quite tart and right up my alley..




Rose and Raspberry Ice Cream in Pastry Tart, 
with Liquid Nitrogen freeze-dried then shattered Rose Petal -
This was simply beyond words amazing.  Some people might think this is too molecular science kind of food but I digress.  The taste of the rose and raspberry fruit was definitely apparent and likeable.  I joked with my Dining Companions,  that I will selfishly inhale this all by myself next time on my next visit… Stuff the so-called date I don’t want to share it with.   Just joking,  I will definitely hope for my other half to enjoy this tremendously Winking smile ~  12/10





Price:   HKD $468  (Meal was by Invitation)
Food:   ♕♕♕ 1/2 to ♕♕♕♕♕
Ease of Access:  4.5/5

Opening Hours:
Mon to Sun  12:00pm to 22:30PM

Address: 尖沙咀赫德道8A隆堡麗景酒店38樓
38/F, Hotel Panorama by Rhombus, 8A Hart Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui
Ph:  3550 0262


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