Crab Fat Linguine (guest post)

I know I’ve been really delinquent with posting. I still have my truffle hunt to write about, plus some other recommendations from my recent trip to Perth. And I’ve just come back from Kyoto, so expect a Kyoto Guide in the coming month. But, to keep you entertained for now, I have begged a friend to step in with a guest post. Amazingly, this awesome hottie who usually charges quite a bit for her words has generously agreed to lend a hand. Originally from New York, Amy Ma is a trained chef and food writer based in Hong Kong (and a fellow college alumn–go baby blue!). She is a regular contributor to the South China Morning Post and Wall Street Journal (Weekend Asia). If you’re looking for a little less food and a little more Amy, check out her weekly HK Magzine column, where she muses on the underbelly of HK’s culinary world: http://hk-magazine.com/columnists/amy-ma?type=feature. Oh, and if you ever meet her, ask her about the “thong story”. Made me laugh until it hurt.

An Ode to Crab Fat
by Amy Ma

A lot of things don’t make it onto the official Chubby Hubby blog. Like the fact that he was kind enough to offer me a bottle of crab fat he picked up on his recent Manila trip. And that I was rude enough to accept, and make him send a care package all the way to Hong Kong.

Called aligue or taba ng talangka (in Tagalog), crab “fat” is really crab roe, or the coral-colored blubbery goodness you scoop out from underneath the shell and in between the body cavity of your crustacean friend. The Shanghainese have a similar product rendered out of the hairy crab, but it’s not to be confused with the Japanese kani miso or crab “brain” – really just crab guts – a grayish, liver-tasting paste from the Hokkaido crab. Not my favorite. (Keep reading)

Make your own mee and charsiu

I mentioned a couple posts ago that one of the very best ways to enjoy homemade wontons is with noodles and charsiu (roast pork), i.e. as part of a perfect plate of wonton mee. What I should have said also is that to really make that dish special, you should also make the charsiu and the noodles yourself.

Before you start getting freaked out, let me assure you that both are surprisingly easy to make. Just give yourself some time to prepare both items properly. And I promise that if you do make the effort and take the time to make not just your wontons but also your mee and charsiu, you will be super pleased with the results. And your guests — or whomever you decide to serve these to — will be in a state of culinary euphoria.

The recipes that S and I have found most trustworthy for charsiu and mee both come from the same amazing food writer and restaurateur, Barbara Tropp. Her cookbook The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking is still, to us, today unrivalled among Chinese cookbooks for its accuracy, clarity, and ease of use. It still sometimes amazes us that a diminutive Jewish-American woman is the authority we trust most when searching for a great Chinese recipe. Of course, as all home cooks do, we’ve tweaked Ms Tropp’s recipes a little to suit our own tastes as well as our kitchen equipment. You may also find that for your tastes and in your kitchen you might need to make some necessary adjustments. (Keep reading)

Two wonderful French outposts in HK

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hazlenut tropizienne with salted caramel and vanilla ice cream from Caprice

Two of the restaurants we were most excited to visit in Hong Kong were L’Atelier de Robuchon and Caprice. Both establishments opened recently to great fanfare. Both are French imports, the former part of a growing international chain helmed by Joel Robuchon, once considered the world’s greatest chef. The latter is an off-shoot of Le Cinq, the respected flagship restaurant of the Four Seasons Georges V Hotel run by Philippe Legendre.

I visited the Paris branch of L’Atelier a few years ago and loved it. I’ve also eaten several times at Robuchon’s restaurant in Macau, of which I am a huge fan. S, however, had never eaten at any of his establishments. I was thus really thrilled to be able to take her to the Hong Kong branch of L’Atelier, located on the 4th floor of the Landmark building, for her first taste of Robuchon’s cuisine.

As at all L’Ateliers around the world, the HK branch has striking and sexy red and black interiors. Unlike some of its sister branches, you can sit at either the counter or at a table. By contrast, the original branch in Paris only offers counter-dining. Because we wanted to see the action (in the kitchen) and we because we always enjoy chatting with a restaurant’s staff, we chose counter seats. While L’Atelier offers a pretty awesome 9-course “menu decouverte” for HK$1450, we decided (mostly because we were so stuffed from our lunch at Yun Fu) to order a la carte. S chose 3 courses from the “small tasting portions” menu and then a main dish from the hot and cold appetizers menu. She had the “Iberian Bellota” ham served with toasted bread and tomato; scallops in their shells with seaweed butter; steak tartare with handmade French fries and foie gras ravioli in warm chicken broth. I ordered similarly, but chose my main from the fish and meat entrees menu. I had the scallops with seaweed butter; crispy langoustine papillote with pesto; the beef and foie gras burgers with lightly caramelized bell peppers; and the free-range quail with foie gras, served with truffled mashed potatoes. I ended my meal with Robuchon’s version of a mont blanc, described as “cream of chestnut with aged rum and crunch pearls”. S had ice cream. The meal was fun. The food was very well-executed and very tasty. The staff (once we ordered our second bottle of wine) were very nice and chatty. I have to admit that I think the food at Robuchon’s much pricier, more formal and more old-fashioned restaurant in Macau is a little bit better. But unlike the Galera a Robuchon, which I would only go to on special occasions, I would feel comfortable popping into L’Atelier often, ordering 2 or 3 things off their small tasting portions menu for lunch or a light dinner. I think L’Atelier is a great addition to the HK dining scene and I wish that someone would open one in Singapore so that I could dine there weekly.
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pork cheek with mashed potatoes from Caprice

There are some restaurants that simply look best at lunch, with the afternoon light flooding its rooms. Novus in Singapore is one such restaurant. And after having visited Caprice, the French restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel, for Sunday lunch, I think it is one of these as well. The main dining room is large, with extremely high ceilings and huge picture windows. The color scheme is light. The interiors have a touch of old-world elegance that both S and I really loved. At lunch, the restaurant is bathed in natural light and, well, glows.

Lunch is also a great bargain, so long as you order from the set menus (you get to choose either two or three courses from a list of dishes) or from the tasting portions menu, available (I was told) only on Saturdays and Sundays. I opted to order my first course from the tasting menu, a langoustine and sweetbread ravioli served in a reduced lobster broth. It was a gorgeous dish and the best of the day. For the rest of my meal, I opted for the two-course set lunch and had a pork cheek served with mashed potatoes and a hazlenut “tropizienne” with salted caramel sauce, tangerine slices and vanilla ice cream. Both courses were very good. Not life-changing but good. S also had the langoustine and sweetbread ravioli to start but had a Challans duck for her main course. It was gorgeous — tender and flavorful. To end the meal, she tried the black and white chocolate geometry with caramelised almond and cocoa sorbet, an elegant and light dessert. She also ordered a cup of the hotel’s signature tea, a blend of lavender, jasmine, vanilla and green tea. She liked it so much she bought a whole tin of it.

In all, both restaurants were lovely. L’Atelier is dark, moody and sexy, Caprice, during the day, is bright, elegant and glamourous. If L’Atelier is Angelina Jolie, Caprice might be Gwyneth Paltrow. Personally, I liked Caprice’s interiors better. But that’s a purely personal preference. Food-wise, I’d be happy eating at either restaurant any day of the week.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Shop 401, 4/F The Landmark
15 Queen’s Road, Central
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2166 9000

Caprice
Four Seasons Hotel
8 Finance Street, Central
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 3196 8888

Yun Fu

I’ve previously written about both Hutong and Shui Hu Ju. Owned by the Aqua restaurant group, these are two of my all-time favourite places to stuff my face in Hong Kong. While the two restaurants serve similar menus — super-delicious, rustic Northern Chinese fare — each has its own unique feel. Hutong, located high atop the One Peking Road building in Kowloon is James Bond sexy. It’s the kind of place to go on a hot date when you want to show off the sexy young thing joining you for dinner. Shui Hu Ju, located on Peel Street in Hong Kong’s SoHo area, is tiny, dark and very intimate. It’s a place for recluses and secret meals.

I was thrilled to discover that the Aqua group has recently opened a new Chinese restaurant in Central. I was also amused to find out, after talking to several friends and a few hoteliers, that no one seemed to know about it. Yun Fu is located in the basement of a building on Wyndham Street. The building faces The Centrium (where the popular Dragon-i bar and restaurant is located) and is just west of the very stylish LKF Hotel. Yet despite it’s very central location and having been opened since December, when I mentioned that I was going to have or had lunch at Yun Fu, everyone I knew went, “Huh? What restaurant? I’ve never heard of that place.” Even the General Manager of the LKF and the hotel’s concierges didn’t know about it, shocking considering it’s just a few doors away.

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Entering Yun Fu is fun. You walk down a steep staircase. Then you enter a round, stone-walled room with a small circular bar. On the far side of the room there’s a long hallway, which you have to walk through to access the private rooms and main dining room. The whole experience feels like you’ve entered some illegal, subterranean, private club. The hallway is flanked with arched, old Chinese wood and glass doors. The glass is a deep red. Through them you can spy the restaurant’s kitchens, which is surreal considering that you’ll find cuts of meat hanging from menacing looking meat hooks and chefs prepping food. The hallway opens into a dimly lit dining room dominated by a large buddha draped in saffron silk.

We started with cold river prawns with green scallions which were beautifully presented in a covered basket. The dish was light, clean and refreshing. It was very subtly seasoned and would have been the perfect foil for a spicy dish. Our next course was duck wrapped in tofu pancake, a delicious roll of shredded duck, slivers of tofu and vegetables wrapped in a thin omelette that was then deep fried. The combination of flavors and contrast of textures was a delight. I would definitely order this dish again. The restaurant group’s signature crispy mutton followed after. I have to have this at least once every time I visit Hong Kong. It was served with a tart, vinegar dip that cut through the fatty mutton. Mandarin fish in salted egg yolk was next. Utterly sensual and delicious. To make S happy, we had some green vegetables to end the meal. I can’t honestly remember what kind of vegetable we ordered; they were good though.

Despite its semi-secret status, the restaurant was about two-thirds full. I would urge anyone living in Hong Kong or visiting soon to book a table as soon as possible. I’m sure once people realize where Yun Fu is and how good the food is, it will soon be packed day and night.

Yun Fu
Basement 43-55 Wyndham Street
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2116 8855

Opia’s new menu

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S and I are currently in Hong Kong for a few days. One our first night in town, we revisited a restaurant that we really liked when we first tried it back in August 2005. At that time, Opia, located in the JIA hotel, was under the consultancy of Melbourne celeb chef Teage Ezard. And while it was obvious that Opia’s head chef Dane Clouston was talented, he was preparing and serving Teage’s food, not his own. Fast-forward two years and things have certainly changed. While Dane is still executive chef, Ezard is no longer working with JIA. The restaurant’s kitchens are now truly under the helm and influence of Chef Clouston.

Chef Clouston has just launched a new menu; it’s noteworthy because it is the first that is truly his own. And from the few dishes we tried, we were very impressed. We were glad to see that the new dishes are more strongly contemporary European, as opposed to the very Southeast Asian influenced cuisine that Ezard is famous for. While it would have been easy for Chef Clouston to litter his menu with such fusion items, critics and customers alike might have said that he was still living in Ezard’s shadow. With his new menu, Clouston has been able to prove that he has come into his own as a mature, smart and accomplished chef.

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We started our meal with an amuse-bouche of Opia’s famous oyster shooters. These were paired with rolls of green tea soba wrapped in seaweed. As a first course, I had a seared Hokkaido scallop served with Yarra Valley salmon roe, pickled cherries, and a white chocolate mousse. This course was awesome. I’m a big sucker for salty-sweet combinations and for me, this dish was magic in my mouth. The savoriness of the roe, paired with the rich, sweetness of the mousse and the lovely tastes and textures crisp seared salmon was a unique but wonderful experience. S had a caulilflower soup with a blue cheese ravioli and poached egg. While good, I liked my dish a lot more.

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My second course was a slice of seared foie gras (thank god I don’t live anywhere close to Chicago) with Oscetra caviar and chocolate mousse, topped with a potato crisp and sauced with a soy-mirin reduction. Again, this was a lovely, surprising, witty and delicious experience. S had a tortellini of crab topped with Oscetra caviar, served with a crab claw and plated with a butterscotch sauce. I was also, at this point, noting that Clouston’s new dishes and the way he’s presented them were much more refined than they have been on previous visits. While the food was always yummy and pretty, now it was refined and elegant — more fine-dining. It was inching closer to French Laundry than Teage Ezard.

My next course was a crispy skin mulloway fish, served with a truffle potato cake, pickled cucumber and wild Bhutanese honey. Again, this was a gorgeous dish that played with sweet and savory flavours. S had a lovely, small piece of slow-roasted wagyu beef, served with quenelles of beetroot sauce and another sauce that tasted like it has been made with creme fraiche. It was a light but satisfying dish. To me, it seemed like a very well-thought our deconstruction of the classic burger. Next, I was given dish of seared duck breast with a fig and abalone pie. While interesting and complex, this was my least favourite of the dishes I tasted. S, on the other hand, has the soy-lacquered wagyu beef cheek with coconut rice and Thai herbs and green mango salad. This is the one of the few Asian-influenced dishes that remain on Clouston’s menu but it would be a shame to ever take it off. This is a marvelous dish and one of my favourites at Opia. To end the meal, S and I shared a plated composition featuring Roquefort cheese as well as a dessert of chocolate souffle with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries.

It was a really surpising and impressive meal. I truly didn’t expect Chef Clouston’s dishes to be as intelligent and refined as they were. But I’m really happy that he’s moving in the direction that he’s moving in. And I think if he continues in this way, he will easily become noted as one of the region’s most exciting young chefs.

Opia
1-5 Irving Road
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 3196 9000

Hat trick

I’m back in Singapore for 24 hours. This morning, S and I jet off to a fabulous resort in Krabi, Thailand, to attend the wedding of two good friends.

During my last day and a half in Hong Kong, I had the pleasure of enjoying 3 excellent meals. The first meal was at a new restaurant on Elgin Street called Tribute. The second was at Hutong, the super-sexy Northern Chinese sister of (my favorite Hong Kong restaurant) Shui Hu Ju, in Kowloon. The third meal was a real treat. The chef at the amazingly popular Opia in the JIA hotel had called me a few days earlier and had invited me to drop by for a tasting. More specifically, he wanted me to taste some dishes that would be on the menu at Graze, a new sister restaurant in Singapore opening next month.

Tribute
I had wanted to try Tribute ever since the owner of the JIA hotel had mentioned it over dinner a couple of weeks ago. A few days later I read a review of it in the Hong Kong Standard and promised myself that when I was in town, I’d definitely drop in. Tribute is a small, narrow restaurant in Hong Kong’s trendy SoHo (South of Hollywood Road) area. It’s owned by an architect whose aunt was a famous exponent of Chinese food in California. The food is a subtle marriage of local ingredients and New American cuisine. I had lunch with a friend, a journalist and book editor. At lunch, there is only one menu available. Priced at HK$128, you get a choice of starter, main and dessert. The day I dined, there were two starters to choose from, a pear & watercress salad (frisee, roasted walnuts, goat cheese in a walnut vinaigrette) or a cauliflower & fennel soup (with grilled prawn, burnt butter and grilled bread). I had the soup, which sadly was disappointing. Firstly, it was served hot; I’m a firm believer that cauliflower soup should always be served cold in order for the flavors to really come through properly. Secondly, it was too thick, more akin to the texture of porridge than soup. Thirdly, the soup was simply too bland. For mains, we had many choices: the Tribute gumbo, Portuguese pork & clams, oven grilled frittata, linguine with tomato sauce, fish of the day, the Tribute hamburger, or the New Tribute Hamburger. I had the fish of the day, which was a roasted sea bass stuffed with apple and fennel and served with roasted vegetables (pictured at the top). It was wonderful. The fish was cooked perfectly, i.e. nice and tender and not one bit overcooked. The flavors were fantastic. This dish more than made up for the lackluster soup. For dessert, we had a choice of chocolate brownie or banana cake. Our waiter recommended the banana cake and I’m very glad I listened to him. It was delicious–moist and packed with taste. Friends tell me that the dinner menu at Tribute is excellent, with a much wider range of choices than offered at lunch. I’ll definitely check it out again on my next trip, and this time in the evening.
Tribute, G/F, 13 Elgin Street, Central. Tel: 2135 6645

Hutong
Located on the 28th floor of One Peking, an incredibly tall office building in Kowloon, Hutong offers diners a super sexy and panaromic view of Hong Kong island. The restaurant’s interiors are equally chic. In fact, the combination of the view and the design might make this one of Hong Kong’s sexiest restaurants (rivalled only by upstairs sister restaurant Aqua). And, of course, the food is simply sensational. This is Northern Chinese food at its best. My two friends and I had a veritable feast. We started the meal with baby geoduck served over a bed of mung bean tagliatelle. This was followed by baby yabbies fried with chili and garlic. Then we had a lovely fried fish in black bean sauce and my personal favorite, crispy mutton served with a light but spicy dipping sauce. We ended the meal with some string beans fried with minced pork and chili and a bowl of prawn paste and chicken fried rice. It goes without saying that everything was perfect.
Hutong, 28/F, One Peking Road, Tel: 3428 8342

Graze / Opia
Just a few hours before I flew off, I was lucky enough to get a sample of some dishes that will be on the menu of Graze, opening here in Singapore, in Rochester Park, in April. Chef Dane Clouston let me taste (and actually asked for my feedback on) 4 new dishes. The first was a trio of prawns served with coconut ice cream. One prawn is battered and fried (tempura style), another has been marinated in olive oil and several herbs and sauteed, and the third is poached. As a hot and cold combination, the dish worked surprisingly well. All the prawns were delicious and the ice cream was sinfully good. Especially nice was the contrast of hot and cold, soft and crispy, and sweet and savory when eating the tempura prawn and the ice cream together. This is a really nice starter, especially in our tropical climate. The second dish was also a hot and cold combination, marinated beef served with a spicy cucumber sorbet and onion rings. The marinade tastes somewhat Thai but is neither too sour, spicy or overpowering. The thin slices of beef paired with the slightly fiery sorbet and the very crispy onion rings worked in the mouth much better than I had originally thought they would. This is a nice refreshing dish and a great alternative to a more traditional Thai beef salad. The next dish was a chicken leg, stuffed with breast meat, that has been roasted and then coated with a thin caramel glaze, served over a crisp of chicken skin (yum!) and a salad of peanuts, vegetables, salmon skin, prawns, and a number of other yummy things. The sauce is also very Thai (something I realized the chef is quite keen on). Slightly tangy and spicy, it was good but for my tastes could have been a tad sweeter. The last dish was a real winner and unfortunately, I was too stuffed to eat all of it. It was a wagyu ox cheek served over a som tum salad and coconut rice. The ox cheek was braised until soft and then coated with ground roasted rice and then fried quickly until crispy on the outside. This was a glorious dish. I loved the contrast of crispy and soft and the flavors of the ox cheek married with the very Thai salad and the sweet, rich coconut rice were divine. I can’t wait for this to be on the menu at Graze. I can see myself ordering it over and over again. In fact, I can’t wait for Graze to open. Chef Dane tells me it will soft-open soon with an official launch in mid-to-end April. You can bet I’ll be there as soon as it opens its doors.

White rubber wellies and squid ink pasta

One of the great things about having lifestyle journalists as friends is that they’re always sussing out new or cool places to check out. This includes a variety of things, like spas, boutiques, hotels, and of course restaurants and cafes. This past evening, I had the pleasure of tagging along with one such arbiter of taste and style. SS has been one of the more well-known and respected lifestyle writers here in Hong Kong for years. Tonight, she brought me, her brother and sister-in-law and a visiting photographer to a rather cool, obviously popular and decidedly local dai pai dong located in the North Point Market in Hong Kong. One of the reasons SS chose to bring us here was because of an assignment; she needed to interview the dai pai dong’s owner for a magazine she’s putting together for a client. The other reason was because she knew that all of us would appreciate this humble but very happening eatery.

Tung Po Sea Food Restaurant is run by the enthusiastic and ridiculously friendly Mr. Robby Cheung (pictured above). Robby took over this café from his father some 13 years ago. He told us that back then, the place was miserable and he needed to put everything he had into turning the business around. That meant both the experience of having worked in the hotel industry most of his life but also as much capital as he could raise—which at the time meant selling his apartment. Fortunately, today, Tung Po Sea Food Restaurant is packed every night and from what we could see, Robby is both a successful and happy man.

The food at Tung Po Sea Food is pretty interesting. Despite looking like your typical Hong Kong food stall, it’s not quite Cantonese. Robby has taken dishes and flavors from foods he enjoys from across China and all over the world and has adapted them, adjusting them to his own tastes. For examples, one of his more popular dishes is cuttlefish cooked in squid ink with noodles—obviously a riff on the famous Venetian pasta dish. He also serves up deep fried pig trotters, something you’d easily find on menus in Germany. These trotters, though, have been braised prior to being fried and are served with a lovely soy sauce-based dressing on the side. In addition to the very delicious squid ink pasta and trotters, we had some more traditional Chinese dishes. We had prawns fried in salted duck egg yolk, sea mantis served in a style similar to Teochew cold crab, bean curd skin sautéed with fresh broccoli, fish fried with black pepper and mountains of garlic, noodles fried with soy sauce and served with homemade XO sauce, and an old cucumber soup. Overall, the food was good. Some dishes like the trotters, surprisingly the squid ink pasta and the soup were excellent. Others were good but not great. The fish was slightly over fried, but the flavor of the garlic and pepper was wonderful. The noodles were nice but the XO sauce, while good, certainly wasn’t the best I’ve ever tasted. The sea mantis was a little odd. Teochew cold crab is served with a slightly sweet and sour dipping sauce. Robby didn’t serve his mantis with anything, which in my opinion was a mistake. It would have benefited enormously from an additional flavor or two. The bean curd dish was okay and the prawns were a little bland but very well fried.

The overall experience, though, was great fun. The restaurant is situated on the 2nd floor of a neighborhood market. It’s noisy, bright, and crowded. Beer is poured in bowls and customers sit on uncomfortable plastic stools around collapsible round tables. Robby, charming fellow that he is, is fabulously shod with customized white rubber boots, a dress shirt, a fleece vest, rolled up jeans and an apron.

If you’re looking for an edible slice of the real Hong Kong, with its ability to assimilate all kinds of tastes and cultures, in all its brash boyishness and loud frivolity, this is it.

Tung Po Sea Food Restaurant
2nd Floor, Cooked Food Centre
99, Java Road, North Point
Tel: 2880 9339
open 530pm-1230am

Damn good dim sum!

Unfortunately, I didn’t make the delicious looking cha siu pau pictured above. Fortunately, I did have the pleasure of eating it and a whole table filled with other delicious dim sum this past Sunday morning.

Waking up too lazy to make our own breakfast, S and I decided to take a short walk around our neighbourhood and grab some food somewhere nearby. Our original destination was a prata stall at the corner of Short Street and Middle Road that I like because their prata are always very crispy. They weren’t open however. So, we walked across the street to Sunshine Plaza, which is on Middle Road between Prinsep and Bencoolen Streets. There’s a wonton mee shop there that I like but hadn’t visited in many months. I also recalled reading in the Straits Times that there was a good duck noodle place now operating in the mall. We didn’t find any duck noodle shop, but we did run across a little dim sum restaurant called Victor’s Kitchen. This place is tiny; it can seat maybe a dozen people inside and another dozen more at foldable tables set up outside, in the mall’s corridors. Inside, aside from the tables and stools, there’s one long counter covered with dim sum steamers and a small open kitchen. When we first walked by, there was nobody inside, except for the chef, and one family happily eating away at one of the exterior tables.

Curious, we decided to try a couple dishes, thinking that if they weren’t great we could head over to the wonton mee shop just a few doors away. We ordered a cheong-fan wrapped around dough sticks, some siu mai, and a steamed carrot cake. All were excellent. In fact, the steamed carrot cake was one of the best I have ever eaten. We quickly ordered some more food. I insisted on trying the lo mai kai and what the chef calls his Tasty HK Chicken. S asked for an order of custard buns. Again, they were all fantastic. The lo mai kai was delicious and I could have easily eaten another. But it was the custard buns that really blew me away. While S loves these, I have never really been a big fan. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, a custard bun is made with a soft fluffy dough and filled with both egg custard and some salted duck egg’s yolk. All of the ones I have ever tried have kind of left me wondering why people like them. Until Victor’s. His custard buns were revelatory. The dough was soft and light while the custard was sweet and runny—something I have never experienced before. Usually, the custard is overcooked and dry. But these were beautiful. Not wanting to stuff ourselves too much, we ordered some “oyster sauce cha siu pau” to take home (and also because I wanted to shoot them) and decided to stop there, rationalizing that we lived only 5 minutes away and could easily come back again.

I regret, however, not trying Victor’s “king prawn har kau”, which he told us was one of his specialties. Not being a huge har kau fan, I had decided against ordering it. But as the restaurant filled up (which it did in the 30 minutes we were there), I began to notice that every other customer was ordering them. One man even asked for 4 orders.

Victor Leung and his wife moved here from Hong Kong only last year. And they moved for one of the best reasons I can imagine—so that their kids can take advantage of Singapore’s public education system, which is one of the best if not the best in the region. I really admire this incredibly friendly couple. They picked up, moved here and have started from scratch for the sake of their kids. Victor has 20 years experience as a dim sum chef, and has worked in several countries. His last job, before coming here, was in the dim sum kitchen at the New World Hotel in Kowloon. If you’re a dim sum fan, you must, must, must check out this tiny, inexpensive and simply fantastic find. Even if you’re not, I urge you to visit, for no other reason than to support Victor and his wife.

Victor’s Kitchen
91 Bencoolen St, Sunshine Plaza, #01-21 (open 10am-9pm, Tues-Sun)
HP: 9838 2851 (He also does catering)

Eating and Shopping in Hong Kong

What a trip! We ate, we shopped (well, actually S shopped), and we ate some more. Truth be told, I took very, very few photographs. Right before we left for the airport, I decided to ditch my Nikon and only bring along my little pocket-sized Contax. S, ever-annoyed when I whip out a large professional-looking camera in civilized spaces, was pleased with the decision. (Pleasing one’s wife, of course, is the only proper way to begin a vacation together.) Which means that although we had great meal after great meal, I had only a couple of usable shots to post, and I’ve decided to just use two.

We landed in HK with just enough time to check into our hotel, quickly change into some respectable clothes and rush to meet some friends for lunch at JW’s California at the JW Marriott. S and I shared a couple of modern sushi rolls to start (roast duck and lobster tempura) while I had a lobster, corn and chorizo risotto for my main. While my risotto was good, S’s main course was great, a wonderfully cooked and beautifully marbled char-grilled wagyu steak. We spent the afternoon resting (well, okay, we also checked out the hotel’s ultra-swish spa and had a treatment each). That night, we had dinner at one of our favorite, must-eat places, Shui Hu Ju. Located at the top of an annoying steep cobblestone street in SoHo (South of Hollywood Road), this tiny, dimly lit restaurant serves up phenomenal Northern Chinese food. I’m totally addicted to their crispy mutton, which we ordered along with stewed pork hock, scallops in sweet and garlic sauce, some fried seasonal green vegetables (S insisted), and rice noodles with salted duck egg yolks.

Friday, we went shopping–well, actually, we went shopping everyday, but we started shopping in earnest on Friday. S made her annual pilgrimage to Manolo Blahnik, which, like the rest of HK’s shops, was (thankfully) on sale. After a bit of heavily discounted retail therapy in Central, we walked up to Yung Kee because I wanted S to try its amazing roast goose. Yung Kee–thanks to this goose (pictured above)–may just be HK’s most famous restaurant. We had the goose, an order of roast pork, some scrambled eggs with XO sauce (yum), and (of course) more green vegetables. After lunch, we shopped a bit more and then went to visit a friend, fashion designer Barney Cheng, at his atelier. Barney later joined us and 3 other friends for dinner that night at Xi Yan, a renowned “speakeasy” restaurant owned by one of Barney’s friends, an ex-ad-man turned chef named Jacky Yu. Xi Yan, hidden on the 3rd floor of a commercial building in Wan Chai, is tiny. To book a table, you need at least 6 people in your group. There’s also no menu. You eat whatever Jacky feels like cooking, which on the night we were there was an amazing 12 courses.

We had steamed lobster with lime sauce and chili sauce, silken tofu with sea urchin (pictured above), momotaro tomatoes with sesame sauce, cassia smoked duck eggs with abalone and ikura, braised beef with chili and preserved orange peel, “saliva chicken” (white cooked chicken with century egg, peanuts, dough sheets and a spicy sauce), crab with glutinous rice, salted guava and apples served with sour plum, deep-fried garoupa with pomelo and nashi, chicken soup with fresh ginseng and wolf berries, dragon beard vegetables with dried shrimp and chicken stock, and finally jasmine tea ice cream and kumquat honey. Suffice it to say that I almost died from over-eating, but boy was it good. We also found out that Jacky will be opening a branch in Singapore in October, and while I can’t wait, I hope he allows us to order either a la carte or offers options with fewer courses. I don’t know if I could eat another one of his 12 course extravaganzas for a while.

On Saturday, I brought S to a restaurant I used to love when I lived in HK back in 1996-1997, Mozart Stubn, which (no surprise) specializes in Austrian food. After a relatively light lunch, we checked out the new IFC mall. I was especially impressed with the Lane Crawford there, not just because it had a great range of brands but because spread out throughout the store were some pretty amazing installations by various HK-based contemporary artists. It was really nice to see such support for visual artists. Later that evening, S and I met up with another friend for dinner at HK’s hottest new restaurant, Opia, located in the Jia Hotel. Created by Aussie celeb chef Teage Ezard, this modern Asian-Australian is, without exaggerating, awesome. We had what may be one of the best meals in recent memory that night. We started the night with oyster shooters. I had a gratin of potato gnocchi with sliced pear, walnuts and tallegio followed by a crispy skinned pork hock with a caramel chili sauce. S had a pork belly salad followed by lamb chops in sumac and raspberry sauce with goat cheese and dill. While I was too full for dessert, S devoured an order of honeycrunch ice cream.

Sunday, we had another treat. We accepted an extremely generous and kind offer to have lunch at Gaddi’s, the formal French restaurant at the Peninsula Hotel. Their newish (about 6 months now) chef, David Goodridge, has worked at La Maison Troisgros, Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire, La Cote D’or, and most recently at Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons in Oxford. So, as you can imagine, we were pretty excited. We had a fabulous 6 course lunch (which Chef David called, “light”). We started with an amuse-bouche of foie gras with mango chutney and toasted brioche; followed by marinated then slow-cooked Scottish salmon with horseradish sauce, cucumber, cucumber jelly and osetra caviar; pan-fried scallops, deep-fried frog’s legs with peas and a shallot cream; lamb loin with parmesan gnocchi and truffle mash; peach jelly and Champagne ice cream; and a trio of chocolate–white chocolate mousse, milk chocolate parfait, and dark chocolate tart. For me, the scallops and frog’s legs were the stand-outs in an all around impressive display of culinary artistry.

Sunday afternoon, we first went to Space, a Prada and Miu Miu outlet in Ap Lei Chau, and then spent the rest of the day walking around Causeway Bay. Dinner was a really good but casual meal at a lively joint packed with young people, just steps from the entrance of G.O.D., called Red Ant restaurant. We shared a baked rice with ox tongue and cheese cream sauce, a spaghetti with minced pork, sautéed eggplant and crab paste, and a roast duck and scallion pancake.

Phew! Like I said at the start, we ate, shopped, and ate some more. I think I need to go on a detox diet to recover from my trips to both Taipei and Hong Kong. (Of course, I’ll probably get over that thought by tomorrow.)

Shui Hu Ju, tel: +852 2869 6927
Yung Kee, tel: +852 2522 1624
Xi Yan, tel: +852 9020 9196
Opia, tel: +852 3196 9000
Gaddi’s, tel: +852 2315 3171