Wednesday, December 24, 2008
星期一, 約了朋友兼鄰居b和h兩夫婦到17a一聚. b和h都是愛酒之人, 於是suggest不如每人拿一支酒上來試吧 - 當然沒有人會有什麽異議. kitchen@17a 這晚就變成wine bar@17a了.
雖然佳節將近, 畢竟星期一還是個上班日, 正躊躇該弄些什麽作晚飯配酒, 忽然又想起我最愛的le creuset鍋子, 好, 就做一個簡單的one-pot dinner – Bouillabasse吧! 四個人, 一窩"鬼佬煲仔菜", 加條baguette, 還有cheese platter, 足夠有餘了. 反正"醉翁之意只在酒", 飽肚的僅是陪襯而已.
tasting order 由舊至新, 先來1994年的chateau leoville poyferre. st julien的wine. 2nd growth grand cru classe. typical aged wine 淡淡的棗紅色, subtle but complex, notes of tobacco, not particularly fruity, medium-bodied, and smooth tannin, 不槐為列級酒莊的出品. 出奇的short finish though - 看來已稍稍過了peak, 開得還算合時. 家中的酒櫃最近有"酒"滿之患, 剛收容了支2004隔壁酒莊的 (leoville-barton), 所以就決定把這支開了 - one in, one out嘛!
接着是1999年的le fleur de bouard. lalande-de-pomerol. 未入口已被香濃的bouquet吸引住 – that lasted til our last sip of the bottle. Fruity, very smooth and full of berry flavors. Full-bodied and long finish. classic pomerol.
Bouillabaisse 是一個簡單版本 - 只是星期天在city’super買的三款魚 – monkfish, snapper, halibut 加上jusco 的blue mussels 同 cherrystone clams, 加上garlic, onion, canned tomatoes和clam juice來煮, 把saffron和rouille之類都省了. 不消30分鐘就完成 - 剛好給酒有breathing的機會. Cheese 是cyy主理的, 由淡口的brie到濃味的aged cheddar共有五款, 喜愛的, 我們的unanimous verdict是saint albray cheese - 觀乎我們四個人把一大slice也吃光就知道了. 至於wine, 魚與熊掌, 又不是apple同apple, 其實很難比較, 不過個人較喜歡後者的aroma, intensity和圓滑, 也可能是bouillabasse中的蕃茄味道始終與以merlot為主的pomerol較相襯吧.
意猶未盡, 將b帶來的第二瓶 – chateau la croix du casse 2005也"一飲而盡", 可惜珠玉在前, 這支今晚就肯定給比了下去. Well, potential 絕對是有 (從這支young wine散出的香氣和充足的丹寧口感"看"得出來), 不過真的要有耐性, 現在開了就覺得仍然很closed, 可惜, 可惜! 也好, 知道了, 現在多買兩支放兩三年應該有可觀的回報(至少在味覺上而言)
四個人, 輕易把三瓶酒喝得一滴也不剩, 知音難求, 果然是best wine buddies. 十二月, 己是第四次請朋友回家吃飯, 雖然要花功夫準備和清潔, 不過論自在舒服, 還是覺得家中好, and just for the quality enjoyable time we spent with one another, it's all worth it.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
In commenting on the star rating system Michelin employed, I like how Patricia Wells, herself a world-famous restaurant critic (her column appears regularly on international herald tribune), once put it. She basically put restaurants into 2 categories: petit fours restaurants and non-petit four restaurants. And to quote her, “Petit four restaurants are usually the starred ones, elegant establishments showered with flowers, with crisp linens and waiters in evening jackets; they have plenty of show, but are not always strong on regional culinary character. The non-petit four establishments tend to be small, modest, generally inexpensive restaurants, those little spots most travelers seek out when looking for regional flavor, local color, simpler food. Most often, these are not the places that win the hearts and palates of Michelin's dozen inspectors.” Well said, and there you have it.
Well, my foodie friend has rated his favorite restaurants on his facebook note earlier, and here i am sharing my two cents on some my favorite yet unstarred local gems in town:
(not in this order)
1. 澳洲牛奶公司 Australia Dairy Company
sitting here for 10 minutes, and you experience the typical hong kong culture, with long lines of customers waiting outside, hectic but efficient service, and not so friendly wait staff - especially if you think more than 10 seconds about what to order after you sit down. yet it's said that the scrambled eggs here are the best in the world, and a declaration: i am a proud member of "澳洲牛奶公司appreciation society", a facebook group with more than 8000 members to date.
2. 東寶小廚 Tung Po Kitchen
not necessarily the cleanest place on earth for a meal - it's located inside a wet market building - but this is the best place to experience dai pai dong-style food in town. well i am saying this partly because of its proximity to our home. my favorite includes fried prawns with salty egg yolk (黄金蝦) and fried rice wrapped in lotus leaf (荷葉飯).
3. 彭慶記 Pang's Kitchen
serving traditional cantonese fare often with a creative twist (for example, sweet and sour pork ribs with strawberries 士多啤梨生炒骨) this is the perfect place to go (and the one we frequented) when we want a simple family-style dinner for a comfortable evening out with friends.
4. 西貢全記海鮮 Chuen Kee Restaurant
picking the seafood live from the fish tank, and have the restaurant cooked in any way you specify - that's how a typical seafood restaurant in hongkong works. and chuen kee is perhaps the most reasonably-priced and consistant one in sai kung, a traditional fishing village famous for well what else, seafood.
5. 香港大學校友會 Hong Kong University Alumni Association
run by a former chef at luk yu restaurant, this place serves no-nonsense old-style cantonese cuisine in the heart of town. must-try dishes included almond and pork soup (杏汁豬肺湯), fried pigeon and ham (雲腿鴿片) and baked salted chicken (鹽焗雞). be sure to find a HKU alumni to bring you in as this place's supposed to be for members only.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
按: 碰巧在joseph phelps試過他們引而為傲的insignia之後再到french laundry用膳正是我們上次到napa的部份itinerary. 不知不覺, 已經是八個多月前的事了. 現在回想起, 又真的有點懷念那鋪滿魚子醬的小蠔 oyster and pearl...
離開Joseph Phelps，開了不到15分鐘車，他們到達French Laundry；想不到，這家曾被許多雜誌選為世界首席食肆的餐廳，祇是一間兩層高的農舍。屋前有個小庭院，經過時可以看到穿了白衣的廚師們在緊張的工作。
跟着他們又吃了好幾道菜——這是一個Tasting menu，有九道菜之多——龍蝦在牛油中浸熟，火候掌握好，很是嫩滑，還拌上紅菜頭和綠色大蒜熬的汁，賣相考究得像幅畫；來自賓夕凡尼亞的羊肉祇是輕輕烙一下表皮，紅潤的肉嫩得像魚肉；也許前面幾道菜實在太精緻美味了，到了最後的煎魚（John Dory）和焗羊肉反而變得平淡了。也許，他們都思念佐藤太太，有些不知其味了。
當她收起母親的照片，準備放進手袋，鄰座一對美國夫婦站起來，走向慧美：「I guess she is your mother, sorry for the old lady.」男的說，微微的鞠了下躬。
Friday, December 5, 2008
i haven't tried it myself but i heard very good rave about it - it's opened by 2 friends of ours whom we admire much.
the original article appears in dealmaker magazine: december/january 09
Life After Dealmaking : Sweet Deal
How two former deal pros traded their Blackberries for strawberries
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many Americans entered a mode of professional reassessment, ultimately deciding to follow their true passion. Two young investment bankers decided theirs was ice cream.
"It's the food you have on a bad day, but also the food you have on a great day," says Jan Wichayanuparp, 35, who founded Sweet Republic, an "artisan ice-cream parlor" in Scottsdale, Arizona, along with partner and recipe master Helen Yung, 31. Both women clearly remember the day of the attacks seven years ago, when they worked in Manhattan’s Financial District. Afterward, finance no longer held the same allure for the friends.
Yung, having spent two years at Citigroup’s investment-banking unit as an associate, left for Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Sydney, Australia. Wichayanuparp, a capital-markets banker specializing in Asia-Pacific deals at Citigroup, didn't leave Wall Street until 2005, but she and Yung had been planning their business for some time. "After I made VP, I thought, 'What else do I want to do?' "Wichayanuparp recalls. "It took years of dreaming and Helen's recipe planning to put it into place."
This past Memorial Day weekend, the partners opened their shop in Scottsdale, where Wichayanuparp has family. Sweet Republic combines a love of food with an appreciation for tradition. "We hand-craft everything in small batches from scratch right here in the store," Yung says. "The fruit we use ripens on our counters. We do it the old-fashioned way."
But also in a new way: While classics like Rocky Road and strawberry dot the menu, Sweet Republic expands the ice-cream experience with flavors such as Cheese Course Duo (Roquefort blue cheese and Medjool dates); I Love Bacon (caramelized smoked bacon); and the signature Salted Butter Caramel (caramel ribbons in vanilla with a dash of salt). "I Love Bacon really blows people's minds," Wichayanuparp says.
Scottsdale may be a long way from the frenzy of Wall Street, but in making their career switch, Yung and Wichayanuparp exploited their business roots. "Phoenix is down the road and is one of the fastest-growing cities in America," Yung says. "We want to capture that opportunity. You can't take finance out of us." Nor can you take away that fateful day seven years ago: Every September 11, as a thank-you for their work, first responders will get a free scoop.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
把sure bet 押在robuchon a galera 果然冇錯, 三星實在眾望所歸. 不過gaddi’s竟然名落孫山, 真有點跌了眼鏡, 或者上個月公佈的miele guide asia top 20 gaddi’s也榜上無名已經是個bad omen吧.
龍景軒只因未親自一嘗故此恕不能盲目附和 (so is bo innovation), 所以不要問我是否fair. 反而開心利苑拿了兩粒一星 (話晒都係兒時周日飲茶嘅飯堂, 有感情吖嘛!), 等我遲D去食番碟脆蔴花贈吓興先.
另外, 我猜中的, 仲有 caprice (2-stars), 富臨, 鏞記和 petrus (1-star), 都不是冷門的選擇, 猜中也不是什麼眼光獨到 . l’atelier de joel robuchon 同pierre 就估錯左位置. amber 其實不是太差只是not my cup of tea 啫, 要不然也不會當年一開張就趕住去試, 不過個人始終認為pierre會略勝一籌.
joel robuchon今次多拿了5粒星 (with total now at 22?)(後記: 24至真, 包括3間在不同國家的三星restaurant - vegas, tokyo and macau), gordon ramsay該是時候考慮在香港開分店了吧, 反正ritz carlton也應快開張了, 應該趕得切下年本michelin guide. 芸芸私房菜中選了桃花源, 前幾天我還在想今年"三蛇肥"的季節不知能不能約夠人去食一頓蛇羹, 看來by now到過年都該訂不到位置了. 唉!
唐閣, 明閣, 香宮, 夏宮, 胡同, 還有美心旗下的兩間中菜…唉, 看來報紙專欄呀, 雜誌食評呀, 有排講!
一天post了兩個blog, 因為實在不吐不快, 不過先旨聲明, "靚太"嗰篇其實兩日前已經寫好, 唔好話我成日番工偷懶!
by the way, full list 在這裡, courtesy of bloomberg:
Restaurants awarded three stars are:
Lung King Heen
Robuchon a Galera
Restaurants awarded two stars are:
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Restaurants awarded one star are:
Fook Lam Moon
Lei Garden (IFC)
Lei Garden (Tsim Sha Tsui)
The Golden Leaf
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
今年, 不如意的事當然也有不少, 不過確實有更多的事更值得去記起, 去懷緬, 去珍惜, 去慶祝. 今天正是這忘記所有不快, 為並所有的事情, 所有的經歷謝恩的時候. after all the turbulences and things we are experiencing this year, the fact that we are still here in good shape - this alone is already one thing worth giving thanks and celebrating for.
“要常常喜樂；不住的禱告；凡是謝恩” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)… 無論有沒有信仰, 對任何人, 任何事情, 也該如此.
Friday, November 7, 2008
with the michelin guide 2009 for hong kong and macau coming out in less than a month, let me on the record have my own share of prediction to what i think will be (and not be) on the list (with my random thoughts):
gaddi’s – no brainer. that would definitely make david goodridge one of the youngest chefs at a michelin 3-star restaurant.
robuchon a galera (macau) – quoting this blog, “if… robuchon a galera aren’t top ranked (in michelin guide), i’ll eat my hat.”. well, i will eat with him.
caprice – people think they are of 3-star caliber, but i am still not convinced they will be rated above le cinq, their “sister restaurant” at paris’ hotel george v.
m at the fringe – a toss between a one or a two – but i am a bit biased here.
pierre – last time we tried it’s awesome, so i won’t be surprised if they do better than getting 2 stars. i put it here because i think hong kong will only get two 3-star restaurants at most.
yan toh heen – putting myself in those judges’ shoes, i think they would pick this as the best chinese restaurant in town, whether i necessarily agree or not.
yung kee – just the fame of the restaurant itself deserve that one star. and they ought to put some more chinese restaurants in the list to please us, right?
lei garden - right move in opening one in ifc for raising its profile's sake
don alfonso 1890 (macau)
l’atelier de joël robuchon
one harbor road
nobu – even its hugely popular new york branch lost its star a couple years ago, i don’t see why they can have it over here.
amber – hmm… richard ekkebus never impresses me much.
felix - world's best restaurant? well coolest, maybe... but best? NO!
those h restaurants in central - harlan who?
fook lam moon – the omission of this restaurant will certainly have the local critics crying foul, but i just don’t think they are good enough.
but "most of the restaurants i picked are in hotels!", you may ask. but don't think that will count for or against the ratings that much. most of the restaurants in the vegas guide are hotel restaurants anyway.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
"waiting for godot" (等待果陀) 是samuel beckett 最著名的作品, 被譽為是二十世紀英語文學最重要的劇作, 最近就在香港由一個愛爾蘭的劇團上演了一遍. 究竟"果陀"代表些什麼? 作品的要旨究竟是"果陀", 還是"等待"? 這是無數文學評論家, 哲學家討論不休的問題... 但看罷該劇, 每人心中自當有自己的答案.
一位時事評論員就曾以這故事來比喻香港的民主路 - 打從80年代起, "他們" 就告訴我們, 只要等到2007年,我們就能看到真正的民主和普選, 結果我們望穿秋水, 等到了2007年, "他們" 又回來跟我們說: "普選" 它今年不來了, 不過十年之後, 它一定會來的! 這些情節, 似曾相識, 也活生生的充滿着諷刺. 一次比一次的言之鑿鑿, 一次又一次的令人失望.
2008年11月4日–我們都見證了一個歷史性的時刻. 由 "i have a dream" 到 "yes we can", 走的路是多麼的遙遠, 是一步一步辛苦走出來的, but certainly worth the journey. 在美國獨立宣言中提到, "we hold these truth to be self-evident, that all men are created equal", 這二百多年前聲稱是不證自明的真理, 在今天, 才真正的獲得了實現.
正如奧巴馬的勝利演說中提到, "if there is anyone out there who still doubts that america is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."
今天的確讓美國人重新相信美國夢; 可悲的, 是相比之下, 今天我們仍要活在那"十年之後, 它一定會來" 的南柯一夢裡. 而也許更可悲的是, 至少在劇中那兩個流浪漢也可以空談着放棄 (雖然最終他們也是動也沒動), 但是我們連這空談的option也沒有, 只可以一次又一次的在等, 一次又一次的落空...
Thursday, September 25, 2008
真正和平的, 洒脱的分手, 我想, 我做到了.
從前没有勇氣離開, 只為了無聊的執着, 在意於要把應做的事做好, 在意於要等把撒的種收成; 也在意於沒有了救生圈下在海中浮游可能有的無助感… 不過, “it takes two to tango”, 每件事往往並不是如自己心中所想的稱心如意, 不幸地, 時間地點人物也從不在自己的掌握之中, 不過, 既然覺得“過得自己, 過得人”, 也没有什麼可說了. 畢竟這也是一次有用的體驗, 也為我打開了很多扇的門, 很多扇的窗. 得, 始終都大過失, 同時, 原來在釋放了自己的同時方知道, 在不知不覺間, 海中心的我, 已經看到了前岸的方向.
"忘掉種過的花, 重新的出發… 别怕, 請放下手裡那鎖匙, 好嗎?"
鎖匙, 我早己放下了. 是時候, 重新的出發吧!
Monday, September 15, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
with that being said, you can imagine i've been eagerly waiting for the opening of w hotel in hongkong since the plan's announced a few years ago. and when it's finally "soft" opened for business on the day of olympic opening ceremony, i can't wait to make a reservation for lunch at their restaurant the following weekend, just to check out what the place's like.
as we walked in, one quick observation: while w san francisco and w los angeles westwood (definitely two of my favorites) more resembled a dance club than a hotel, w hong kong looks more like a residence. simple is definitely the new word for hip. we were quickly led to their restaurant which is on the second floor and soon we were glad that we actually made reservation in advance as we saw a few walk-in customers being turned away (it's fully-booked for lunch and dinner, they were told)
kitchen, as their "casual" restaurant was named, actually consisted of two parts - near the entrance is the cooking area, with vast space for the open kitchen and a long, "communal" high-table, designed for lone diners to share or to host a dinner event. i am sure it's a fun place to enjoy a simple meal while interacting with fellow travellers or the chefs. after going through the cooking area there comes the dining area - with huge windows facing the typhoon shelter and pier. not spectacular, but on a nice day you do get a comfortable view of blue sky and harbor.
well, nothing surprising on the menu - mostly regular dishes you would find in a hotel cafe with some fusion touches here and there. i ordered the miso-chicken sandwich while cyy ordered an all-day breakfast with eggs, sirloin steak and sausages (you can never go wrong with that, i am sure). and while we certain gave credits for the presentation of the food, i would rate their food as average - on par with say, cafe deco, i suppose. service's attentive but certainly has rooms for improvement as it's apparent most wait-staff are new and need further training.
despite some glitches here and there, which i am going to give them benefits of doubts since it's only their first week of business and i am certain being biased, i probably will come back later. i look forward to future occasions that i can enjoy a few sips and a simple meal there, either in the middle of a shopping spree at the mall next door, before or after movies, or just an evening of chilling with friends.
p.s. fyi, whatever/whenever is also how they call their concierge service.
when? august 17 2008
where? w hotel hong kong, elements, kowloon
occasion? checking out a new hotel (and trying out its restaurant)
menu highlights? miso chicken sandwich with ginger vinaigrette
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
so this year, i think i am just going to sit back and see how things unfold. if they ended up at the place where they were expected, great. but if not, hope they will put up a good fight and after all, they are still the team i support.
come on you spurs! let's play ball!
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
amazingly a book so small left you with so many things to ponder:
"you just have to decide whether you want to be the tigger or eeyore (in life)"
"experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted"
"you cannnot change the cards you are dealt. just how you play your hand."
"be patient with others. wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you."
"it’s not about how to achieve your dreams. it’s about how to lead your life. if you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. the dreams will come to you."
i am just going to leave you with these thoughts...
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
even though for many of us it's still hard to come to terms with this, but we all know she's now in a much better place, without suffering, without pain. at least that's the comfort and peace and hope that we can hang on to. r.i.p., my friend, and you will always be in our fond memories...
Monday, May 26, 2008
its decor is nice - not in any common, rustic style like many local vietnamese restaurants around town but reminds me more of a french bistro - and the plates and bowls bearing the restaurant's name and logo certainly add a touch of class.
hmm, but for the more important part - food, the verdict's quite mixed. i personally like the lotus root salad with shrimp and baked black cod, but the beef brisket curry and pho are rather dissappointing. both the soup base and the curry lack flavor. we were quite surprised that the pho wasn't served with the usual bowl of condiments, nor fish and hoisin sauces like most southern pho places do (forget what i said if you can't tell the difference between northern and southern pho) oh well, since i have never been to vietnam... perhaps that's how pho in nha trang is served... what do i know anyway, but still, i suppose i can tell a good pho from a not-so-good one. so now you know.
nha trang is definitely not vietnamese cuisine at its finest, but i suppose it's a decent place just to chill, catch up with friends or for one of those days you wanna have a simple dinner with your loved one without spending a fortune. but then, there are dozens of places around hongkong that you can do the same.
when? may 23 2008
where? nha trang, 2/f wu chung house, 213 queen's road east, wanchai
occasion? nothing special
menu highlights? lotus root salad with shrimp
drinks? saigon beer
Friday, May 2, 2008
apparently all these are the results of a new scheme that mcdonald's been rolling out in its local restaurants around hong kong - the idea's simple: everything's no longer fast - but "made to order". in the past your burgers' cooked and assembled in advance and being tossed into the "station" under the heat lamp; when you ordered, the cashier took what you ordered and handed them right to the tray in front of you. probably took 30 seconds for each items that you ordered to be delivered, unless you have a special request or what you want just happens to be out (which is rare).
but under the new system, the station where dozens of prepared burgers (and nuggets) used to sit is gone. instead each order (from different cashier counters) is recorded into a new, centralised computer system and will be prepared in the order it was received. after the food's prepared, it will be put on a tray and delivered to you right away, so it's literally right off the oven as you receive it. sounds all good right? at least that's what people thought at first. well, according to the case study prepared by dartmouth's tuck school of business, the scheme can 1) allow customized order; 2) improve service response time; 3) improve food quality.
obvious the study was done BEFORE mcdonald's actually implemented it. okay, here's what happened a few years ago. "made for you", as the scheme was named, was first introduced in 1998 to mcdonald's u.s. franchises. the result? quick and brutal - "mcdonald's screwed up" quoted a franchisee of four stores in a chicago tribute article in 2001. "you just can't make the product fast enough at rush hour (using the new system)", said another owner/operator. you can read the news article here.
under this new system - at least that's how they do it in hong kong - customers have to wait in 2 lines - one before they ordered (the right line), and one AFTER (the left line). what used to be a simple 2-minute process from the moment you ordered to getting the food has become a 5-minute hiatus - that's already the best case scenario we have experienced on an average sunday at an outlet in tst. and i don't see any improvement in food quality either. when does eating at mcdonald's become so complicated? sigh.
an article in the motley fool magazine described this as "an expensive disaster" - the scheme requires a retrofitting of the kitchen in each restaurant, costing them us$25000 each, or $400 million all together. the result was also obvious financially - stock's down 42% in 2001 alone, and ceo jack greenberg, who championed the "made for you" initiative, was forced to retire 3 years earlier than planned, in 2002, partly because of the failures of the scheme.
now, a few years later, they finally figured a way to get rid of this failed system - that is to introduce it to its overseas markets. "if it ain't work here, it must work somewhere!" - that's their motto, i suppose. somehow those people high up in the mcdonald's management hierachy think the system's not working in slower-paced u.s. can work in faster-face metropolitan like hong kong, where people treat time more preciously and customer turnover's at least twice as high? what were they thinking? gee! must be those grease in those big-macs clotting up their brain and hindering their ability to think properly. perhaps they have the impression that hongkong people may think since there's a long line, there must be something worth waiting for!
forget carrefour... mcdonald's the one that we should boycott!
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
the french laundry and chez panisse, two restaurants we visited recently, is no 5 and 37 respectively. locally, 3 restaurants are in the top 100 - pierre gagnaire is no 88, robuchon a galera (in macau) is no 98 and zuma, no 99. (i know what you are going to say, but please don't shoot the messenger!)
according to the organizer, the list's compiled by a group of prominent food writers, critics and restauraneurs from 23 different regions/countries. but apparently none of them have been to japan before. anyway, you can read the full list on their website if you are interested.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
the dinner served as the finale to our u.s. vacation. prior to our final stop at the capital city we have been on the whirlwind tour “across america” which brought us to san francisco, napa valley and baltimore, and as you have read in my prior blog entries, our previous experiences all within the span of one week have set the bar extremely high for chef/proprietor patrick o’connell to beat. another case of miscarriage of justice, unfortunately.
the inn at little washington, contrary to what the name may have suggested, is not anywhere close to washington dc. in fact it’s some 60 miles away, in the virginia town of washington, along the windy roads which led down to the scenic shenandoah valley in the south. it’s already my second visit here while for cyy, that’s her first.
our reservation’s at 6:15pm so we basically have to leave dc at around 4:30 to beat the evening commuting traffic. by the time we got there the sun’s not set yet so we had a chance to appreciate how beautiful it is on the road en route –picturesque forest, ranches with horses, farms and vineyards - we could totally imagine an even better scenery comes fall time during foliage season. we were greeted as we pulled up our car to the parkway at the inn, and surprised to see we were not the first diners arrived.
menu’s a bit complicated here compared to what we had at the french laundry – there’s the 7-course tasting menu feast, or an a la carte menu with a variety of choices for each courses. i promise this would be the only comparison i am going to draw between these two totally different restaurants with distinct characters. we spent a good fifteen minutes studying bit by bit and arrived at a consensus decision – “omakase” that is, as we almost proclaimed to our waiter. wine list is an interesting one actually –from local virginia vineyards (oh virginia makes wine? you may ask) to the usual old and new world selections, even to a few junmai daiginjo (which after all, is a perfect accompaniment to raw seafood or sashimi course). we finally settled on a 2006 weingut brundlmayer gruner veltliner, on sommelier’s recommendation. crisp and definitely not overtaking any of the food.
my favorite dishes are the quartet of oyster slurpees – raw oysters served with passion fruit, cucumber, cabernet sauvignon and wasabi sorbets – and morel dusted diver’s scallop on cauliflower puree – the signature dish that was on the cover of his book. each taste of the oysters came as a surprise as they went from fresh to spicy which teased your palate.
i did say playful in the beginning – just look at the menu, there are “funky” dish names such as “crusted tuna pretending to be a filet mignon” which we did not try, or “lilliputian passion fruit dreamsicle” – passion fruit sorbet and vanilla icecream served like a popsicle, or the fromage course served on a faux cow – named faira - that actually mooed as it was being wheeled by the table. our first course – named the “tin of sin” – was served on a petrossian caviar tin with ossetra caviar overflowing the rim with layers of crab and cucumber rillette lying in the bottom. breath-taking – i think this will be the only time I would use caviar and overflow in the same sentence ever.
other dishes in our tasting menu included crusted tuna wellington with caponata ravioli, as well as braised veal cheek with saffron risotto. the décor followed the theme of a traditional country house with classical artwork, oriental rugs, silk wall coverings and plush fabrics. elegantly done.
the petit fours was served on a mini rattan picnic basket loaded with mini-cookies and sweets – consistent with the countryside atmosphere the surroundings brought. we also had a chance to tour the kitchen which “happens” to have the best view of the house - with large windows overseeing the garden – and a photo op with chef o’connell in his signature dalmatian-spotted pants. on our reluctant drive back to dc and reality after the supper, we savored what we have enjoyed and seen and eaten in our brief vacation and with small voices inside singing, “what a wonderful world”.
when? april 14 2008
where? the inn at little washington, middle and main streets, washington, va
menu highlights? a quartet of island creek oyster slurpees
drinks? 2006 weingut bründlmayer grüner veltliner
Sunday, April 13, 2008
full kee's located on one of the main streets in washington chinatown - h street, a few blocks away from the verizon center, home of the washington wizard basketball team, and government offices. since the opening of the stadium, the area has slowly transformed into an interesting hybrid of traditional down-to-earth chinese restaurants, and an array of sports bars and upscale restaurants catered to the sports crowd or business people, in the midst of not exactly the best neighborhood in the city. it's also close to the national mall, at the west end near to the capitol. so when we were done sightseeing at the smithsonian and national gallery of art (and meals after meals of western food in the previous days), there's no better place that i can think of for a quick bite than full kee.
well, my "情意結" to this place dated back to the old days when i still called this city my hometown. this is my un-official "飯堂" on every occasions you can imagine - whether that be a simple sunday lunch after working at the smithsonian as a volunteer, or introducing my friends to a taste of authentic chinese food for the first time, or making a late-night snack run (they open til 4am on weekends), this is the place to go. i remembered one time i dashed straight to this place for a bowl of comforting wonton noodles after a 20-hour flight from hongkong - must have gotten homesick already then. it's not unusual to see me sitting at the same table on the same day every week, eating essentially the same food - even after they open a branch closer to my home, i still prefer the chinatown one better.
menu choices at full kee are wide and varied - true, they do have "gwailo"-oriented dishes like general tso's chicken and sweet and sour pork, but they also have dai pai dong-style street food like marinated pork intestine or pig blood, or typical cantonese/hongkong dishes like deep-fried squid, steamed fish, barbecued meat, or "dry-fried" beef rice noodles (chow fun). they are written all over the place - in the menu, on the wall, and on the little laminated placards on each table. my favorite dishes are their "粥粉麵飯" actually - either a bowl of wonton noodles, or congee with pork and thousand-year eggs - in my opinion, they are as good as any above-average "cha chan tang" in hongkong, and that's certainly good enough in u.s. standard (sans places with high concentration of chinese population such as orange country or new york city)
we arrived there at 1pm - towards the end of lunch hours for most people - that is perhaps why we only waited for 5 minutes before we were seated. the restaurant is the same as i remembered - still the same set-up with tables on both the ground floor and the connected basement, the large plaque with the words "full kee" engraved hanging prominently above the cashier (the name of the restaurant literally means rich), the noodle stall in the front part of the restaurant, and even some wait-staff looked familiar. (i heard there's a change of ownership since i left dc but i suppose some waiters remained)
cyy ordered the lunch special of stir-fried beef and broccoli (with rice) while i had a bowl of wonton noodle - just as i've always been. feeling inadequate, we later ordered an a-la-carte dish of deep-fried salty squid as supplement. the total bill came to around $20 - probably the cheapest sit-down lunch we've had in the entire trip. while waiting for our food, i can't help but looking around and checking out what other people are eating and talking about. it's peculiar scene of dining crowd - at one table there are a group of local office workers gossiping and chatting about politics while enjoying their noodles and seafood dishes, then there's a family of out-of-towners taking a break from museum-hopping with beef and vegetable dishes, or couple of friends just catching up with each other over a bowl of congee and veggies. there are both regulars and newcomers (and old-timers like me), westerners and chinese, locals and tourists. a true reflection of what washington dc is about - essentially a mixing bowl.
after the meal and the fortune-cookies, i am happy to report that full kee's still the same good old full kee, and it's going to remain as my "cheers bar" in heart - "where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came..." even as i felt like i have left town a long long time ago.
when? april 11 2008
where? full kee, 509 h street nw, washington dc
menu highlights? wonton noodles hongkong style
drinks? chinese tea! cha-chan-tang style
Friday, April 11, 2008
興奮是從臨離開香港前一天得知secure 了dinner reservation 的一刻開始. 要知道位處yountville, california 的 the french laundry 只有十七張枱, 每日招待62名"幸運兒", 餐廳每天就接超過400個訂位電話. typically all seating is filled by 10:30am local time exactly 2 months in advance – i.e. within a mere 30 minutes after they open up their hotline and online reservation system for those tables. if you are still not convinced how hard that is, try google "french laundry reservation" and you will find tens of so-called tips and sharing on this "finding the holy grail-like" experience, or try reading this.
anyway, we managed to get the table a week before we are to stay in napa. i am not going to bore you with the details with how we managed to get the table here, but has something to do that little plastic in your pocket. now i know what’s meant by "一卡傍身 世界通行"!
the dinner took place on the first day we stayed in napa valley as part of our overnight trip in the wine country. anticipating what could be our best culinary experience ever, we saved up (our stomach and wallet) by skipping breakfast and having a "light" lunch – a double-double at inn-n-out burger joint, and tried hard to stay sober in the midst of wine-tastings and vineyard visits. we even skipped a couple planned winery stops to get some quiet time in the b&b and gathered ourselves mentally ready for the laundry experience.
the restaurant’s in yountville, a township of population 3500 in the middle of napa valley, in between napa and st helena. it’s about 20 minutes from where we stayed. when we arrived, we were amazed at how unassuming the place looks – a stone building with a small sign just by the walkway. after all, it’s converted from an old french laundry built circa 1900 – hence the namesake. it’s overlooking a garden which also belongs to the restaurant.
upon entry through the famous blue door, we were promptly seated in a room on the second floor. menu’s simple – either a 9-course tasting menu (with choices on several courses) or a vegetable menu. no brainer to us. as the tradition, we started off with the amuse-bouche of dollop of salmon tartare atop a crispy cone – i probably saw the picture of it a thousand times in his cookbook or in magazine articles, but trying it for the first time almost dropped me into tears – a dream came true at last, i said to myself. a dream came true.
signature dishes included “oyster and pearl” – in a literal sense, that’s 奶油西米"沙巴翁"拌生蠔及鱘龍魚子醬. i know that doesn’t sound delicious but i am going to leave it that way. and let me assure you if you have not tried it - it’s not just delicious – it’s HEAVENLY! you just had to wonder how the heck can he come up with such pairing and makes it almost like a natural match from the beginning of earth! for all we knew tapioca only works with coconut cream or milk tea! but with oyster and caviar? not in our freaking wildest dream! other of my favorites include "beets and leeks" – lobster tail with leeks, thinly-sliced fried potatoes (pommes maxim) and red beet essence, and moulard duck “foie gras au torchon” – oh my god!
i am not going to blog about every single dish we have enjoyed that night– because words can never appropriately describe the experience we have had. i was going to use an analogy for this but i dare not here. service is formal, attentive and to the details. more perfect than perfect. for wine, we picked a copain 2002 broken leg vineyard syrah which was especially blended and bottled for the restaurant, which "rises to the occasion" to match with the food, especially the later courses. apparently only 123 cases were produced from this sonoma boutique winemaker – speaking of exclusivity! just as a side thought, during our stay and visit in the napa wine region, we seem to have better experience with the pinot and syrah over the more famous cabs. probably just so happened.
if i really have to find glitches in the whole experience – which is extremely hard to, that would be how tight the tables are arranged. well, cyy apparently didn’t mind as she’s been having fun overhearing the conversations from the table right behind us. and of course, if they didn’t fit a few additional tables in, that would make the already-difficult reservation even harder to get. so that was forgiven.
at the end of the dinner, we couldn’t resist by asking our waiter to give us a brief tour of the kitchen and pay our compliments to the chef. we looked at everything in amazement and “fear” like we are looking at a holy shrine or something. 當然美妙的, 還有廚房裡real-time連線着紐約per se廚房的螢幕... it’s a pity that we didn’t get to meet thomas keller in person this time – an excuse for us to go back there some time in the future? as if we need one.
worth it? absolutely – for the food, for the experience, for the sense of privilege and accomplishment, for the tale to share among ourselves in many years to come and for everything. and we will let the ecstatic feeling going over and around our head for a few more weeks, until we have to pay off that huge laundry ticket bill when the credit card statement arrives.
when? april 8 2008
where? the french laundry, 6640 washington street, yountville, ca
occasion? the dinner is an occasion by itself
menu highlights? everything! start from finish! perfect 10! two thumbs up!
drinks? copain 2002 "broken leg vineyard" syrah
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
simple is the key word here at chez panisse – 2 seatings, one fixed menu (which changes daily), every day. we booked the second seating at 8:30pm so we won’t feel like having to rush through the courses (and also allow us time for an afternoon nap before dinner to overcome the jet lag) monday dinner menu is a 3-course fare (as opposed to 4 other days of the week and $10 cheaper).
according to wikipedia, california cuisine was defined as “a style of cuisine marked by an interest in fusion – integrating disparate cooking styles and ingredients – and in freshly prepared using local ingredients.”. at chez panisse, all ingredients inside a dish are seasonal, fresh, organic and locally-produced. if asked, the waiters can easily tell you which ranch their pigs were raised, or which farm they picked the asparagus from (and when). speaking of knowledgeable staff.
we were lucky to have seated right outside the open kitchen – that enabled us to see the full action as dishes after dishes were delivered right off it and we got a good smell too all evening long. the dishes were simply divine – there’s nothing on them that made you scratching your head thinking what they were, but they just came together in perfect harmony and made you wish you could do half as good in your own kitchen at home. the freshness of that asparagus dish we had for the first course still lingers in my mouth – well, those who know me know i don’t say so highly over a vegetarian dish often, if ever. so that must mean something.
yes, simplicity is still the name, but all the dishes were nicely presented too – yet there’s no extra garnishes that were put there just for the sake of it. wine list is straight forward and not intimidating (i.e. not expensive or overpriced or anything). we matched the food with a 2005 pinot from navarro vineyards up in sonoma. innovations also came in small ways at chez panisse -for example, the restaurant is among the first to serve carbonated filtered tap water instead of bottled one, out of environmental concerns. trust me, it all tasted the same, and hey it’s on the house too. when will this free tap water movement ever come to hong kong?
and another magical moment that we observed - all around chez panisse you only saw happy faces – whether that be old couples celebrating birthday (or anniversary or whatever), man and woman on a date, family gatherings, college students having a nice night out with friends, or people enjoying their vacation and california sunshine (that would be us) – laughter was filling the entire place with occasional woos and wahs as dishes arrived at each table and people started eating. even the wait staff and chefs – the night we went it happened to be one of the staff’s birthday, and the pastry chef made a tart for her and we could all see them celebrating inside the kitchen, singing “happy birthday” and enjoying a cheer. well, if you see only happy faces in the kitchen, you know the food simply can’t go wrong.
when many has turned to “forward-thinking” ideas of molecular gastronomy or turning ingredients and cooking methods upside down in search of a perfect dish, alice waters’ outpost in this college town across from san francisco bay bridge reminded us strongly that good food simply shouldn’t be that complicated and should be enjoyed by all. it’s so right 30 years ago when she first opened its door; it’s still so right now.
in many ways, chez panisse reminded me of m at the fringe, the old stable in hong kong’s dining scene which happens to be my perennial favorite – is it the similarity of background of their respective owners? the décor? or is it simply the common passion and commitment that they shared to serve good food to customers, day in and day out?
when? april 7 2008
where? chez panisse, 1517 shattuck avenue, berkeley, ca
menu highlights? fresh picked cannard farm asparagus with brown butter and garden lettuces
drinks? 2005 anderson valley pinot noir, navarro vineyards
Saturday, March 15, 2008
"so i commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun to eat and drink and be glad. then joy will accompny him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun." - ecclesiastes 8:15
Friday, February 15, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
how should we set our goals for the new year so as to draw outselves closer to God and glorify Him? when we make our own new year resolution, it's so easy to fall into the trap of "boasting about tomorrow", as warned in james chapter 4:13-17. as there's no way to know exactly what God's leading us to in the new year, is that just plain wrong to start planning for it at the start of the year?
i still don't have an answer...