dishesandplaces

a dinner date to pick up the weary

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2014 at 11:07 am

the past two weeks have been a little rough. well, the past two months have been hectic, but the past two weeks have been particularly so – which is why we decided on a nice, kinda fancy dinner. a datey date. 

we’ve been generally wary of dining french because we’re afraid the food might be to rich, heavy. but something tugged last night to champetre at the fort, and we’re glad.

first dish – a special of the night, an appetizer not on the menu. so following the rule of always ordering the special, we agreed to try the portobello mushrooms in cream and baked with an egg

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terrific mushroom flavor! tasted some thyme in there. the cream wasn’t heavy at all – just rendering a nice, silky base to the dish. underneath that, a perfect egg. unctuous and earthy. lovely way to start the meal.

then the main course – good thing we were told this was good to share so we didn’t order another main: algerian couscous with lamb chops and sausage

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served with a rich mediterranean soup (afraid i can’t recall what it was called)

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the whole thing worked together: with chicken and beef, and we saw onions, tomatoes, zucchini, cloves and chick peas in it – the broth was robust and, poured over the couscous, gave a wonderful flavor base that in no way contradicted the lamb. the chop itself was perfect – seasoning and doneness – although the sausage was a little on the dry side. the little bowl contained hot sauce, a delightful punctuation to the dish. inspired. washed down with a chateau saint jacques bordeaux. perfect.

dessert was homemade almond and honey ice cream

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deeeelicious. texture not as creamy as we would have thought ideal (ie, there was a bit of ice in there), but the flavors were really very very good. a bright, perky note to end the meal on.

the vision for this restaurant (i read somewhere before) was to provide french countryside cuisine. rustic and hearty. it does just that. french food that is not snobbish, but with all the flavor that the cuisine is famous for.

ho hung kee (not to be mistaken for hunky ho)

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2013 at 10:20 am

still on the cheap michelin star thing, we also made it a point to dine at ho hung kee – famous for their wonton noodles and congee. founded in 1946, ho hung kee started as a small noodle stall and just recently moved into the upscale hysan place. we saw the size of the congee serving and decided we couldn’t manage, but we did make sure to have the wonton noodle soup

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what makes a superior noodle soup? our technique-and-not-just-flavor theory seems to hold here as well. the actual noodles had the perfect texture: they were firm and springy, you could feel each individual strand. the wonton wrap, very light, amazingly held form throughout. the taste was of course good, but not mind blowing. so we’re sticking to our belief that what makes this a cut above is technique. and this was supported later on when we had some random noodle soup a couple of days later – the wrap was thick and clunky and the noodles a little clumpy, although the broth and actual wontons weren’t far apart in flavor.

we also ordered another house specialty, the rice roll

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we got the sampler plate – and unfortunately i forgot what they were filled with. i’m sure there was shrimp in one but the others are lost to me (forgot to take notes). this dish also very satisfactory, we’re praising again the texture of the rice wrap. however, i realized that this form is not my favorite because of the wrap to filling ratio – a little too much wrap. and this was also true for what we had in tim ho wan so i understand it’s the way it should be. but i personally wouldn’t mind a little more filling.

still on the wrapped stuff dishes, next was deep fried dumpling, aka pinsec frito

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loved this. light and crispy. but you know, we had something very close to it in a shabu shabu place in manila (lau chan along mabini – we’ll write about that soon) so while this was a little lighter, the one in lau chan is also very good.

the last dish was the one that gave our palates quite an adventure: fishballs with a fermented clam dip

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that dip was unlike anything we’ve had. in theory, it could have resembled bagoong isda, but it didn’t. its flavor was far more funky – more fermented (?) much closer to the whoops-stored-that-a-bit-too-long end of the spectrum. we ate the whole dish, it was good. but yeah – considering we’re filipino and fairly adept at fermented condiments, this one was really trippy.

i’m afraid i didn’t note prices either. but the whole meal cost us something like HK$200 (P1200) so it wasn’t crazy expensive. the noodle soup i remember was HK$35.

so yeah, ho hung kee is something we’d like to come back to because we missed the congee and it did look spectacular.

that and the fact that there is a major major apple store in the building.

getting down to it as soon as you arrive in HK: tim ho wan

In places on December 28, 2013 at 7:10 pm

much ado has been made about tim ho wan – cheapest michelin star restaurant – and we will ado with everybody else because hey, we’ve never had michelin star food before. we went to the branch at the IFC mall because that was the easiest to get to. as soon as we got off the airport express at the hong kong station, we took the lift one level up and looked for the crowd. so there we were with our backpacks milling about like everybody else.

because this was our very first time, we ordered what a lot of people had already recommended, starting with the roasted pork bun (HKD 19, P105 for 3 pieces)

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the short of it is this is toasted siopao. but of course it is a little more complex than that. the bun is very light with a thin layer of crispness on the outside. it is also slightly sweet. then the filling is thick and sweet and salty. yes, rather delicious. but cloying, the sweetness becomes overwhelming and a tad one-dimensional. we could only eat one apiece. making us the only people we’ve read about who aren’t willing to gobble these down by the dozen.

another house specialty is the steamed egg cake (HK$14, P75)

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aka, puto binan. very good, but unremarkable.

now the next dish is what bowled us over. a favorite of ours – radish cake (HK$14 P75)

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this we found most delicious. delicate, subtle. adjectives you wouldn’t normally use when describing radish cake. but there you go. so good it puts us at a loss how we can ever eat radish cake anywhere else.

on another visit (we ate there twice in 2 days in HK – would’ve done a 3rd but our flight left before they opened in the morning), we had chicken feet (HK$26, P145) and beef ball wrapped in bean curd skin (HK$15, P75)

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very tasty. the chicken feet were exceptionally plump – and we honestly don’t want to think about that too much. this beef ball is also rather delicate and fragrant – full of flavor, but not in any way that dulls the flavor of other dishes. something to order again.

we also had har gaw (HK$25, P130) and kutchai dumplings (HK$25, P130) which had exceptional texture and great freshness.

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we realized that one big differentiator was the wrap. the dumpling wrap at tim ho wan is at once light and thin and sturdy. not at all like the clumsier thick wraps of a lot of chain places and even some of the more specialized restaurants. we also had the rice roll stuffed with pig’s liver (HK$20, P110) which also demonstrated this balance.

and then dessert. tonic medlar and petal cake (HK$ 12, P70)

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everybody at the restaurant would order this and with good reason. it’s so good. very cool, refreshing. floral, yes a little. actually the perfect end to a tim ho wan meal. don’t skip this.

in the end, we mused about the whole michelin star thing and realized that a lot of what separates cooks (even good cooks) from great cooks and professionals is technique. it’s not just the flavor, but – for example – the making of a dumpling wrap that is so light it doesn’t interfere with what’s inside. or getting that bun the right crisp.

so does tim ho wan deserve a michelin star? well, we don’t have the creds to answer that. but we have eaten enough to know that what they do is certainly exceptional and you must try it.

and just a couple of days ago we got news that they are opening in megamall. how about that.

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