Monthly Archives: April 2013

Dining out in the Mighty Kong: Part Two

Boy Mestizo’s food adventures in Hong Kong… continued

 

It was a rather cool morning; the sun had disappeared behind the mist and the clouds, and a breeze was skipping its way across the waves. I leant against the rails on the pier, staring moodily across the harbour and taking in the ferry making its way over to me. My ferry. Our ferry. Except my friends were late. This was looking like a good start to the week…

I tend to forget that I grew up by the sea, and frequently spent much of my time on it, be it on the Star Ferry wending its way from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui, on the boat over to Mui Wo on Lantau Island every Easter, on junk trips around the islands, or on the catamaran to Macau. Hong Kong is surrounded and shaped by the sea, and it informs the food. This isn’t often something that I feel is really communicated across to the average English diner by your average Chinese restaurant here (chances are it would be Cantonese); the average person instinctively thinks of things like sweet and sour pork, fried rice, stir-fried noodles and crispy aromatic duck, long before they think of things that came out of the sea.

So it was refreshing to head on over to Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island, a destination long known for its seafood restaurants, not just amongst the expats who would end their junk trips there, but also amongst locals. There is still an active fishing fleet here and several fish farms, which gives Sok Kwu Wan the double charm of not only having fresh seafood, but also of being a slice of old, rural Hong Kong. And so it is that we take a look at some food…

 

Rainbow Seafood Restaurant

23-25 First Street, Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma Island, +852 2982 8100, http://www.rainbowrest.com.hk/eng/attractions.asp

I remember visiting here when I was younger, but back when I was an ickle sprite, I was not as appreciative of seafood as I am now. But still, there are lines I won’t cross, and one of those lines is sea snails. My friends were very ecstatic about them, and chose the set menu primarily because of the sea snails…. but oh no! You didn’t catch any today? You’re going to replace the dish with clams in black bean sauce?? What a shame…!

He was just all clammed up about this dish

He was just all clammed up about this dish

This was a good, classic dish, with safe and familiar flavours. As clam shells are not particularly edible, it was disappointing that we therefore had more shell than meat. Thinking of which, those shells would have made for good decorations around the flat, say, maybe for a summer beach party. Hmm…

King of the prawns, king of the table

King of the prawns, king of the table

I did very much enjoy the king prawns fried with garlic and chilli, and served with crispy rice cracker bits. Wonderfully savoury, these prawns packed a good amount of juicy flesh, and eating the diced garlic with the crispy rice cracker was a tasty way to pass the time until the next dish.

Beauty in simplicity

Beauty in simplicity

And what a dish this next item was: steamed scallops served with oily minced garlic and ginger, spring onions and rice vermicelli noodles. Oh my. OH MY. Succulent, tender pieces of scallops flavoured with the sweetness of the garlic and the bite of the spring onions, all wrapped up in the yummy oily noodles. This was the showpiece of our meal, as it stunned us with its flavours and its simplicity.

Not your average sweet and sour dish

Not your average sweet and sour dish

Less simply-constructed was a good ol’ hefty fish deep-fried in a light batter and served with sweet and sour sauce. Now, this sauce was not an overly-sweet, gooey concoction packed with sugar and whatnot else; it was actually really refreshing and more-ish. And when poured all over pieces of fish that have been fried in such fluffy and light batter that did not even hint at greasiness, you’ve got a winning dish.

I always imagine these guys to be quite cuddly

I always imagine these guys to be quite cuddly

Oh, and this is another line I’m not so keen on crossing. It’s not because I find cuttlefish cute (look how bulbous they are! Cuuuute eh), but because, well, I just don’t particularly like the taste.

 

Guangdong Barbecue Restaurant

43 Hankow Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, +852 2735 5151

Ah, the Symphony of Lights. Such a corny piece of touristy nonsense if ever I saw one. Victoria Harbour and the Hong Kong are already pretty impressive enough, without a laser show shooting off in time to some cheesy arrangement and faux-American voiceovers. Still, it is something that has to be seen, if only to show the Shard how a laser show should be done.

Lasers shooting off all over the place

Lasers shooting off all over the place

Anyway, we were chilled and hungry, and in search of a quick, cheap fix. And so it was, stumbling around the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui weighing up our options, we chanced upon Guangdong Barbecue Restaurant. Roasted duck and pieces of glazed pork belly hung in the windows, beckoning us in with their “ooh so shiny” allure – it was time for siu mei.

Alas, our sails had some of the wind taken out of them when we quickly realised that Guangdong Barbecue has both a Chinese and an English menu, the latter of which was much shorter than the former. Boo hiss!

I have a feeling that we were also charged higher prices because we ordered in English, which took away a bit from our enjoyment of this meal.

I broke with tradition, and instead of getting the usual char siu fan, I opted instead for the crispy roasted pork belly. Even with just three component parts – roast pork, steamed rice, sautéed choi sum – it is a visually-arresting dish with such vibrant and enticing colours. Alas, the cut of pork belly that they used was rather bony, so I did spend a fair bit of time chewing around the ribs.

Meat, veg and rice - get in my son!

Meat, veg and rice – get in my son!

It was a good meal, but to be honest, you could do better elsewhere.

 

Din Tai Fung

Shop 130, 3/F Silvercord, 30 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, +852 2730 6928, http://www.dintaifung.com.hk/

Ah, another Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant – how glamorous this trip is turning out to be! Din Tai Fung is a chain that emerged in Taiwan, and has carved itself a reputation as being a purveyor of fine, fine, fine xiao long bao, the Shanghainese soup dumplings.

So even though I was destined somewhere else for dinner that night, since I was in the area I knew that I just had to try some – after all, I was determined to get my full dim sum fix this trip. And my friends, before they left to go back to Manila, had prattled on about this continuously.

Having arrived at 4pm, laden with shopping, I was quickly ushered into the near-empty restaurant and to a table by the window. I was the only solo table there – every other table was filled with the remnants of the lunchtime crowd and some ladies having afternoon snacks. Yes, dim sum is best had in a group and shared, but by God I needed this fix baaad. Just one more hit, please!

Bopping with my baos

Bopping with my baos

My first choice was of course the classic xiao long bao. I was extremely tempted to get the black truffle version, but rather foolishly I convinced myself that I’d be able to come back this trip and have some (spoiler alert: I never made it back). But no worries – it was a good choice.

Subtext: if you scald yourself with burning hot broth, YOU ARE AN IDIOT

Subtext: if you scald yourself with burning hot broth, YOU ARE AN IDIOT

Following the helpful instruction card, I prepared my dipping sauce, took up my first dumpling, pierced the skin, added the ginger and consumed. And wow, it was luscious. The skin was not too chewy, the broth was rich and warming, and the filling tender and juicy. Overall, it was a delicious experience; I did my best not to just wolf them all down.

Perfectly-shaped, perfectly tasty

Perfectly-shaped, perfectly tasty

I also had a chance to try their siu mai – and these were rather special ones. With nice chunky prawns in them, there was a great texture and fresh taste to these, infinitely better than any I’ve had in London, and perhaps even better than the ones at Tim Ho Wan. And, rather surprisingly, like Din Tai Fung’s xiao long bao, they were filled with a savoury broth. It was a good thing it squirted away from me when I chowed down on one!

And, since I am a sucker for taho (or, as it is known in Cantonese, dau fu fa), I could not resist getting the almond silky tofu pudding. Very smooth, almost cream-like – and almost like a smiley face J

Smile!

Smile!

 

Currently listening to: Finch – Letters to You

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Categories: Chinese | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Find the Jade Door: Chilling out in Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlour

Copyright of Opium. Sourced from Opium website

Copyright of Opium. Sourced from Opium website

Cuisine: Cocktail bar

Address: 15-16 Gerrard Street

Area: Chinatown

Nearest Station: Leicester Square/Piccadilly Circus

Tel.: 020 7734 7276

Website: http://opiumchinatown.com/

Pricing: High

Good For: Showpiece cocktails, Good cocktails, Friendly conversation, Place for romance, Chic night

“Am having a drink in an opium den”. Not the sort of thing that my mum was expecting when she texted me, asking me to call her regarding Easter Sunday plans the next day… but, well, it was the truth. Sort of.

My friend and I were feeling on a bit of a roll after having dined out in Flat Iron: the night was still young, there was still a lot to catch up on, we weren’t drunk yet… we needed a suitable venue in which to continue the evening’s pleasantries.

And so, upon her recommendation, we decided to check out Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlour. It’s located up some stairs behind a plain jade door on Gerrard Street, right in the middle of Chinatown, so I’m sure the various tourists milling around were somewhat bemused to see us meet-and-greeted by the imposing bouncer, and then let into a secret and exclusive world of Chinoiserie and Orientalism.

As befitting a den of iniquity (the dim sum’s influence, obviously), the lighting was dim and moody, but the décor was cleanly presented and well-executed, giving a real ambience of fun Eastern ‘exotica’.

Sourced from Opium website. I felt too shy to take photos when I was there *blushes*

Sourced from Opium website. I felt too shy to take photos when I was there *blushes*

We had some seats by the bar in the Apothecary, facing the mystery bottles lined up along the back, distinguished by the Chinese numbers adorning them. Sitting at the bar afforded us great views of the show that the mixologists were putting on. So, what did we have to drink?

She had the Year of the Snakebite & Blackcurrant, which was rather sweet, masking the potency of the alcohol. With the lemon sorbet whisked in, there was a lovely smoothness to it. Alongside that, I had the Flying Firecracker, a refreshing and slightly tart concoction that came with complimentary gunpowder balls. “What do we do with these?” I asked, wondering whether we really were allowed to throw them around with reckless abandon. The barman proceeded to show us that, yes, we could just lob these around – his fellow barstaff, the waitresses, even some other customers, were victims to the little pop these balls made. Now if only it were a free flow service…

A witch's cauldron of cocktail goodness. Sourced from www.whattickles.com

A witch’s cauldron of cocktail goodness. No way my camera phone will take as good a photo as this. Sourced from whattickles.com

Later on, after having watched several being made and being extremely intrigued, I succumbed to the pressure and had the Opium Cocktail No. 2 as, well, my number two cocktail. This came in a little, smoking cauldron and was accompanied by a tiny bottle of ginseng which would act as a chaser. It was a fascinating sight to see it placed before me, and my friend and I ooh-ed and ahh-ed as we explored every aspect of it. Alas, they did not have guava jam at the time, but I was assured that the next time I came here, I could use it to offset the bitterness of the ginseng chaser.

Overall, it was good evening of convivial conversation and fun drinks in a rather relaxed and cool setting. We even got to try the crab and samphire dumplings (very tasty, slightly unusual because of the samphire, but you can get cheaper and just as good elsewhere), just so that we could say that we came to Opium and did BOTH cocktails and dim sum.

Cocktails and dim sum… it is a winning combination.

VERDICT – Highly recommended. As I was discussing with someone else recently, it is a bit hard to find a relaxed yet cool place where you can go for really good and interesting cocktails and not be drowned out by the loud music or other groups. The staff here were all really chatty and quite clearly enjoyed what they were doing. When you’ve got all those ingredients thrown into the mix, how can you not enjoy yourself?

Currently listening to: Coheed and Cambria – Key Entity Extraction III: Vic the Butcher

Categories: Chinese, Cocktail Bar | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Kamayan Supper Club returns!

Have you been missing your Filipino food fix? Or have you never ever tried the wondrous flavours of Las Islas Filipinas?

Well, the wait is over! Thanks to me and Mae of Pepe’s Kitchen, the Kamayan Supper Club is making its return to a Saturday night near you! London’s first Filipino home-dining experience is back!

You can read how we fared the last time here, or you can look at the photos here. Over the course of three weekends in February, we managed to get our heads together and somehow serve enough food to satisfy some fascinating, interesting and funny people, until they were stuffed to the gills. And I mean STUFFED. STUFFED WITH DELICIOUSNESS AND GOOD TIMES.

Filipinosupperclubkarekare3

FilipinosupperclubkwekkwekFilipinosupperclubsinigang

 

Based on those experiences, Mae and I thought it would be absolutely criminal if we were to not continue on our mission to bring knowledge of Filipino food to the London masses. After all, that is why we are doing this. Along the way, we will make our acquaintance with friends both old and new, but ultimately, we want to do our cuisine proud and make the bold statement that yes, Filipino food is damn good, and it is damn good for you too.

So, with new menus showcasing new dishes and taste sensations developed just for you, we hope that the next run of the Kamayan Supper Club will entice and delight you.

Look to your calendars then, and make sure you are free on Saturday 27th April and Saturday 11th May.

Once you have done that, click here to find out how you can make a booking and bag yourself some seats.

What are you waiting for? Mae and I are just here, waiting to welcome you and feed you. Let us be your friends and your chefs.

Filipinosupperclub9thfeb3

Mabuhay! Kumain ka na?

Categories: Filipino, Supper Club | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment