Tuesday, August 29, 2017

11 Westside [Hong Kong] - NEWS: LA's Taco King Esdras Ochoa opens Mexican in Kennedy Town, Hong Kong

  Chef Esdras Ochoa of the highly regarded Salazar and Mexicali Taco from Los Angeles,  was heard a couple of months ago to be opening up a Mexican joint in Hong Kong,  and naturally this got us all excited since this is long overdue as a missing piece of the jigsaw in our City...   11 Westside is due to open soon during early to mid September in Kennedy Town,  and luckily for me,  some visitors also flying in from LA to visit our city, as well as helping here to do some promotional work and photo shooting enlisted me to join. So I caught a quick preview of what is to follow here and what we could expect from future visits to this highly anticipated opening!

11 Westside,  on the 1st Floor of Kennedy Town Building in Hong Kong -
One of the most highly anticipated Mexican openings from L.A. in 2017,  I am not usually a foodie who tries to cover new openings,  since you have to be fair and give them leeway and time to develop as a proper kitchen team,  another reason simply because as of late I found too many of them priced out of reality's range compared to overseas restaurants but the food can still be ho hum...  yet for this special occasion I did carried for once an elevated interest to tag along with my connected friends,  since I always yearned for the day Hong Kong finally has access to a very decent Mexican joint of our own.   

Paloma Cocktail -
with Tequila, Grapefruit Juice, garnished with Lime and Salt. 
Friend's drink and it looks solid than overly fanciful.  A tick in my book. 

Ceviche of Prawns and Red Snapper cooked in Citrus -
Served with Avocado, Cucumber, Tomato, Olive Oil, Cilantro, and Chips.  When this arrived it looked simple,  but what distinguishes it already from other Mexican places in town lies beneath the surface,  as the treatment of the prawn chunks is almost more Asian technique inspired...  they are chopped as larger blocks and with cut slits to absorb in a well balanced citrusy marinade.  It's not as tangy sharp or citrus 'cooked' as many Latin American or Caribbean ceviches - retaining more raw prawn & fish texture and oceanic taste.

This Prawn and Red Snapper Ceviche is more on the raw side ..
For a City full of Sashimi lovers,  this approach could fare better than an overly cured acidic version

Tommy's Margarita -
With Tequila, Agave and Lime.  Ok this was a well balanced Margarita,  I was happy to begin on this cocktail for the preview night.  It's not zealously pretentious, despite being served slightly more bold yellow than most and in a shorter Tumbler or Old Fashioned glass. 

Pork & Beef Tacos -
Al Pastor Pork with Achiote & Pineapple,  a Central Mexican taco recipe based on Lebanese Shawarma spit roast and kebabs. Well cooked with bitey texture and flavoring,  there is no mistaken identity that this was going to be anything less than authentic Mexican spirit in it's seasoning.   Followed by a Taco of Carne Asada of grilled Prime USDA beef,  served finely chopped in this recipe instead of bladed like the usual steak version,  again it smelled and tasted proper Mexican.  No cloying sweetness or jarring store bought powder pungency,  the meat remain freshly moist from grilled to order service.  All were topped with Salsa Molcajete, Guacamole, Cilantro and Onions served on hand rolled Corn tortillas...

The Story:  Before "11 Westside" arrived...
I read somewhere Chef Esdras might re-invent part of the menu to be more toned down localized, asianized,  to suit locals taste buds.  I felt a chill crawling down my spine from reading that sentence,  because it was precisely what we didn't need anymore of in town - anything 'Confusionized' for customers.  We needed real,  regional Mexican food or at least West Coast style recipes...  Granted a Korean Galbi or a Korrito here and there is still something belonging to West Coast but at least traceable back in history and to its immigrants influence.  But as a foodie, and not necessarily a purist at that and I think I might also represent some of us in town,  there is no need to always create new food to suit locals, especially when we don't even have the original.  HK is one of the biggest International Dining Cities,  and we should be able to absorb in anything scarcer, traditional authentic even if it is an acquired taste to some!  By all means do adapt and change it later on for the larger crowd if that ultimately makes more business sense,  but there's no need to over react at the beginning. 

Echo Park Sweet Corn -
Baby sweet corn poached in Euro butter,  house Mayonessa,  Queso Anejo from Oaxaca, Cilantro, Lime and Tajin.  The recipe sounded like a typical grilled elote,  but using baby corns instead.  Whilst I really loved the smoky corns and the sauce coating,  my small worry is that some visitors to here could potentially view baby corns as a cheaper alternative to proper corn cobs.  At the end of the day it will depend on the selling price point,  which is yet to be finalized,  since this is part of the preview opening tasting menu for $600.

Hermosa Fish -
Red Snapper filet with Ancho Chile Aioli, Radish, Zesty Greens, Charred Lemon and served with Vegetables, Chilies and flour tortillas.  Wow this was gorgeous!!  The chili,  the marinade,  the seasoning were something you hardly experience in Hong Kong,  here you could smell the exotic flaky filet straight away with well penetrated flavors!   So far every dish that was coming out of the kitchen lived up to the promise and more,  and as an added bonus,  they were all cooked properly.  On the odd occasion another shop might finally nail the marination recipe right,  they might still fall short on the rough execution.  Not here,  despite being a newly trained kitchen which isn't even open yet!

Billiard Table room at the back -
I didn't had the opportunity to ask too many questions as we were eating within a squeezed time frame, before hurrying off to a plane,  but apparently there is a play area here, two separate bars,  and also outdoor and indoor dining spaces.  Will have to find out more next time when they finally open their doors to the public..

11 Westside is going to be Hot,  Literally.. 
We hear often far too many stories about promising New Openings,  and then when they finally open,  people fantasize upon the hype and rush in then walk out with their credit card limit 4 figures closer into the red, before they could even re-analyse the meal.  Quite often with hindsight, some meals could turn out as another "Are you even Serious, That was it..?" sort of experience.  And if imported under a chain restaurant group's umbrella,  sometimes we receive a dud or a compromised version of the real thing!  The hype sometimes subsides after a few months and in the height of things, you really wanted to tell your friends or speak out publicly that you actually thought the food was just mediocre anyway,  or when a venue finds another excuse to apportion blame on the high HK rental (then why opened it in the first place?),  therefore prices everything out of logical range for normal eaters to come back regularly and hence the business drops, especially once everyone has already posted that latest trendy dish pic on Instagram 3 months ago.   What we ate at 11 Westside was surprisingly flawless already despite being weeks before it's scheduled full fledged opening,  and we can't wait to return back.  If only we could secure a table when the phone finally welcomes public bookings!   Make a reservation soon people and remember to invite me to come along too..

Price:  TBA.  Above were some Individual Dishes from a Fixed Pre-Opening $600 Tasting Menu.  We had to leave before our Meal finished to catch a flight, unfortunately.
Food: ♕♕♕♕ 1/2 to ♕♕♕♕♕  (Pre-Opening)

Address:  1/F The Hudson, 11 Davis St, Kennedy Town

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Man Ho Chinese Restaurant 萬豪中菜廳 [Hong Kong] - Ganbas Fungus & Yunnan Mushrooms Feast Season

  JW Marriott Hotel in Admiralty and it's Signature Man Ho Chinese Restaurant,  is headed by talented Chef Jayson Tang,  and since this is the season of Yunnan mushrooms around Summer to Autumn,  we received a quick email from Marriott Hotel to see if we were interested in covering the new dishes based on Yunnan mushrooms, and in particular one rarer variety called Ganbas Fungus - which is currently fetching prices in China in the vicinity of over RMB 1,000 a Tael,  the most expensive in China and even more expensive than some French and Italian Black Truffles. 

Entrance to Man Ho Restaurant -
After Chef Jayson's arrival, nowadays has grown very popular with the Press and Regular customers, as well as Overseas including Japanese Customers.  In fact as we dined here tonight, Chef Tang was about to finish off his duties then fly straight to Japan's Nagoya Marriott hotel to cook up some of his Signature dishes from Hong Kong. 

Crunchy Wood Ear Fungus as Appetizers -

Yunnan Pork Char Siu 雲南豬鬃肉 "貴妃叉燒" - $238 for Full Portion
Signature Man Ho Seafood & Porcini Mushroom Dumpling 萬豪牛肝菌海鮮餃 $58/位
The pork used here is a specialty round cut nearer the collar and back,  which is uniformly round and sourced from native Yunnan pigs,  and currently Jayson and Man Ho Restaurant have exclusive rights to this Pig's muscle cut.  It is meant to be more crunchier with a bite,  and carrying a natural pork taste.  The beautiful Porcini Seafood dumpling in Gold fish shape is also altered to be a seasonal dim sum. 

金池玉枕 配 陳村粉
Sautéed Crab Claw & Meat in a Crustacean & Egg Yolk Sauce, 
Sakura Ebi,  Crustacean Oil & Hand Made Rice Noodles -
This was full of crustacean flavors,  and the Crab Claw & Meat were said to be flash fried then steamed within the wok,  before adding the finishing touches.  The addition of hand made artisanal rice noodles,  soaked up the crustacean essence. I also noticed the addition of crustacean oil, which is usually more used with Western Cuisines,  but lately around 2-3 Chinese restaurants adopt a similar approach to add aroma.

陳村粉 -
These hand made then dried rice noodles,  usually steamed with Pork Ribs,  are lately popularly used with Crab dishes to soak up the flavors...

Double Boiled Fish Maw Soup with Morel Mushrooms & Black Chicken -
A traditional black chicken soup is glamoured up with thick fish maws,  and Yunnan Morel Mushrooms,  which are prized in both Yunnan and Cantonese cuisine,  and not just within French or say Spanish dishes.

Miyazaki Pork Roll with stuffed Foie Gras, Crispy Pork Rind & Raspberry sauce
宮崎豬肉卷配鵝肝紅桑子汁 -
Originally they use Kagoshima pork but this time we got a taste of Miyazaki Pork instead,  and it had the typical Kyushu pork sweetness from the breeding program and DNA.  This dish was quite smart with the raspberries sourness cutting back on the greasier foie gras and pork belly,  with textures enhanced by fried pork rinds.  And pretty presentation too!

蓮潛月影 -
Rare Yunnan 乾巴菌 Ganbas Fungus is stuffed into Wintermelon with Lily Bulbs, Quinoa and Shiitake. Served with a Sauce made of Shaved Ganbas & Mixed Yunnan Mushrooms. The Ganbas is the Yunnan equivalent of Black Truffles in Italy-France and currently fetching rocketing prices, with its encapsulating earthy fragrance which made this one of the most memorable dishes I ate in my life! Must try when in Season now, at HKD $388.   The crispy cracker is made from fried Bamboo Pith.

Wild Yunnan Mushrooms Braised Rice 野生珍菌鍋燒飯 - HKD $288
This in line with the Mushrooms theme,  is white rice cooked in a pot with various diced mushrooms.  Drizzled on top with a bit of soy sauce.

紫薯香酥雲呢拿脆奶 Fried Purple Sweet Potato with Vanilla Milk & Crushed Pistachio,
Salted Caramel Sauce,
with Grapefruit & Mango Sago Soup 楊枝甘露 -
The Chinese desserts are given some detailed twists and the Fried Purple Sweet Potato was fried using a technique which is popular with taro dishes,  with pointy edges.  Very lovely dessert and surprisingly paired with a salted caramel sauce.   This ended a meal which had a few dishes which were the best I have ever had in my life,  in particular this dessert dish, the rare Ganbas Fungus dish above,  and also the Crab Claw and Meat in a bisque which was complimented with the rice noodles!  An amazing job by Chef Jayson Tang and the team,  and we were already discussing about other dishes which hopefully we get to try again soon!

Price: Approx HKD $800 to $900 + 10% Per Person  (Seasonal Mushroom Dinner organized by JW Marriott Hotel)
Food: ♕♕♕♕ 1/2 to ♕♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Address: 3/F, JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty
Ph: +852 28108366

Monday, August 21, 2017

Gyukaku 牛角 [Hong Kong] - Affordable BBQ Yakiniku at Japanese Chain, Membership Card entitles Holders Free BYO Corkage

  Gyukaku 牛角 is one of the most famous budget Japanese-Korean BBQ houses in Japan,  and has since expanded to various countries to serve reasonably priced Yakiniku cuisine.  Yakiniku Ya restaurants are classified into many different levels in their homeland,  much like the concept of Sushi houses - they can range from lower family oriented prices, to ultra high end restaurants serving rarer, prized beef carcasses and butcher's cuts paired with top wines and sakes.  Reviews have been a mixed bag with Gyukaku in Hong Kong,  but since this is one of the to-go places for me on a regular basis,  here's a write up about our experiences here in Summary.  After applying for the HKD $200 Annual Membership Fee,  you can receive a 10% Off at their various restaurants in HK, and also waive all Corkage Charges from Wines to Sake, Shochu, etc.  There are also a few discount coupons available to be used.

Gyukaku -
Yakiniku house, From Japan.

Whole Squid - HKD $89
This comes with both the body and the tentacles.  I tend to grill them whole and then scissor them up into smaller circular pieces.  Quite reasonably priced as expected..  Note:  After applying for the annual $200 Membership card,  you can receive one of these as a Free Service too

Beef Short Rib Karubi with Salt Shio Tare - $59
They have various gradings of Karubi here, a must order when eating at Yakiniku houses, which itself is a concept borrowed from Korean BBQ eating Galbi,  the name for beef short ribs in Korean.

Yaki Shabu Wagyu Zabuton - 3 Pieces for $118 with Egg Tare Sauce
This is one of the best bargains in town,  and look at the quality and evenness of the wagyu marbling.  The are several ways to cook and serve this,  but usually when it is called Yaki-Shabu,  it means it is both grilled and swiped across the grill at the same time as an action to cook... 

USA SRF Wagyu Oyster Blade - $78 for 2 Pieces
This is the same as the mysterious Misuji that has taken the world by storm recently in upper end Yakiniku houses.  In the World of Yakiniku,  profit margins for every piece of meat is vastly different and dependent on how they are butchered then marketed to customers. In this particular case,  it can be yours to have for a relative bargain because they didn't bother selling it off as the next biggest thing, called "misuji" in brackets. 

Dipped into Egg Tare Sauce -
This is a eating method popular nowadays in Japan,  particularly with the Yaki-Shabu wagyu above.

Beef Filet with Garlic & Butter - $98
This was decently priced but probably also the least likable meat,  partly because it was a bit tougher and leaner.  Yet I liked the idea of being able to grill this whole like a steak myself,  before slicing it open to eat.  My idea of a cheap alternative to going out to a steak house,  which almost costs you a mortgage package in HK.

Mushrooms - $25
These were surprisingly fragrant.

Matcha Ice Cream with Kinako Powder - $25
Gyukaku is actually famous for this or their plain Vanilla and Kinako powder ice cream.  It's always a decent dessert to round off a meaty meal,  often with lots of marinades and garlic.

Discount Deals with $200 Membership Card -
Basically, you receive a card and also register with a Phone App.  The Electronic Coupons can be used at either Gyukaku,  or the related restaurants Mou Mou,  and On Yasai.   The offers range from $50 to $100 discounts off the meal,  or a free Calamari,  Vegetables,  or free plate of Beef Platter when spending over $300.   But best of all,  you can Free Corkage for Wines and Sakes at all their venues,  and a further 10% discount on top of the Coupon discounts.  For me it's quite relevant as a weekly venue to eat out with friends or with the family!

Short Video of my Yakiniku in Action,  at Gyukaku -
Over a few visits

Price:  HKD $170 to $250 + 10% Per Person 
Food:   ♕♕♕ 1/2 to ♕♕♕♕

Address: Shop 112-115, 1/F, Windsor House, 311 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay
Ph: +852 31677138

All Gyukaku HK Addresses:   http://www.gyukaku.com.hk/

Thursday, August 17, 2017

MEXUS [Hong Kong] - Weekend Mexican Unlimited Brunch Starting at just HKD $253.50 Per Person

  MEXUS by ZSHospitality Group used to be Mamasita Cantina, but recently they updated the name to reflect on their slight menu directional change, which now incorporates both authentic Mexican food together with some American dishes.  A fellow friend was helping to organize a Sat or Sunday Brunch session here together with ZSHospitality,  which starts at HKD $338 unlimited per person.  Every 4 Customers booking can receive 1 person for Free,  averaging the cost per person to just HKD $253.50 for All You Can Eat Mexican in the middle of Central.  Free-flow drinks with Sangria, Wines, Beers and some Cocktails start at $168 more. 

Unlimited Saturday & Sunday Brunch -
HKD $253.50 Per Person as Groups of 4 Pax,  or normally HKD $338 per person
Includes unlimited Buffet Table,  Taqueria Tacos and Tortilla with Dips, Ham, etc
- Unlimited Breakfast Station
- 1 Main Course
- Unlimited Desserts, etc.

One of the Brunch Tables has Breakfast, Desserts, and Ham -

Unlimited Prosciutto -
Despite the Mexican & American Theme,  they still serve some prosciutto ham,  which seem to be a prerequisite for a brunch buffet in HK

Plenty of Ceviches and Salads -
There is also a Crab meat toast on the left side

This Side has many Tortillas, Breads,  Charcuterie and Dips, Ceviche, Cheese -
And some seafood items

Starting with some Mexican Chicharrones Crispy Pork Rinds -
Also some Tortillas with Avocado Guacamole,  Pico de Gallo, Prawns, and Chickpea hummous

Unlimited Tacos ordered from the Staff -
There's Baja Fish taco,  Pork Carnitas, and some Mushrooms version

My Favorite would have to be the Pork Carnitas Taco -
By default, they are saucy but not too spicy, slightly sweet.  It is recommended that you put on more Pico de Gallo and Chili sauce on top..

Unlimited Mexican Seafood Paella with Saffron -
1stly I didn't understand reading the menu,  but it turned out despite being listed amongst the Main choices,  this carb dish with plenty of seafood is actually served unlimited,  and it was actually quite oceanic in taste.  It's Latino Spanish in spirit..

Sangria -
This was actually quite potent and spiked,  I only wanted a photo for reference but took 2 sips to try their in house recipe.

Main Course Hanger Steak -
This was my choice as a Main, although by this stage I was pretty KO'ed by the Buffet and Taco's section.  The sauce is quite intense,  but balanced by the green apple slaw.  I think the meat was slightly marinated for this recipe.

Main Course 2 - Slow Cooked Salmon
This was quite huge for a Main fish dish,  and it was silken soft.  Topped with some tortilla strips and calamari,  I preferred this main over the steak above, since it is lighter relative to the rest of the brunch buffet,  which got really filling.

Main Course 3 - Burger with Bacon and Fries
Someone on the table ordered this,  which I did not end up taking a bite.  The fries however were really crunchy and fluffy.  I am not sure that with so many unlimited Mexican tacos and desserts coming before and after,  I could actually fit in the burger myself..

More Baja Fish Tacos -
We couldn't stop ordering these again.  Remember that with Taco's in HK, they usually cost around $45 - $50 each,  and some places serve 5 Tacos for like $300 after Service Charge.  Overseas in the States and elsewhere,  Taco's are meant to be street food around USD 0.80 to a Dollar...   so in this sense,  unlimited Taco's on the weekend is quite attractive

Improvised Taco with Egg and Pork Carnitas -
The breakfast section is unlimited,  so I ordered some Fried Eggs to top my taco's.  The same thing would prob cost you $78 each at other restaurants. Lol...

Mexican Churros with Chocolate -
Fried well and not greasy,  and not overly crunchy on the surface.  These were dusted with Cinnamon and Sugar on the outside,  a bit different from the usual Spanish versions.

There's also the Signature layered Tres Leche "3" Milk Cake -
And I am glad that was the first thing I ate,  before the meal began because nowadays I try to enjoy the pastries and desserts before I get full!   Overall we all thought this was very good Value for Money at $338 or $253 per person if coming as 4 pax.  I mean overall Mexican food in HK costs a bomb,  especially when ordering A La Carte.  It seems wise to come here on the weekend every month or so,  to satisfy that Mexican or even Cal-Mex crave,  with a capped cost with your buddies!

Price:  HKD $253 to $338 + 10% Per Person  (Meal Organized by ZSHospitality)
Food:   ♕♕♕ 1/2 to ♕♕♕♕

Address: 中環擺花街8號5樓及6樓
5/F & 6/F, 8 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central
Ph: +852 28966118


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