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