Friday, November 29, 2013

Zacapa Rum @ 118 th Floor OZONE, Ritz Carlton - (HK)

 Zacapa Rum is one of the finest Artisanal rums made at 2,500m Altitude high above in the Guatemalan mountains in Central America.   As someone who had just spent 6 months working in South America and Caribbean region nearby,   I was naturally delighted to be invited for this Zacapa Centinario Dinner Food & Rum pairing to learn more about this region’s offerings.   This was appropriately and thoughtfully held inside the tallest Private Dining Room & Bar in the world at OZONE @ Ritz Carlton Hotel.   



Tallest Dining Room in the world -
Perched on the 118th Floor. 




View from Within the Tallest Dining Room in the World  -
The middle “Central Plaza” triangular building used to be the tallest building in HK and still is the 3rd tallest.    Can you believe it?     It looks rather short from this angle and it wasn’t even too many years ago it got over thrown by IFC and ICC here..




Zacapa Rum and Zacapa XO -
From Guatemala,
Central America in the Caribbean coast





Amuse bouche of Eggs,  Sea Urchins,  Bonito-soy & Scallions -
Eggs and Urchins are a classic pairing in traditional cooking,  especially in Japanese cuisine. 
Modern recipes don’t command this combo as much so may be it just me being nolstagic.     ~  7/10




Bread -
Aromatic and baked well enough,  I was surprised these were quite different from those served downstairs at TOSCA (II) which we just ate recently..   9/10




Hamachi sashimi style,  with Pineapple relish,  Cilantro,  Chili -
2 parts Water to 1 part Zacapa Rum 23 Y.O.
The pineapple and chilis are such a Carribean flavored combo,  and Guatemala is part of this region which I got to visit the region twice this year during work.   In fact the Rum itself incorporated some Pineapple derived yeast strain and hence this pairing worked liked a pair of fitting gloves.    Was surprised to revisit this Caribbean flavour in HK just right after I left that region.   ~  7.5/10


Pan Seared Duck Foie Gras,  Caramelized Brioche toast,  Yuzu Sorbet and Apple pieces -
Also paired with Zacapa rum at diluted strength.   This was a really well balanced combination,   and to be honest I didn’t know the OZONE kitchen can churn out such good food packages such as this one.  Amazing recipe and so refreshing yet rich at once. Can they put this on the permanent menu please?   ~  9.5/10



A sweetish Candied Lime and Lime Zest Sorbet as Palate Cleanser -
This also had some herbs within.  A trusty combo with a bit of foamy head. 




Different strengths of Zacapa Rum -
It was interesting because different parts Water to Rum ratio,   brought out different hidden characters in the drink.    You can really tell the different steps in the processing techniques which gave it the layering,   by slowly drawing out the flavours by increasing the strength.   Very educational for me.




Halibut en Papillotte,  Tomato Lemon-grass broth,  Saffron,  Asparagus and Razor Clams
Steamed in transparent plastic wraps en papillotte style,  but not the paper bag version which I am used to.   Hope this is not only for aesthetics reasons…?   We will find out


Halibut Papillotte -
This was cooked spot-on well and many others can’t claim the same.  The razon clams were fun rather than adding to the actual taste.   We couldn’t detect much of the slightly fiery kick or fragrance from the Lemon-Grass the menu says.   The aromatics of brunoised vegetables was so pronounced though.   I loved both the fish and the broth so much,  but paired against the Rum,  it needed more chili heat in the base broth recipe to stand up again it.  But on it’s own this was very memorable and wish I can eat this every week!  ~ 8/10 




Roasted Baby Lamb Loins,  Garlic-Lemon puree and Pine Nuts Crust,  Caramelized Shallots -
The lamb was cooked so well and I really adored that special pine nuts and lemony crust coating the pink meat, which deviates from the bread crumbs and herbal crusted recipes.    Someone briefly mentioned to me once,  the Ritz Carlton OZONE space might consider switching to a new Japanese concept from overseas.   Looking back at this amazing Baby Lamb dish,  I hope they will try to preserve it in one of their restaurants somehow,  as I have so far been quite impressed by Ozone.  In fact I have just re-patroned Ritz Carlton’s Tosca,  Ozone and Tin Lung Heen restaurants all within 2 weeks time come to think of it,  wonder if they offer any VIP card?  Open-mouthed smile



Cheese Platter with Cow,  Ewe and Blue Cheese -
It came with some walnuts,  fresh grapes and some kind of blackcurrant or wine Jelly, something to that effect but no one explained to us in the end.   I liked the presentation of this a lot as it is so Mediterranean and I even found a Vine Leaf lining the slate platter.    I ate that too oops..  ~  9/10




Chocolate Dessert -
It has pieces of orange and candied peels inside it and crispy flakes on top.  The sweetish Chocolaty note worked well with the Zacapa Rum.  But it was huge in portion.. ~  7/10 


Mignardises -
Surprisingly I found these better balanced than downstairs Tosca.     Latter was too chocolaty based.  Up a few floors,  these were actually more like Italian Pasticcini and should be more appropriate for downstairs Tosca.  




Some Zacapa X.O. to finish the night -
I tried to warm this drink up in my palms to release more aromas. 
That’s what my old Uncles taught me when we were eating in Chiuchow restaurants in town and whatever they say doesn’t mean I have to believe them,  but at least I gave it a try to see if it worked.    That’s all the fun part of eating and drinking.  




Price:   (Meal hosted by Zacapa Rum at Ritz Carlton Hotel,  HK)
Food:   ♕♕♕♕♕

Ease of Access:  4/5
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118樓
118 Floor,  Ritz Carlton Hong Kong,  Austin Road West,  No.1 ICC,  Kowloon,  Hong Kong
Ph:  2263 2270

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Daifukuya Ramen 大福屋 - (Hong Kong)

 Hong Kong is a funny city,  where things come and go so quickly that you didn’t even realize they have opened before they are gone within a few months,  blame it on the high rental.   If a dedicated foodie like me can’t keep up with the openings,  then what are the chances for the normal citizens and underlyingly we are all after good food within our life’s rushes?   There are so many new ramen shop openings flooding the city these 1-2 years and some closed before I got to eat them,  but guess what?  This isn’t the 1st time it had happened as there were separate charges of ramen movements many years before on separate occasions.    It is just like Burger King trying to make a come back after many years of absence in Hong Kong,  but still not very good at their 2nd attempt as most shops have closed except in Fortress Hill,  the Airport and in the New Territories.   Burger King just doesn’t realize why they are failing big time – their quality is not the real Burger King experience as overseas sigh.   I keep saying someone ought to hire me as a Taste Consultant for QC because I know what I am putting into my mouth with enough cross comparison experiences but I have no channels to tell them lol.  I love Burger King globally but why is it that no one in their group knows they have a core problem with the food and where is the missing flame-grilled taste in HK outlets?    This brand new Japanese imported ramen shop suffers the same fate…



They offer the Original Daifuku Styles and newer Ramen Styles,
the latter a rip off from a famous Competitor in Tokyo -
It even tries to sound similar.  二郎 vs 野郎 for example,  pronunciations almost similar in Chinese and Japanese.    At least Samsung sounds different from Apple within their patent fights. 




Fish Gyokai x Pork Tonkotsu Ramen   魚介 x 豚骨  -  $75
To be honest this wasn’t bad.  
It’s just that the advertised Fish soup or Fish powder taste was nowhere to be found compared to the competitors,  and despite being quite gelatinous and coating the mouth,  it lacked the Porky taste or Vegetables background in the soup too,  I suspect the gelatin comes from chicken feet.     The pork Char Siu looked  very neat actually,  but biting in they were bland but I think it was sous vide from the soft texture.  The best thing was the Bamboo shoots which were proper pieces and not the normal marinated Menma メンマ.   Their egg was decent too but with a rather tiny yolk.     The noodles in the meanwhile were thicker yellower strands that were tasty but slightly limpy.   Actually checking out their original website in Japan  -  ,  I think it’s just that the Hong Kong shop isn’t performing to it’s standards.  Much like Burger King…     ~   6/10





Price:   $85
Food:   ♕♕♕ to ♕♕♕ 1/2

Ease of Access:  4/5   (Beside SOHO Escalator)
Address:  中環閣麟街32-34號美輪樓地下C號舖
Shop C, 32-34 Cochrane Street, Central,  Hong Kong Island
Ph:  2117 4123

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lucques Tavern - (Hong Kong)

  Lucques Tavern.   Not many people surrounding my circle (read: Foodie’s circle)  have yet to hear about this new opening inside Harbour City’s mega complex labyrinth.   I barely caught glimpses of it by following @HarbourCity on Instagram as their burger looked tempting at least on the surface.   Separately their PR contacted me a few months later for a Thanks Giving food tasting.    Replacing the old Dan Ryan’s spot but which the Chef team remains the same,  since this still belongs to the same Dining group,   the new concept is based around So-Cal Cuisine (from Southern California).    It's not the Mexican food and Koreans fusion food either,  but the latest upcoming cleaner natural way of eating.    Pioneering the new organic food movement from California which is currently popular over there and when the food goes straight from farm to table.     



Thanks Giving Menu -  Adult $428,  Kids $208
Will be served on Thursday Thanks Giving.  
4 Courses with a Drink included,  except 10% service.




A Big Wave 'Golden Ale’ from Hawaii -  $58
A quality artisanal beer with obvious pineapple, mango and floral notes for only $58,
and you will see why I said the drinks at Little Bao’s setting are over-priced as this is better beer but charged lower.   Although Little Bao’s food is charged very fair.



Bread Basket with some Olives and Peanuts,  and Butter -
It was alright.  Run of the mill stuff but I liked the nuts idea on the side.





Thanks Giving Course #1 -   Relishes or Crudites as a Starter -
Was surprised things got off to such a healthy start! 
To me this looked neat and it can probably do with some Blue Cheese dip sauce or something.  Even Thousand Island will do.




Thanks Giving Course #2 - Pumpkin Soup
It looked simple but was cooked well.   By that I mean it is not too lumpy or too creamy,  both of which are so ubiquitous in Hong Kong old school Western restaurants.  Not here.   This was legit for once.



Thanks Giving Course #3 -
With 4-5 Slices Roasted Turkey,  Turkey Giblets Gravy,  Turkey Stuffing below,
Side of Candied Sweet Potato, Potato Mash,  French Beans and Walnut,  Cranberry Sauce -
Actually I am so used to Turkey’s being carved up by the table but this cleaner version was appreciated.  The turkey meat was fairly decent and I like their plenty of non-commercial Gravy.  Overall this was a happy package.   As a side note,  my fellow diners think this is too much meat for 1 person’s plate but I think this is a positive thing especially for us carnivores who can eat 800g steaks alone?   I will happily devour it by myself ! 




28Oz US Brandt Family ‘Reserve’ Tomahawk Steak – $788
Medium-Rare,  this natural beef is mostly grain-fed but it had a good natural beef meat taste, rather than from the oil build=up.   I liked it for what it is and it’s affordable here!  The sauteed Garlic Kale on the side was also very flavourful.    Roast potatoes however were a bit oven dried out and not crispy,  I think it could benefit from a thrice cooked method as they were way off the mark.    The steak in the meanwhile,  was different with it’s elegant meat flavour.  





Bone-In Rib Eye Cross Section -
Not very marbled but it was quite flavourful,  but not in a robust way, 
but more in a natural meatiness taste.





A ‘Godiva’ based Chocolate Cocktail with Burnt Cinnamon -
Interesting and if you like chocolaty cocktails,
this Wintery Spiced Cocktail is for you.




Lobster and Crab Mac & Cheese in Spicy Mornay sauce – $208
This was on my list even before I walked-in. I am glad someone ordered it and it also happened to be the staffs' favourite as they like it so much,  they pay for their own dish here!   This had some lobster pieces but surprisingly hidden within the sauce lots of crab meat.  The Canadian Cheddar is a bit filling.  Yummy and unique!!




Thanks Giving Course #4  -  Apple Pie
You can choose their signature Pumpkin Tart which is also quite Thanks Giving like and quite spiced and slightly denser than Dan Ryan days,  but I personally recommend this Crumbly Apple Pie which was also correctly spiced and gooey.    Easily one of the best ones I have eaten locally.





Apple Tart Tatin -  (*Part of Normal Set Dinner Course for $488 for 2 people)
With Natural Honeycomb and Wild Jungle Honey,  also Vanilla Ice cream that I swear was made with Mexican vanilla pods.  I really like this concept and the apple pieces were cooked well,  but the pastry base was a bit too flaky and soft,  the only let down.  Hence I liked Apple Pie above more than this..




Limoncello Cheese Cake – Also part of the $488 Course for 2 people
This was creamy and very cheesy,  quite likable.  I liked the addition of thyme and this thyme taste was also apparent within the cake,  but it can do with more Limoncello tase and then this could become really addictive!   Desserts at Dan Ryan Groups have always been good,  the Tiramisu here before and also at Antico are surprisingly my top selections in town,  even over the Michelin 1-3 star Italian restaurants.   Overall if it performs like this everyday I will be returning as a regular...





Price:   $244 to $428 for Thanks Giving Meal including Drink +10%  (Meal by Invitation)
Food:   ♕♕♕♕  – ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Ease of Access:  4/5
Address:  尖沙咀廣東道17號海港城海運大廈3樓OT315號舖
Tsim Sha Tsui,  Harbour City,  17 Canton Road,  3rd Floor,  Shop no. 315
Ph:  2735 6111

Friday, November 22, 2013

Casa de Tapas - ( Macau )

 Have you been to the Michelin rated Antonio Portuguese restaurant before?   I have and that restaurant recently re-located to a more accessible area in Taipa 氹仔,  in Macau.   Casa de Tapas is owned by the same investors and Spanish food is the focus here.   How convenient that both their Portuguese restaurant and Spanish restaurant are adjacent to each other  -  just like the two countries in real life!! 



Red Sangria -
I drank a lot of sangrias lately.   Some look prettier than others,  but I have to say this one was on the better side.   It had depth and fruit taste,  although it seemed more citrus based and less apples.  


Prawn Tartare with Fried Prawn Heads – $120
This was quite good actually as it had plenty of subtle herbs and olive oil,  also chunkily hand diced which requires a lot more effort.   The fried prawn heads added a 2nd dimension.   ~  7/10




Ajillo Prawns,  Olive Oil Tempered,  Roasted Garlic and Puree with White Wine Jelly and Seaweed & Salted-Fish sand.  $88
Interesting combination of flavours.   I know Red Prawns are much more expensive,  but Casa de Tapas’s Spanish Chef believes in sourcing locally to reduce carbon food print whenever possible.  I love chefs who share this same belief and he certainly makes up for it in recipe.   ~  8/10



Olive Oil stuffed Squid -  $75
Quite fun as more heavily flavoured diced squids wwere placed on top of the squid-calamari  itself.   I really liked this dish for it’s taste and it was probably my favourite during the lunch.   ~  9/10




Pincho Moruno Lamb skewers -  $85
Came with some crunchy curled potatoes and onion confit.  To me I think the lamb was cooked at too low a temperature to have a charred crust and hence more flavour.  Although this was subtly cumin spiced and herbed.   ~  6/10




Cold Gazpacho Soup with raw Tomato,  Onion, Pepper and Cucumber -  $65
This looked so pretty and even came with different flavoured jellies on the side and a crispy bread stick.   The middle of the cold soup deviates a bit from tradition,  which is usually served with chunkier raw ingredients.   Interesting re-interpretation. ~  8/10




Light Zucchini and Parsley Cream,  Prawns,  Salmon Calviar and Mint Air -  $80
Another winner and so Spanish molecular almost.   I really enjoyed the rich zucchini and parsley cream base…   Presentation wise it’s not quite 22 Ships standards but I liked the taste   ~  8/10 




Breads with Olive Oil -
Actually these were really crisp outside but soft in the middle,  I really liked them and it’s so unique,  it reminds me of the texture of Macau’s 豬仔包!  And the EVOO has more herbs added in,  a nice touch.




Spanish Jamon,  Poached Egg and Potato Strings,  with a mix of Vegetables -  $155
The Jamon hams were slightly heated up first to give the fatty bits a translucent look,  appreciated and I have seen it at a few places in Spain but Anada in Melbourne also does similar:  Anada.   On Hong Kong side a small shop in Tai Hang also does it.   What’s not to love about a soft poached egg thrown into the mix?    ~  9/10




Cochinillo Suckling Pig with Sauteed then Crusted Apples -  $238
It has a crispy enough skin but not fragrant in your face enough but portion wise acceptable for the price point,   but can be even better and it didn’t have much meat.   But unlike some other competitors,  at least it came with some thickened Pork jus which I don’t understand why half the shops serve a totally dry version in Hong Kong or Macau…  That pork jus is where half of the essence went into     ~  7/10




Seafood Marisco Paella – $358 for 2 people
Have tried quite a few local paellas lately,  and I will give here credit for having lots of seafood.   Blighted by the supposedly dried soccarat layer being too wet however,  and despite the abundance of seafood presence,  it was missing some seafood essence taste compared to those I ate in Spain or say Fadango in HK,  or even Boqueria.   Could do with more saffron too.    ~  6.5/10      




Eye Ball Dessert -
This was during Halloween period and with the Bony biscuits,   it was quite creative and festive.  Kudos to the Spanish head chef for thinking this up !!   It actually tasted quite nice with a berries sauce.. 





Another Halloween Dessert -
They looked like the X-Wing fighters out of Star Wars. 
Mostly chocolaty and with sugar crystals.




Spanish Cheese Cold Parfait,  Liquor Almond Crackers and Honey – $75
A signature dessert here. 
Balanced and cold,  I think everyone enjoyed this although I couldn’t get more than a few drops of leftovers to try and judge properly… 


Cooking Demo:  Razor Clams dish which I had a hand at Chopping up the Veggies -
The razor clams are bought from local Macanese fish markets daily during the morning.   Why import in Spanish or Scottish Razor Clams,  when they are so fresh here too and reduces carbon footprint and probably tastes better?     This is one of the spirits of Spanish cuisine indeed.  Eat local. 


Spanish Laughing Gor  -
I like Laughing 哥 ’s approach to treating food and it is entertaining all the way.  
The pricing policy is decent,  and within the business constraints and margins he has to work within,   I think he had more potential than he can show here.   With his daring culinary techniques and exploratory recipes,  I think he has hidden potential to be one of the more exciting chefs in Macau and is almost rebellious.   Totally up my alley.. 


Casa de Tapas -
It was quite a journey and we saw more ups than downs for sure.
Compared to the newer Spanish openings in Hong Kong,  I actually think their Laughing Gor lookalike Spanish Chef has passion and his own concepts,  also what I call a 鬼才 chef in Cantonese.  Hopefully he is given the environment to thrive and shine at the next culinary level but right now this place is niche and very likeable..   



Price:   (Meal was hosted to us and try out Casa de Tapas in Macau)
Food:   ♕♕♕♕  – ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Ease of Access:  3/5
Address:  氹仔舊城區木鐸街9號
9 Rua dos Clerigos, Taipa, Macau
Ph:  +853 2857 6626


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