Archive | Asia – China RSS feed for this section

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Hong Kong (Nov ’15): “high-end fast food”

19 Jan

Joel Robuchon needs no introduction. Voted Chef of the Century in 1989, his restaurant Jamin in Paris in the 1980s and 1990s was considered among the best restaurants in the world. He retired in July 1996 due to concerns over the stress-wracked lifestyle of a chef, but came up the Atelier Robuchon concept, a counter-dining fine-dining concept, while eating in sushi bars in Tokyo: a sexy restaurant, dressed up in black and red, with counter-seating allowing diners to see dishes being finished and assembled in a show kitchen.

Robuchon made his official comeback in 2003, opening two branches of L’Atelier Robuchon in short order, first in Tokyo in April 2003, and Paris in May 2003. Since then, he has gone back into full-concept fine dining with “full-service” Joel Robuchon restaurants, which currently exist in Las Vegas, Tokyo, Bordeaux, Singapore and Macau. His Ateliers occupy a wider footprint – existing in Bangkok, Paris (two of them), Singapore, HK, Taipei, London, Tokyo, as well as London (a New York branch also once existed). His Ateliers have been unflatteringly described as the “McDonalds of fine-dining”, where a revolving door of chefs, largely anonymous workmen while in his employ, create a standard array of Robuchon dishes using ingredients from the Robuchon larder. His Atelier’s are generally pegged at a one-star rating, with the exception of the St Germaine branch in Paris, and this branch in HK, which has three Michelin stars. The successful Atelier project is probably the inspiration for similar casual fine-dining chains today, such as David Thompson’s Long Chim.

That the 3 Michelin star rating for L’Atelier HK is over-inflated, no one disputes, not even Joel Robuchon himself, who hypothesizes that it may be down to the wine list or the decor. This is usually cited as the main piece of evidence for the unreliability of the HK guide, because the Ateliers are the one restaurant you can actually benchmark across countries..

My meal at L’Atelier:


IMG_2624 IMG_2627

  • L’Amuse-Bouche (foie custard with cheese foam, potato croquette)

IMG_2628 IMG_2635 IMG_2638 IMG_2632

  • La Langoustine (Langoustine carpaccio, beetroot and apple salad with green mustard sorbet) (3/5)
    • The contrast between the green mustard sorbet (which was quite good, fresh and piquant, good enough to serve by itself on the parallel vegetarian menu), and the langoustine could not be more stark. The langoustine was not very fresh, to the point where when we tried to use a fork or spoon to get it off, the raw langoustine simply disintegrated into chunks. We could not get any single piece to lift whole onto a spoon. It tasted fine, but the texture was offputting.

IMG_2639 IMG_2645 IMG_2643

  • Le foie gras (Pan-fried duck foie gras with pear and celery) (4/5)
    • Decent and classic combination of foie and pear. Reliable crowd pleaser. For a foie-pear dish that really sets the bar, see my review of Bareiss (upcoming)

IMG_2649 IMG_2650 IMG_2656

  • La Saint-Jacques (Pan seared Hokkaido scallops with baby artichoke puree and curcuma emulsion) (4/5)
    • Not bad. This was served with Robuchon’s famous mashed potatoes, which were indeed very buttery.


  • Le Marron (chestnut mousse with pecan dacquoise and vintage rum ice-cream)
    • I had a work call midway through (it was a crunch week), and they served dessert while I was away. The ice cream had partially melted by time I returned. It tasted fairly good, but I won’t rate it since I didn’t have it in its optimal state.

IMG_2659 IMG_2647

Overall L’Atelier in HK is a decent fine-dining restaurant. I appreciated the nice touches of the bacon baguettes and lemon cakes, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for fine-dining in Hong Kong (not especially since a branch can be found in Singapore and most major cities in Asia). That would go to Dynasty Restaurant for Chinese food; or Ta Vie, Neighborhood, or Bo Innovation for an interesting Western-ish meal. At heart, L’Atelier is a restaurant designed to serve Robuchon experience in a scalable way. This is reflected in the dishes, which are similar across different countries (Le Caviar, the geometrically pleasing Robuchon dish, is as consistent a fixture in each of the Robuchon restaurants as the Big Mac is at McDonald’s). It probably impacts the construction of the dishes, most of which are uncomplicated and can be executed capably by local line-cooks.

If a cookie-cutter fine-dining experience is what you want, L’Atelier will provide it. But for me, the Ateliers just seem a bit soulless. I’m still not sure what is the point of dining there. At that price point (>=HKD1800 with a glass or two of wine), you can get so much more than a cookie-cutter fine-dining meal.

Notable links:

Restaurant rating: 15/20

Fu 1088 in Shanghai (Nov ’15)

3 Dec


  • Rating: 4.25/5
  • Number of visits: 1 (Nov ’15)
  • One-line review: Set in a colonial mansion, Fu1088 is the older sibling of the other Fu’s set up by celebrity chef Tony Lu and is the original restaurant. When it was originally set up, it was one of Asia’s hottest restaurants and reservations there were hard to come by. It is considerably easier to book a table now as its lustre has gone to its more expensive siblings, but the setting remains distinctive, with each table being set in a different room with antique furniture. The restaurant serves refined versions of Shanghainese classics such as fried fish and braised pork. Shanghai cooking is characterized by sweet sauces and fried textures. The versions I had there were excellent. Since I came during Shanghai hairy crab season, I tried the hairy crab legs with asparagus. The star there was the sweet-sour sauce that came from dipping. Service is excellent, and staff do not try to upsell.
  • Memorable dishes: Shanghai fried fish, braised pork.

Dishes I had

2015-11-13 20.57.38 2015-11-13 21.12.12

  • Braised pork (hongshaorou) (4.5/5) – sweet and fatty, highly indulgent

2015-11-13 21.14.12

  • Shanghai fried fish (4/5)– sweet, had a few bones inside which I didn’t quite like.

2015-11-13 21.18.28 2015-11-13 21.18.37

  • Asparagus with hairy crab legs (deshelled) (4/5) – served with a sour sauce that cleansed the palate after each crab leg. My one and only encounter with Shanghai hairy crab

2015-11-13 21.20.53

  • Fried noodles.

Mak’s Noodle in Hong Kong (Nov ’15): the best wanton noodles I’ve had

28 Nov

Sometimes the best things in life are simple.

Beef brisket flavored with a hint of orange. Springy noodles, and shrimp dumplings with shrimp so crisp and fresh that they are still springy with every chew…. the bowl of beef brisket wonton noodles from Mak’s Noodle is perfect. (5/5) It is streets ahead of any bowl of wonton soup I have tried. Perfection retails for about 60 HKD, or 8 USD.

The kailan (Chinese broccoli) was devoid of any trace of bitterness, and at its peak – a meaty vegetable worthy of the epithet “the Chinese asparagus”.
I’ve had a lot of wanton noodles in my life, but Mak’s is my current favorite.

Ta Vie in Hong Kong (Nov’ 15): “understated Japanese-French”

14 Nov

Rating: 16/20

I chose Ta Vie (“your life”) for a treat after a week at the cudgels. Hong Kong doesn’t lack for dining options, but the unique ones are few. Bo Innovation aside, most of the top end Michelin restaurants are either rehashes of foreign concepts (Tenku Ryugin, L’Atelier Robuchon, Sushi Shikon) or Cantonese. Cantonese doesn’t lend itself well to solo dining, so I decided to go with a place with Ryugin (a restaurant I enjoy) pedigree. Chef Hideaki Sato of Ta Vie was previously head chef of 2* Tenku Ryugin, perched imperiously on the 101st floor of ICC Tower. He left the restaurant earlier this year to set up Ta Vie in May. Between Ryugin and Ta Vie, I decided on Ta Vie because I’m a sucker for the idea that a chef-proprietor puts a more personal touch to his menu.

Japanese-French is an intriguing and distinct brand of French cooking. The flavors are precise and restrained, something that can be “grasped by the tongue”, but never provokes uncomfortable sensations. Every style is defined by absence and presence. , Japanese-French’s absence is the absence of discomfort. You will not find tongue-numbing spiciness, nor will the portions overwhelm the digestion to generate uncomfortable tummy sensations, nor will be there be much bitterness. The overall tenor is “restraint”. What will be present in Japanese-French are intensified flavors – from its Franco-phile heritage the brigade of intense sauces – consommé, reductions etc, from its Japanese heritage a partiality to seafood like abalone and uni; what will also be present is the Japanese focus on pleasing textures (usually pliant/soft/buttery/watery rather than crisp) – think the explosion of cod milt (shirako) or buttery wagyu.

Value for money? At about US$300, Ta Vie is in the top bracket for pricing. I don’t think it is quite worth the money for the amount of fireworks, because Chef Sato’s dishes tend to play it fairly safe. A notable exception was an exciting cold composition of Calpis soda foam with grapes, pears and aloe. Ta Vie is the kind of restaurant that’s torn between two imperatives, destination dining and canteen for the moneyed. A lot of the dishes were elegant (e.g. the turnip salad, the simmered abalone), but far from mindblowing. But that makes it poor value for the destination diner, and I don’t think its well-established as a “regulars’” restaurant. I think it’s caught between two stools and hasn’t found its niche – the dining room was half-full on a Friday night, so maybe the market agrees with me.



Turnip, crab meat, and house made fresh cheese salad, scent of yuzu

  • (3.5/5) A refreshing, if slightly pedestrian start.

“Lung Guang” chicken consommé flavored with “gobou” burdock with chicken wanton

  • (4.5/5) A well prepared chicken consommé, with delicate dumpling. Excellent taste and concentrated flavor



Lobster poached in bell pepper flavored oil served with bell pepper aioli

  • (4/5) Chinese lobster, good dish. Lobster was sinewy and well cooked.


Cod milt “a la meuniere” with crispy wing

  • (3.75/5) Cauliflower paste, shirako pan-fried with tuile. Tasty


Simmered abalone with vegetable salad tossed with wakame seaweed

  • (3.75/5) Abalone from Nagasaki, sudachi. The theme was understatement.

Wagyu “minute” steak with burnt onion and onsen egg, Japanese whisky sauce

  • (4.25/5) Kuroge A4 wagyu, sliced, to maximize the fatty feel of beef. Tasty whisky sauce. A successful wagyu dish is aligned with the restauranteur’s interest, in that less is more. Full-on wagyu steaks lack the flavor and are too fatty to be truly delicious. Slicing wagyu (as here) is a sustained pleasure, the smoothness on the tongue, vs cubing wagyu (as at Brooklyn Fare) which increases the visceral pleasure of a burst of fat.
  • As a main, this was a let-down. I believe a great dish should be more than a slapdash of ingredients (egg, beef, whisky). While it was well-prepared, it was ultimately a bit disappointing that a medley was the best the chef could come up with for a French meal.



Homemade pasta, Hokkaido uni, nori

  • (3.75-4/5) Unusually soft pasta (texture of hor fun) with a nice helping of nori. Pleasant.


Nashi Pear, “Shine” muscat and aloe, Calpis soda foam with fragrance of shiso flower

  • (4.75/5) The revelatory dish of the night. Calpis soda foam, sour, paired perfectly with cubes of pear, perfectly sweet muscat grapes and aloe. It broke the tacit agreement with the diner – “thou shall not use processed ingredients” – to great effect


Chestnut mont-blanc with 2008 aged Pu’er tea ice cream

  • (3.75/5) Nice meringues and sweet chestnut puree. The Pu’er tea ice cream didn’t taste much of Pu’er, probably the cold disguised its flavor. (we need to add more sugar to cold drinks to get the same level of perceived sweetness)


Bo Innovation | Hong Kong | Jul ’14

14 Feb
  • Rating: 16/20
  • Address: 60 Johnston Road, Hong Kong
  • Phone: +852 2850 8371
  • Price: HKD2,400 (310 USD at 1 USD = 7.76HKD)
  • Value: 2/5
  • Chef: Alvin Leung

2014-07-16 18.59.40 2014-07-16 18.59.45

My meal at Bo Innovation featured touches of Hong Kong, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Alvin Leung shuns the “molecular” tag, and his type of innovation involves bringing the East Asian flavors and remixing it with classic preparations like baked alaska, hollandaise. For your main, you are dine on beef, but it is paired with oxtongue cooked in bak-kut-teh spices and coated with chocolate.

The three highlights: I found myself impressed by Chef Leung’s re-imaginings: the Lap Mei Fan baked alaska, which featured a sensational Chinese-sausage ice cream, a jar of spam puree with black truffle, a bak kut teh oxtongue. (these three dishes, the best, were only available in the extended tasting menu – which means that diners ordering a shorter menu might find Bo Innovation disappointing).

The others dishes generally lacked a foundation: Outside of one or dishes, like the lap mei fan baked alaska, or the bak kut teh oxtongue, I didn’t find the cooking at Bo Innovation very compelling. Most of the other dishes had multiple ingredients that didn’t make sense on that plate, as if the kitchen had to show off how avant garde it was, without considering whether the ingredients were harmonious or not. Multiple dishes didn’t have a compelling backbone to build on: for example it was hard to see what were the supporting ingredients in the MULHOE, RED FISH and BLUE LOBSTER, as well as the COCONUT dessert. Every component shouted on the palate. The result was often not in harmony. At 3 very good dishes, the hit-miss ratio was a bit low for me as well.

The HK food blogger g4gary has an intelligent observation: “As for the endless debate of whether the 3-star bestowed upon the place is justified, while I agree this is perhaps the most atypical 3-starred restaurant I have set foot in, if you took the literal definition of Michelin 3-stars meaning restaurants serving exceptional cuisine that [is] worth a special journey, I could see why Bo Innovation would make the grade. Strange as it sounds, his food is uniquely Hong Kong – it wouldn’t have made much sense to serve the same food anywhere else in the world – so from that perspective, the meal itself does worth a special journey for some adventurous minds. Guess I would leave it at that.

Don’t take it literally: I think this is probably what went through the Michelin inspectors’ minds when they awarded Bo Innovation 3-stars. In terms of refinement and objective enjoyment, this is probably a restaurant that merits 1-star. But the literal interpretation of 3-stars as “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey” opens a can of worms. Lesser chefs who hop onto the “innovation” bandwagon to create an endless array of average but novel dishes are rewarded, and chefs who focus on perfecting their dishes are penalized. I think the Michelin brand has stood the test of time because of the accumulated wisdom about what a 1-star, 2-star, and 3-star restaurant means in terms of excellence, and not because of its literal rubric of “journey-worthiness”. The recent rush to star “innovative” restaurants strikes me as a half-baked attempt to compete with the San Pellegrino guide.

Other links

2014-07-16 19.02.10 2014-07-16 19.11.22 2014-07-16 19.13.55

  • Waffle/ onion/ ham  (3.75/5)
    • Street food. Flour, fried. Tastes of onion

2014-07-16 19.16.48 2014-07-16 19.17.01

  • CAVIAR: smoked quail egg, taro nest (4.25/5)
    • Presented on a silver tree to emphasise the “nest”. Enjoyable.
    • The quail egg was hard,

2014-07-16 19.20.28 2014-07-16 19.20.45 2014-07-16 19.20.57 2014-07-16 19.21.10

  • MULHOE: foie gras, spicy korean miso, pear, sea urchin, sea bladder, smoked squid, sea bream, jicama (4.25/5)
    • Squeezing foie and spicy miso out a tube, the ingredients in a sweet cold pear consomme
    • Korean-influenced dish. Perhaps the restaurant is vying to be a pan-Asian culinary champion?

2014-07-16 19.29.04 2014-07-16 19.29.11 2014-07-16 19.29.17 2014-07-16 19.29.26 2014-07-16 19.30.15 2014-07-16 19.30.42 2014-07-16 19.30.53 2014-07-16 19.30.58 2014-07-16 19.31.15

  • LAP MEI FAN: baked alaska, “lap cheong” (5/5)
    • Hot-cold contrast, a crowd pleaser with the strong tastes of alcohol. Highly visual dish, setting the alcohol on fire
    • The sweetness of Chinese sausage was a revelation, used in a a smooth icecream that contrasted well with texture of puffed rice underneath.

2014-07-16 19.40.50 2014-07-16 19.41.02 2014-07-16 19.41.29

  • UMAMI: black truffle, toro, har mi oil, vermicelli, rice noodle (3.75/5)
    • The spongey tuna belly toro was a bit sour.
    • The given explanation for the existence of this dish was that each of the ingredients had strong umami components. As a dish however, it failed to be more than the sum of its ingredients – though the ingredients were strong.
    • The most overwhelming part of the dish was the har mi (dried shrimp) on the vermicelli, which dominated the toro and truffle.

2014-07-16 19.48.27

  • MOLECULAR: “xiao long bao” (3.75/5)
    • A Bo Innovation signature, this xiaolongbao featured ginger with a spherified meat broth. Not bad.

2014-07-16 19.49.58 2014-07-16 19.50.38 2014-07-16 19.50.44 2014-07-16 19.51.37 2014-07-16 19.51.41 2014-07-16 19.52.26 2014-07-16 19.52.31 2014-07-16 19.52.34 2014-07-16 19.52.37

2014-07-16 19.57.39 2014-07-16 19.58.30 2014-07-16 19.59.03

  • BABY FOOD: black truffle “chian dan chee” (4.5/5)
    • Audaciously remixing high and low gastronomy – variety meats in the form of spam foam, mixed with yolk and crispy bits of ham, and truffle foam.
    • It tasted good, but to me it felt like a cheap trick. Spam has already been engineered to appeal to our fat and salt craving brains, it would not take much for a chef to make spam delicious.

2014-07-16 20.09.21

  • RED FISH: yunnan ham, dry mandarin peel, wild mushroom, jerusalem artichoke, pickled pearl onion (3.75/5)
    • Yunnan ham sauce, yellow foot mushroom,
    • The sunchoke (or jerusalem artichoke) was just a block of sweet starch, which could have been reduced in portion, and the chips (mandarin peel?) had no taste

2014-07-16 20.20.25 2014-07-16 20.20.42 2014-07-16 20.20.57 2014-07-16 20.24.13

  • BLUE LOBSTER: sichuan hollandaise, hot shaohsing broth, chinese leek dumpling, charred corn
    • lobster bisque, shaoxing wine, a slight bitter aftertaste. hollandaise with sichuan peppercorn
    • 3.75/5

2014-07-16 20.27.21 2014-07-16 20.27.30 2014-07-16 20.27.49 2014-07-16 20.28.01

  • MAO TAI: calamansi
    • when you’re drunk, you can go with the flow and Epicurean feeling (3.5/5)

2014-07-16 20.34.25 2014-07-16 20.36.35 2014-07-16 20.36.49

  • SWEETBREAD: oyster sauces, mountain yam, spring onion, ginger
    • Not bad sweetbreads, braised in oyster sauce. (4/5)

2014-07-16 20.44.22 2014-07-16 20.44.49 2014-07-16 20.47.47

  • SAGA-GYU BEEF: striploin, bakkutteh chocolate ox tongue, truffled taro, spring onion (4.5/5)
    • the beef was A3 saga-gyu, North Kyushu. I found the most unique part of this dish the bak-kut-teh ox tongue coated in choclate sauce. A liverish texture for the tongue, soft and pliant, with an interesting thick chocolate paste coating it.
    • The bak kut teh flavor was mild, and imparting a herbal flavor to the oxtongue. Not a dish I crave, but when reflecting on my meal 6 months later it is one of the two things I remember

2014-07-16 20.56.58 2014-07-16 20.57.50

  • ALMOND: genmai, okinawa black sugar, cinnamon (3.5/5)
    • spherified almond milk (outer texture like a Chinese “tangyuan” dessert dumpling, inside texture of tofu), genmai tea flavored with black sugar and cinnamon.
    • the tea was overwhelmed with sugar

2014-07-16 21.02.37 2014-07-16 21.02.48 2014-07-16 21.03.10 2014-07-16 21.03.19

  • COCONUT: palm sugar, coconut water, chocolate, pina colada, cherry, pandan
    • A curious combination. It is not quite chendol, with pandan cream and young coconut meringues.
    • It was a splatter of ingredients that evoked Southeast Asia – palm sugar, water, pandan (and an interesting touch of dried wolfsberries in the soil), but did not come together very well
    • (4/5) – the individual ingredients were nice.

2014-07-16 21.17.29 2014-07-16 21.17.50 2014-07-16 21.17.58 2014-07-16 21.18.06 2014-07-16 21.18.16 2014-07-16 21.18.29 2014-07-16 21.18.46 2014-07-16 21.18.53 2014-07-16 21.18.58 2014-07-16 21.19.04

  • Petit fours (based off 8 treasures tea)
    • generally around 4/5
    • longan (lit: dragon eye), coconut jelly
    • osmanthus steamed sponge cake
    • rose macaron, lychee, butter cream
    • lotus seed, custard, sticky rice dumpling
    • mandarin peel chocolate truffle
    • red date marshmallow
    • wolfberry, tianjin pear, crystal bun
    • chrysanthemum meringue

Notes from Hong Kong (Jul ’14)

24 Jul

Places Covered This Trip (an [X] means they will have their own separate write-up)

  1. Sen-ryo Sushi in Tsim Sha Tsui, HK
  2. Ozone in Tsim Sha Tsui, HK
  3. [X] One Harbour Road (Pearl Chen 25th Anniversary Menu) in Wan Chai, HK
  4. Caffe Habitu in Wan Chai, HK
  5. [X] Bo Innovation in Wan Chai, HK
  6. Cupping Room in Central, HK
  7. Aberdeen Street Social in Central, HK
  8. Angel’s Share in Central, HK
  9. [X] Amber in Central, HK
  10. Full Cup Café in Mong Kok, HK
  11. Islam Food 清真牛肉館 in Kowloon City, HK
  12. Mrs Sweetie 口甜舌滑 in Kowloon City, HK
  13. Le Salon de Thé de Joël Robuchon in Central, HK
  14. The Mandarin Cake Shop in Central, HK
  15. Kau Kee Restaurant 九記牛腩 in Central, HK
  16. Quinary in Central, HK
  17. The Roundhouse in Central, HK

Sen-ryo Sushi in Tsim Sha Tsui, HK

Address: Shop 1086, 1/F, Elements, 1 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Phone:+852 2196 8209

Rating: 3.25/5

Sen-ryo is a popular sushi chain restaurant in HK. For a two-seater on a Tuesday night, we had to wait around 1.5-2 hours. A substantial number of their patrons are bankers working in the ICC tower above. For non-destination shopping mall sushi, the fish was quite fresh (serving a fairly sophisticated banker clientele might explain this), though the preparation of the sushi leaves something to be desired (I found a bone in my cut of tuna, and my miso soup with clams had gritty clams that hadn’t been purged properly). Rice compression was loose, and held with fingers or chopsticks, the sushi quickly disintegrated. A decent place to eat if near the ICC tower, but really their preparation of sushi should be less amateurish and more careful, given the fairly good ingredients they use. It would be rated higher if the preparation was better.

2014-07-15 20.39.42

2014-07-15 20.54.53


2014-07-15 20.55.43

Yellowtail (4/5) and Chutoro (4/5)

2014-07-15 20.56.33

Dragon Roll (3.5/5)

2014-07-15 20.57.38

Softshell Crab Roll (3.5/5)

2014-07-15 20.58.42

Uni, Ikura, Roe(?), Tofu (3.75/5)

2014-07-15 21.00.51

Botan Ebi (4.5/5)

2014-07-15 21.00.55

Tuna (2.5/5) and Amaebi (3.75/5)

Found a bone in my tuna, which lowers the score

2014-07-15 21.07.28

Miso Clam Soup (1.75/5)

Gritty clams had not been properly purged, which lowers the score.

Ozone in Tsim Sha Tsui, HK

Address: International Commerce Centre (icc)/the Ritz-carlton Hong Kong, 1 Austin Rd W, Hong Kong

Phone:+852 2263 2263

Ozone, at the 118th floor of the ICC building, is called the highest bar in the world. The views of HK are breathtaking – and you pay for the view. They have a capable Gin and Tonic menu (that makes 3 specialist G&T bars in a month, Pesca Salada [Barcelona] and La Destileria de Urquijo [Bilbao] the other two). G&T is very hip now.

2014-07-15 21.36.12 2014-07-15 21.36.17 2014-07-15 21.36.22 2014-07-15 21.41.58

“Ginning in the Sky: Tanqueray No. 10, Grapefruit Peel, Basil Q Tonic Water” (4/5)

2014-07-15 21.45.39

[X] One Harbour Road (Pearl Chen 25th Anniversary Menu) in Wan Chai, HK

Address: 7-8/F, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, 1 Harbour Rd, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone: +852 2584 7722

One Harbour Road will have its own write-up.

Caffe Habitu in Wan Chai, HK

Address: 77-79 Gloucester Road, Wan Cha

Phone:+852 2111 2977

In the afternoon, Wan Chai in HK remains full of people. (Where do they all come from? They’re surely not office workers) Traipsing between the Grand Hyatt and Johnston Road for Bo Innovation, I had a free afternoon where I read David Pilling’s (FT’s Asia Editor) very interesting book on Japan, Bending Adversity. I generally find the genre of “books on Country X” to be best written by authors who have been journalists (Elizabeth Pisani’s book on Indonesia is another sparkling example), simply because they both travel widely around the country, and speak with all levels of society, from politicians to businessmen to civil society leaders to artists.

Their espresso is a bit sour from the grounds, but surprisingly for a cafe located on a main road, next to Starbucks and another chain cafe, it was surprisingly peaceful and I spent as idyllic an afternoon as I can imagine in crowded Wan Chai there.

2014-07-16 15.48.53 2014-07-16 17.57.42

[X] Bo Innovation in Wan Chai, HK

Address: 60 Johnston Rd, Hong Kong
Phone:+852 2850 8371

Bo Innovation will have its own write-up.

Cupping Room in Central, HK

Address: Shop LG/F, 299 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Phone: +852 2799 3398

Located on the border between Central and Sheung Wan, the Cupping Room features a roomful of awards: Second Place at the World Barista Championships was one of them. Upon inquiry at the counter though, I found the prize winning beverage used special beans that they didn’t have at the moment. This can portend a bait-and-switch, using a generalised aura of magic to sell the entire repertoire of drinks. (This is how Michelin-starred chefs, having made their name, make their fortune – the majority of profits come from their casual brasseries and bistros, rather than their fine-dining establishments). I got a cold brew. It was prettily presented, and was pleasant, if standard for cold brew.

2014-07-17 16.29.50

Not related to the coffee shop, except in spirit.

2014-07-17 16.37.16 2014-07-17 16.37.23 2014-07-17 16.37.31

2014-07-17 17.32.50

The plates I saw at Manresa 3 months ago in April. Strange to see them here in HK.

2014-07-17 17.39.00 2014-07-17 17.42.34-2 2014-07-17 17.43.20

A street where they filmed a famous movie.

2014-07-17 17.44.08 2014-07-17 17.47.27-2 2014-07-17 17.47.38

1600 pandas… still in the wild.

Aberdeen Street Social in Central, HK

Address: PMQ, G/F, JPC, 35 Aberdeen St, Central

Phone: +852 2866 0300

Rating: 14.5/20

2014-07-17 18.01.38 2014-07-17 18.01.52 2014-07-17 18.02.16 2014-07-17 18.02.42

Aberdeen Street Social, the latest restaurant in the Jason Atherton empire, is located on the ground floor of one of the new arts spaces in Central HK, PMQ (the former Police Married Quarters – for the families of junior officers). It was opened by Mr Atherton in partnership with Yenn Wong. The downstairs bar has a nice retro feel to it, and the upstairs dining area has plusher seats, but pushes a casual tablecloth-less setting. The food was competently prepared, though there were little fireworks to be found. This restaurant struck me as a place where the food lubricates conversations, rather than sparking it, hence the “Social”. I did enjoy hanging out here with my friends.

Timeout HK report:

2014-07-17 18.05.03 2014-07-17 18.05.24 2014-07-17 18.10.01 2014-07-17 18.10.11 2014-07-17 18.10.21

Roasted garlic thyme flatbread (3.75/5)

Fried chicken, apricot, chilli, ham (3.5/5)

Good coating, inwardly bland

2014-07-17 18.21.33 2014-07-17 18.22.59 2014-07-17 18.26.26 2014-07-17 18.26.53

Ravioli of Suffolk Pork, Berkswell cheese, peppered heart and kidneys (3.5/5)

Competently done, though the pork was in hard mince lumps.

2014-07-17 18.27.00 2014-07-17 18.27.12

Raw Hokkaido scallops, dashi jelly, apple, shiso, avocado and wasabi puree (4.25/5)

It was interesting to have the earthy and peppery contrast between the dashi jelly and the wasabi in the puree.

2014-07-17 18.49.59

Braised ox cheek, roasted bone marrow, sourdough crumb, carrot, horseradish mash

2014-07-17 18.50.03

Roasted bream, Bouillabaisse, saffron aioli, Provencal vegetables (3.5/5)

A bit dry, and a hint of fishiness in the bream. But the bouillabaisse sauce was thick, and of a pleasant one-dimensional savory note, though lacking in the complexity of the best fish stews. A competent rendition.

2014-07-17 19.13.28 2014-07-17 19.14.33 2014-07-17 19.14.45

Gin and lemon sorbet with cucumber jelly (palate cleanser)

2014-07-17 19.14.51

Grapefruit tonic with juniper syrup (palate cleanser)

2014-07-17 19.17.09 2014-07-17 19.22.01 2014-07-17 19.22.37 2014-07-17 19.24.45

Strawberry, orchids, litchi, yoghurt, white chocolate (3.5/5)

While I appreciate the effort in digging out the individual vesicles of grapefruit, my dessert was undistinguished except for the little hint of the exotic in the lychee (exotic relative to the vaguely-pan-western, tapas-ish positioning of Aberdeen Street Social)

2014-07-17 19.22.12

JAAL 75%, chocolate, banana, calamansi, Madras curry

2014-07-17 19.28.57 2014-07-17 19.29.13

Mignardises: Pistachio financier, chocolate, pineapple jelly 2014-07-17 19.41.41 2014-07-17 19.50.30

Angel’s Share in Central, HK

Address: 2/F, Amber Lodge, 23 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong

Phone: +852 28058388

Angel’s Share is a serious whisky bar in the centre of HK. With a bar replete with Hibiki bottles infusing myriad whiskies with floral flavors, how could it not be? They have a large selection of whiskies here, including many Japanese whiskies. As a single-malt aficionado, I enjoyed browsing the lists here, and ended up returning a couple of days later.

2014-07-17 19.53.06

Not related, but cool.

2014-07-17 19.59.45 2014-07-17 20.06.25 2014-07-17 20.06.30 2014-07-17 20.08.14 2014-07-17 20.45.12 2014-07-17 21.19.43

[X] Amber in Central, HK

Address: 15 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong

Phone:+852 2132 0066

Amber will have its own write-up.

Full Cup Café in Mong Kok, HK

Address: 36 Dundas St, Mong Kok, Hong Kong
Phone:+852 2771 7775

Located in a back alley in Mong Kok, and occupying the 4th-6th floors of Hanway Commercial Centre, Full Cup Cafe is an indie cafe, which makes a virtue of HK’s large amo

Rents in HK are high for ground floor, street facing storefronts. The Fullcupcafé, which may be called indie and sketchy in equal measure, is located on the 4th-6th floors of Hanway Commercial Centre, in a back alley of the uber-crowded Mong Kok district. This cuts down on the rents. It is a nice place to hang out, and they sometimes have indie performances there.

2014-07-18 18.07.00

And while we’re on the subject of Mong Kok, the Goldfish Market (Tung Choi Street North) has some very pretty aquatic and pet life.

Islam Food 清真牛肉館 in Kowloon City, HK

Address: 1 Lung Kong Rd, Kowloon City, Hong Kong

Phone:+852 2382 2822

Rating: 4.5/5

Islamic Chinese food is something I had no experience of before stepping into Islam Food. Festooned with Openrice plaque awards for best food in Kowloon City, this main shop (another branch exists on 33-35 Tak Ku Ling Road a couple of streets away) serves a bevy of interesting dishes. A definite place to return to.

2014-07-18 19.36.53 2014-07-18 19.37.16 2014-07-18 19.40.23 2014-07-18 19.42.14

Veal Goulash (Biscuits) (4.75/5)

The inner part comprised of a meaty liquid surrounding a mince patty of veal, like a xiaolongbao. First time I’ve seen it on a buscuit.

2014-07-18 19.47.11

Sesame Oil Chicken (4.5/5)

2014-07-18 19.41.49

Lamb Curry (4/5)

2014-07-18 19.47.06

Chicken, Noodles, Peanut Sauce (4/5)

2014-07-18 19.47.44


2014-07-18 19.47.49 2014-07-18 20.08.57

Mrs Sweetie 口甜舌滑 in Kowloon City, HK

Address: 7A Nga Tsin Wai Rd,, Kowloon City, Hong Kong

Phone: +852 2718 2328

A traditional dessert store in Kowloon City. Many of these, I had not seen in Singapore.

2014-07-18 20.21.35 2014-07-18 20.11.59 2014-07-18 20.11.57 2014-07-18 20.23.14

Durian Paste with Sago

2014-07-18 20.24.56
公司涼粉 (3.75/5)

Distinguished mainly for the taste and texture of nata-de-coco-strips, and the various textures of bean (mung beans and red beans) within.

Le Salon de Thé de Joël Robuchon in Central, HK

Address: Shop 315, The Landmark, Central, Hong Kong

Phone: (852) 2166 9000.

To my knowledge, this is the one Joel Robuchon outlet in the world serving afternoon tea. This Salon outlet was located within spitting distance from the McDonald’s of haute-cuisine, L’Atelier Robuchon. (Even Robuchon confesses himself perplexed as to why his HK outlet is rated a 3-Michelin-starred restaurant:

Before going to HK, I did not know that afternoon tea was a big tradition there. Having the afternoon tea set, I liked the prawn sandwich best. (Afternoon tea sometimes strikes me more as class signifier than aesthetic experience)

2014-07-19 14.08.48 2014-07-19 14.08.52 2014-07-19 14.20.28 2014-07-19 15.25.56 2014-07-19 15.44.55

The Mandarin Cake Shop in Central, HK

Address: 2nd floor of the Mandarin Oriental HK

While walking through the Landmark complex of 4 shopping centres, I was struck by the pretty cakes on display at the Mandarin Cake Shop. So we had a second round of afternoon tea at the patisserie section of the Mandarin.

2014-07-19 12.38.45 2014-07-19 12.38.50 HDR 2014-07-19 12.38.56 2014-07-19 16.36.19 2014-07-19 16.37.26 2014-07-19 16.38.34

Mille-feuille (3.5/5)

A bit soggy. And basically impossible to cut without squishing the cream all out, if you didn’t have a knife.

2014-07-19 16.37.34 2014-07-19 16.38.19

Chocolate Caramel (4/5)

Salty and sticky, under the chocolate overtones

2014-07-19 16.37.42 2014-07-19 16.54.26

Green Tea Cake (3.75/5)

Kau Kee Restaurant 九記牛腩 in Central, HK

Address: 21 Gough St, Hong Kong

Phone:+852 2850 5967

2014-07-19 17.08.38

2014-07-19 17.09.04

On our way from the Mandarin Oriental we walked by these two interesting characters. One was mimicking the picture of “His Master’s Voice” outside the HMV store, and the other was simply resting in the middle of a busy luxury shopping-street.

2014-07-19 17.19.10 2014-07-19 17.34.53 2014-07-19 17.41.14

Impressive enough to warrant its own Wikipedia page (, the hideously inexpensive Kau Kee features a queue of 20-30 minutes to get your beef brisket noodle fix. Tables of 2 are waved in faster than tables of 3 or 4. The gelatinous cuts of brisket go well with the QQ/al dente noodles, which have a springiness that brings to mind instant ramen. The noodle dough is clean-tasting with clear egg tastes.

2014-07-19 17.46.35

Beef brisket noodles (3.75/5)

Curry beef brisket noodles (4.25/5)

Quinary in Central, HK

Address: Ground Floor 56-58 Hollywood Road Central, Hong Kong.

An ambitious cocktail bar, considered one of the best in HK. Also, they serve the sour-cream tasting tapioca chips, which are combustible. Angel’s Share also serves it.

2014-07-19 18.34.01

Barbados Heritage: “Extra Old” Mount Gay Rum, Grand Marnier, Drambuie, Pernod Absinthe mist, chocolate bitters

The burnt cinnamon stick – aromatic. Strong tangerine flavors.

2014-07-19 19.27.37

Mugunghwa Fizz: homemade yuzu-gin syrup, gin, cream, lemon juice, lime juice, shaken. Topped with Korean rice wine with dashes of orange blossom water and grapefruit peel. (4.5/5)

Interesting, texture like an egg-cream without custard taste-notes, and instead tasting like sake.

2014-07-19 19.02.23

The Roundhouse in Central, HK

Address: 62 Peel St, Hong Kong

Phone:+852 2366 4880

And finally to round off, a new Texas-style BBQ joint cum pub in Central. The brisket is good, though the pulled pork in keeping with Texan stereotype, is a step behind.

2014-07-19 22.04.55 2014-07-19 22.12.39 2014-07-19 22.15.43