Can I Flick Off This Pearl

July 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

And here to your left, lads and ladettes, is a classic example of…. pretty skin, rotten soul.

So mom and I started having these ambitious food adventures since I got back, and on saturday morning, I found myself crouched in front of my computer, getting increasingly stressed as the minutes tickled by and I still haven’t found a lunch spot. I don’t know which online food guide to trust anymore. Openrice? (Free signups, hence a great abundance of people who think they know what they’re talking about. I understand because hello – I am one of them.) Lifestyleasia? Timeout? Tatler? I started getting more and more confused as the number of choices increased exponentially until I suddenly just bounced away from my desk and landed with a poooooouuuuff on my bed.

Felt delicious that way.

And then mom suddenly pointed me away from the Causeway to Central stretch. How about the peak?

And then it suddenly seemed simple. Pearl On The Peak – I remember seeing it pop up for the first time around two years ago. Some sleek sort of place. I checked online – it’s still around! Must be doing pretty good. And so, we drove our way up there.

Readers, BEWARE: Please politely reject any reflex thoughts along the lines of ‘Mmmmm yummmmm’ while viewing the following pictures. It is an illusion created by my camera, not the chef. It is called food propaganda.

First off, I could sense that there was something off when one of the courses on the lunch menu was… ‘eggs’. But then I kind of dismissed that because I had some of the best eggs in my life in the past week or so, so I thought this could turn out being something exciting.

Crack.

Truffled scrambled eggs with foie gras and toast.

As to why I ordered scrambled eggs as an appetizer, I still have no idea as of today. I will blame it on that post-i-ate-the-best-egg-in-my-life syndrome.

But SCRAMBLED EGGS as an appetizer? REALLY? It really was, true to word, a lump of scrambled eggs, over-cooked, glistening with oil. The specks of black bug like things were truffles. But telling you that was probably unnecessary because they were really closer to black bugs than to truffles. And that truffle shaving on top – was kind of like this sad, floppy, transparent film of black plastic. The foie gras tasted like cheap butter. Maybe a bit goose-ified than cheap butter. But still.

I will not comment on the toast.

Mushroom soup

Okay, the soup was alright. But foam – haven’t we seen enough foam? Do we still think foam – one magnificent puddle of cream that I could whip up at home in 5 seconds with an electrical cappucino stirrer – could distract us from the fact that this is just a regular, unimpressive bowl of grey soup? Let’s bow our heads for a minute and reflect upon this grave, grave matter…

 

Roasted King Prawn. Beef Tenderloin. String Beans. Bacon Bits.

Let’s look at the above picture. Isn’t it gorgeous? The contrast of colors, the harmony between the king of the sea and the beast of the earth, the –

The sauce was cold.

Do I need to start preaching to waiters every time I visit a restaurant and tell them that something as black and white as serving what is meant to be hot – hot, makes burnt beef taste like Disneyland on speed?

(At least for the first few bites. Maybe.)

Cheesecake.

Dessert was not bad. Nothing spectacular either.

I just wish an end to all injustice in the world, including restaurants like this which has been sitting smugly like a giant buddha at one of the most scenic spots in Hong Kong for two years and is… well, still sitting smugly there. The plating arrangements could have been more elaborate, the view more amazing, the service better – but at the end of the day, my tongue and my tummy (who are both blind, deaf and dumb, by the way) give the final verdict.

Found guilty.

*

Pearl On The Peak, Shop 2, Level 1, The Peak Tower, The Peak, Hong Kong

Decor: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Taste: 1/5
Price/head: 300 HKD (lunch)
Five years from now, I’m going to remember: The sauce…. was cold.
(all aspects rated with reference to price)

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On Honest Hens And Wooden Spindles

July 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

A: Meet me at 12.45 pm. Central star ferry pier.

No questions asked. I have faith that whatever’s up A’s sleeve, regardless of whether it is a chinese dai pai dong or a 3 star restaurant, would not disappoint.

See, I really think my friends are like my secret agents.

A ferry ride across the harbor later, we made a left upon gracing the TST shore and found ourselves in front of Harbor City.

Hello, Al Molo.

This place, I would say, has an air of sincerity about it. Maybe it’s the decor – the white washed tiles, the exposed brick walls, the wooden spindles, the array of wine bottles and (somehow I particularly noticed) a glazed china sculpture of an artichoke the designer himself apparently spent an hour arranging on the top shelf above the bar. Maybe it’s the lighting – the floor to ceiling windows pouring in stories from a rainy day, the warm glow from the hanging glass globes bouncing off the rustic walls and the wooden ceiling…

Then of course, maybe it’s the food – simply judging from its antipasti bar – a sensible variety of the freshest cheeses and meats (such good proscuitto) and salads. The game hen I had was delightful. I could still remember the heat seething out from its core as I let the crisp, golden skin, the meat and the jus dance and change partners and again and again in my mouth.

Faraona. Roasted hen, savoy cabbage, porcini mushrooms, pancetta, rosemary.

Risotto. Acquarello risotto, wild mushrooms, parmigiano

Tiramisu. Italian mascarpone mousse, espresso soaked lady fingers, salsa ciocolata.

Tartaletta. Gianduja chocolate tart, orange zabaglione, hazelnut crunch gelato.

As per usual, when dessert arrived: the fear of overnutrition, syndrome of a child raised in a developed country, settled like a black crow at the back of my head.

Chocolate, on the contrary to my favorite saying, is not always an exception. I love saying it, but I’m a shameless hypocrite. Chocolate too sweet, too stale, too hard, too soft, too oily – chocolate cakes too crumbly, too dry, and again too sweet, cookies too sugary – would be looking at the fate of the bin.

But here is a chocolate tart that could roll through the gates of fashion skinnydom with exaggerated swagger and no stick animal would dare stand in its way. It’s a tart with a thin,   crisp pastry crust that holds in its midst a toasted hazelnut bottom and a pool of the most gorgeous and silky gianduja chocolate.

I like this place. The attention to the littlest things and the unpretentiousness of this Michael White joint delights me.

Another thing, you have no idea how grateful I am for restaurants with the right menu size, and a graceful maitre d’ who knows the answer to ‘What is good today?’ and ‘Surprise me’, as it happens to be the case at Al Molo. It happens much too often that when a waiter arrives to take our orders, I would look as if I was strapped to my seat by some invisible wires – a deer trapped in headlights, terrified eyes oscillating spasmotically between ‘roast leg of lamb with blah blah balh’ to ‘grass fed beef…’ to ‘pan-fried….’ until everything on the menu in front of me becomes a confused shower of alphabets.

Please, I begged myself in silence, whether you’re ordering a side of potato au gratin or not – is not going to change your life.

Freedom of choice, I have come to discover, does not always bring freedom.

Good meals, I have also come to discover, always bring good days.

And that was a pretty good day.

The pretty sassy bar... makes me miss NYC

*

Al Molo, G63, Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, 17 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

Decor: 5/5
Service: 4.5/5
Taste: 4.5/5
Price/head: 200-300 HKD (lunch)

You Need An Egg?… Not So Fast!

June 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Hokkaido Sea Scallop Carpaccio. Slow-Cooked Egg. White Truffle Dressing

Gorge on the picture all you like but just to make myself clear: nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can describe how sensual the whole experience was. It was the equivalent of some drug that makes your eyelids flutter in a pre-faint state and your lips curve up ever so slightly from trying to suppress a hit of euphoria and your jaws slow down to a munching tempo of around Largo.

Words cannot describe that absurdly soft, absurdly smooth texture of the egg, how it envelops itself like a liquid snake around those succulent, wonderful scallops and how it sings with that white truffle dressing and dance with the flimsy lettuce strands as those dainty bits of chives do the backup singing.

Do you know, by the way, that the slow-cooked egg is termed by David Chang (of Momofuku) as ‘the sexy egg’? That:

‘A slow-poached egg– say, at 143°F (61°C) for 90 minutes– is that rare, perfect synthesis of greenmarket and high tech. When cracked open, the thing spills out ludicrously egg-shaped and ridiculously soft, the yolk suspended between raw and cooked, the cloudy white freed from that slight rubberiness I never knew bothered me until I had an egg without it.’

Says TIME writer Joel Stein in this article.

Have I caught your attention on the egg yet? For the more experimentally inclined, go ahead and read the paper published on Food Biophyics by César Vega and Ruben Mercadé-Prieto entiteld Culinary Biophysics: on the Nature of the 6X°C Egg (there is a free PDF download), where they explored the time-temperature combination of cooking the slow cooked egg in a more technical and less emotional way than I did… kinda like this:

(credits to Khymos blog post, image from Culinary Biophysics: on the Nature of the 6X°C Egg, fig.8, pg 158)

instead of like this:

Under the influence... (This is not, my friend, posed.)

And then there is the Truffle Parpadelle.

Smoked egg. How did, and could a poutry ovum be so glorious? It was like a damned socialite among the layers of slippery pasta and cunning mushrooms.

Truffle Pappardelle. Wild Forrest Mushrooms, Black Truffle. Smoked Organic Egg.

Incredible. Every time I taste something like this, I feel like my tastebuds stumbled upon Alice’s Wonderland in Pandora’s damned box – an amusement park where truffles bloom like cherry blossoms and drive up your nose to tap dance there.

*

Introducing, lads and ladettes, my partner in gluttonous crime (glime?), F.

When ever we come together, wolfing down Ukranian crepes in East Village or slurping up raw scallops in Lan Kwai Fong, one of us would inevitably at some point, wonder out loud how odd of a duo we are.

Happy is the ladette who just got a art house job offer on the phone...

On the fields of Vassar...

(Grant Wood, American Gothic. http://www.chrisdenengelsman.nl)

I’m starting to think all these friends in initials I address here are like my secret agents.

*

Gold by Harlan Goldstein, Level 2 LKF Tower 33 Wyndham Street | Lan Kwai Fong, Central, Hong Kong, China

Decor: 2/5
Service: 3/5
Taste: 5/5
Price/head: 300-600 HKD (lunch)
Five years from now, I’m going to remember: Hokkaido Sea Scallop Carpaccio with Slow-Cooked Egg and White Truffle Dressing, Truffle Pappardellem with Wild Forrest Mushrooms, Black Truffle and Smoked Organic Egg. The egg…. the egggggggggg. And also, sadly, the terrible, distasteful, gold and shiny decor. Well, more the reason to CLOSE YOUR EYES WHILE EATING. (The outside lounge area was quite decent though.)

Daddy Day

June 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

New York Strip on sizzzzzzzzling plate

Look at this babe. Basking without the tiniest dollop of shame in butter and limelight. Not  a hint of humbleness whatsoever. Bloody bastard…

Have I mentioned that I was, three months ago, a vegetarian? For environmental reason?

Sorry, trees.

Apple Crumble Pie. Scoop of Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice-cream.

Must I zoom in?

*Big, toothy smile*

My camera still hasn’t fallen apart. Might as well take advantage of that while it lasts. (Lost the lens cap though.)

I still don’t know how to spell ‘Häagen-Dazs’, I’ve to google it everytime.

Do you know, by the way, that the name ‘Häagen-Dazs’ is not a word of any language, that it is made to look Scandanavian to American eyes, and that its creator Reuben Mattus sat at the kitchen table for hours saying nonsensical words until he came up with a combination he liked? (An Ice Cream Show, 1999)

‘Hagoo..Haaaaaaagooooooo….Haaagaaah. Hagget. Hagega. Hagegen. Hagen…daaaaaaaaaaa….’

It’s a marketing strategy known as ‘foreign marketing’, as he thought Americans think highly of milk from Denmark.

Back to the pie – It is, to be honest, too sweet, too ginormous, too carby (carb-acious?), too gluttonous (a Rat has limits too) for my liking.

But then again, it’s an American steakhouse apple pie. The too-ness of the pie just seemed…hmmm, hugely appropriate.

DAD, SMILE

HAPPY F-DAY.

To fathers all over the world as well.

One big gluttonous kiss from your favorite rat.

*

Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Shop 2&3, G/F, Lippo Centre, 89 Queensway, Admiralty

Decor: 5/5 (Love that shade of wood..)
Service: 5/5
Taste: 4/5
Price: 500-900 HKD (dinner)
Five years from now, I’m going to remember: The steak…. I mean it’s a steakhouse. And they did put enough butter. And the apple pie, because it’s so, so, HUGE.

Me Meets Meats

June 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Pan-fried Foie Gras. Dill, warm apples, sweet bread, balsamic reduction.

Whenever I see all the oily goodness spill out as I knife through it, I would be reminded of S’s foie gras cooking encounter. See thing is, when raw, that rubbery looking pink lope of organ MUST be seared with high heat, otherwise it would melt and reduce itself to a transparent puddle of goose grease. (Livers… such graciously fat things.) DON’T pour that down the drain in case it happens, save it in a bowl, and fry instant noodles with it next morning.

One of those important life lessons a best friend teaches you.

Wagyu sirloin carpaccio with honey mustard rocket leaves & lemon aioli

Red Snapper

US Sirloin. Potato au gratin (gorgeous stuff, best of its kind in a while, not too heavy, crispy at the top), red wine bearnaise sauce.

*UHRMMM*

I’ve been trying, for the past few years of my life, to perfect the sound of a bite. Not just a static string of alphabets to use every time I want to say ‘bite’, but an arrangement of syllables that customizes itself each time to perfectly mimic the intensity of different bits sand hence the distinctive emotions resulted from them.

I mean to say, one eats different foodstuff differently in order to savor the respective optimal flavors – a huge, feverish kinda of chomp for sirloins, and dainty, cautious bites for macarons. From deciding whether to start the word with ‘AR-‘ or ‘UHR-‘ or ‘AH-‘ to deciding how may ‘M’s to put at the end to considering whether to put it in caps or lower-case (for example, I don’t think the above munch was as rash as say munching into Machos Nachos after hours of working on a plaster casting in the dead of winter – I wish there was something between upper and lower case…) — it’s a tough business.

Creme Brulee. Crack'd from side to side.

You know what this reminds me of?

Out flew the web and floated wide-
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott.

”The Lady Of Shallot” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Something I remember from my Agatha Christie fanatic phase…

Excellent creme brulee. Actually the best moment of the whole evening, was in a bad mood at the beginning of the meal. The ‘crack’ that the pane of caramelized glass whispered was such a beautiful sound.

I know I know this is just a petit four

But such a lovely one at that. I don’t care much for the cookies next to it, I always feel like cookies at the end is such an anti-climax. This one has some sort of milk chocolate ganache with almond slices between two thin layers of dark chocolate.

Oh endorphination…

*

Steik World Meats, Shop 14 Level 3, K11, 18 Hanoi Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.

Decor: 4/5
Service: 4.5/5
Taste: 3/5
Price/head: 600-1000 HKD (dinner)
Five years from now, I’m going to remember: The creme brulee, the crabmeat sprawled across the sauce of the snapper, the chocolate.

I’ll start rating places from now on. All aspects are rated with the price and type of restaurant being key areas of consideration.

JUST PRACTICING in case NY Times decides to hire me. Oh ho ho… ha ha… ha… hmm.

I Finds This

June 16, 2011 § 1 Comment

Salmon Six Ways: Cold Smoked, Seared, Mousse, Pickled, Gravad Lax, Roe.

*Note at the end: Insider tips on what to do with sucky iPhone food pictures that you desperately want to post on your blog but equally desperately ashamed to.*

The things you can do with salmon. Reminds me of our materials project from last semester – we had to treat a certain fabric in as many ways as possible to see how it stands under different situations – so we boiled silk, baked felt, poached wool bury it five foot deep in cow dung and sprinkle it with fairy dust. Not really. But I love it when those n way dishes make me crave each one for more while I jump back and forth between the pickled and the tartare option while keeping a ferocious eye on the pan-fried one. This comes in six ways (yes six, more than the number of courses we had) and my first thought was – uh salmon circus much? But well, you get some kicks out of circuses at times. The beetroot marinated, the mousse and the sashimi ones with dill and mustard sauce stood out like sweet beasts.

Soup. Lovely. Just lovely. The pan-fried shrimp on the side? Lovely. The kind of lovely where you wipe your bowl clean with a chunk of bread in the end.

The lamb was decent. Portion’s just right for a foetus.

Seafood linguine. So so.

Blueberry Donuts in Martini Glass and Vanilla Sauce. Kinda fun.

Decor… Everyone! FOCUS ON THE FOOD!

By the way, ‘FINDS experiences are inspired by the five Nordic countries: Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden.’

Oooh.

Greenland Shrimp Soup

Lamb Tenderloin. Potatoes Simmered In Veal Stock, Fava Beans, Tomatoes, Lamb Jus

*

FINDS, 1/F The Luxe Manor, 39 Kimberley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

Decor: 1/5
Service: 5/5
Taste: 4/5
Price/head : around 500 HKD (dinner)

*

What to do with sucky iPhone food pics on iPhoto:

1) Tweak the contrasts all the way up till a point where you go, shit that makes me look like I used one of those ridiculous camera apps. Tweak it down again. 2) Repeat step one but replace ‘contrast’ with ‘exposure’. 3) Crop the pic so that it looks intentionally (and hopefully tastefully) off centered. Trial ad error until you noticed you cropped 80% of the dish out. Go back to first edit. 4) Think to self: this still looks like shit. 5) Drag saturation all the way to 0, making it black and white. Then think… No no no people would think I’m drinking water instead of wine with my salmon. No… 6) Repeat step 1) to 5) again, this time in a more erratic order, in a more spasmodic manner. 7) Post final edit (which looks almost if not completely the same as the original file) and think to self: Even my mom could tell I took this with my iPhone…

FEAR NOT. White Olympus camera throned Gloria Yu’s fourth camera of the year 2011 yesterday. How long would her regime be? Will she bend under pressure as quickly as her predecessors did? Can she deal with the increasing stakes at hand?

Stay tuned.

Those Colors Were Colorful

June 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Fresh fruits, enveloped with a golden parchment of crepe, glowing with passion under a cold, hard fist of cappuccino ice-cream, sprinkled with a ridiculous variety of technicolored sprinkle-able sweet flecks and drizzled with chocolate and strawberry syrup with an avant-garde flair because we have been doing it this way since we were a meter tall when we were made to believe that we were born artists — classic clubhouse favorite.

Hand me a cheesecake made from the milk of the great-great-great-great-grand-daughter of the lamb that witnessed the birth of Baby Jesus…. and I’ll still go back to this at the end of the day.

*

The Paddock, Jockey Club, Happy Valley, HK

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