LoveBites Lunches: Chez Patrick Restaurant

It’s Restaurant Week in Hong Kong and for the first time, I went online and checked the list of participating restaurants. DW and I went to check out Chez Patrick restaurant in Wan Chai, which moved here from it’s previous location in Soho, where Chicha now stands. I’ve been meaning to check it out, and a 3-course set lunch at HK$ 248 was a good motivation to do so!

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This event is a good way for some restaurants to gain some extra coverage, perhaps attract some clientele that would have not considered dining there before. Chez Patrick is not one of those restaurants, as chef Patrick Goubier has built a very solid reputation for quality ingredients and excellent French fare, as seen by the success of his restaurant and Chez Patrick Delis. It does give diners a chance to sample some of his cooking at a reasonable price (the 3-course dinner is HK$438) – if this sounds enticing to you, then go and book your table now, as restaurant week ends this Sunday 3rd March!

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His Wan Chai restaurant is tastefully decorated, ash grey wood paneled walls, golden lighting fixtures and a little splash of colour (love that bright yellow banquette!) It’s warm, inviting, and cozy. The Restaurant Week menu covers some French favourites (escargot, quail) a little of the norm (crab ‘cakes’, salmon fillet), and something a bit different (fresh goats cheese nougat). It was easy to make our choices, and while we were waiting for our starters, we were served an amuse bouche.

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As we were about to start, Chef Patrick himself personally came to our table to greet us. He said hello, took our hands and kissed them (!), thanked us for visiting his restaurant, and then proceeded to explain the reasoning behind his amuse bouche. For the chilled gazpacho, he described how he soaks cherries in kirsch overnight as part of his base stock, and adds a touch of lavender. “The goal is to refresh your palate” he says – and refreshing it was, and particularly welcomed on another uncharacteristically warm February day. The salmon rillette is chilled and mixed with shallots, capers and lemon juice – a really wonderful combination that can never go wrong.

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For our starters, we both chose there Crabmeat Cold ‘Cake’, with Fresh Tomato, Basil and Pine Nuts. It was a very generous portion of crab, and although we enjoyed the dish I felt that they might have gone a little easier on the basil. The pine nuts gave a nice bit of crunch.

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For the main course, the Pan-seared boned Quail, Confit Onions and Smoked Bacon Tartlet with Red Wine Sauce was wonderful. The quail was nicely cooked, and I really enjoyed the deconstructed tartlet underneath. I couldn’t remember the dish from the menu, so I asked the waiter what it was, and he told me it was choucroute – I think he’s got his French terms mixed up! A small round of crispy pastry was topped with confit onions and little pieces of smoked bacon, and finally with the quail resting on top.

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Chef Patrick approached us and we asked him lots of questions about the food. He is a wonderfully sweet man, passionate about his restaurant, so friendly and happy to answer any questions that we had – I felt like we could have talked to him for much longer. He speaks with a soft French accent, and punctuates his sentences with a lot of “ya’s”. Where does he source his ingredients? All of the poultry at Chez Patrick is imported from France, and his beef, seafood and other such items are sourced from wherever he finds nice products. Beef from Australia, lamb from New Zealand, lobster from Maine … he mentioned that he is more and more sourcing his seasonal organic vegetables from Hong Kong, and that they ‘are getting much, much better at that, ya.” We are much less affected by seasonality here, and are in a central location for produce. “Not like in France, ya. When there is no asparagus, there is no asparagus!”

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DW ordered the Salmon Fillet, with Red and Yellow Bell Pepper Sauce. It was the most beautifully presented dish, salmon surrounded by a yin-yang of sauce, nestled on a bed of wild red rice. Where is the rice from? It’s imported from France, from the Camarague region at the end of the Rhone River, where there is more wetland, and where the rice is grown. It takes longer to cook than Asian rices, with a nutty taste and is a little more chewy in texture. It was a nice addition to the dish, and almost nicer once we knew exactly where it had been harvested!

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LoveBites Lunches: Hatsu Japanese Restaurant

It seems as if all I’m writing about these days is Japanese food, but can you blame me? It’s tasty, light, and comforting food. If you stick to the good stuff, you don’t have to feel guilty about eating lots ‘n lots! More than anything, I enjoy being able to enjoy several things in small portions. The first fresh, cold bite of a piece of salmon sashimi, the smoothness of chawanmushi as it slides off your tongue and down your throat, the comforting warmth of miso soup and the crunch of tempura – all those pleasures, served on cute little colourful dishes on one platter, really turn me on.  Hatsu just recently opened in Bank of America Tower last year, and I’m sure for the office-folk it’s a welcomed replacement of the Burger King that used to be in it’s place. I was a bit sad to find out though. I have a secret love affair with The King – I sneak out sometimes when no one’s looking for some tasty buns ‘n fries …

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A table by the window…

Anyway, back to the point! I requested a table by the window, and with the sun shining outside I sipped on the green tea in my very cute little teacup, and surveyed the menu. There is a HUGE selection of lunch sets – 6 whole pages to be exact, plus another Special menu featuring hotpot. Bento boxes, sushi and sashimi sets, fatty tuna over rice, steak, tonkatsu, katsudon, eel rice, salt-grilled mackerel, sukiyaki, tempura … they’ve got it all! Each one is served with an appetiser, chawanmushi, miso soup and dessert, and you can also help yourself to the salad bar. The lunch sets range from HK$160-$280, and it’s a really great value set lunch if you ask me!

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The self-service salad bar

TN and I both opted for the hotpot options, tempura hotpot for me, and the beef hotpot for her.

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Tempura hotpot lunch set HK$180

The set came with a generous selection of nigiri and maki rolls, all the favorites which were fresh and do well to satisfy a raw fish craving.

Fresh Nagiri, and all my favorites!

Fresh nigiri, and all my favorites!

By the time we had gotten around to the hotpots, if my tempura had been crispy to start, it definitely was not at this point. That was a real shame – perhaps next time I’ll ask them to serve it on the side. Soggy batter definitely subtracted from the full enjoyment of this dish, however everything else was very satisfactory. Hey, we’re not expecting haute cuisine here, and it was really enjoyable for what it was. I will most definitely revisit, it’s a great spot for lunch.

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Tempura Hotpot

Additional note made on 25th March 2013: I went to Hatsu for the second time for lunch today and was disappointed. The udon noodles were terribly soggy, and the sushi wasn’t as fresh. Perhaps it was because we visited towards the end of serving at 1-2pm, but it certainly wasn’t consistent with the first time I was there.

 

Hatsu

Address: Shop G4, G/F, Bank of America Tower, 12 Harcourt Road
Tel: 2971 0002

Carnevino

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If there was ever a time to be impressed with a steak restaurant, then this would be it, my meat-eating friends. The 2nd Hong Kong restaurant-child of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, in conjunction with the ever-expanding Dining Concepts Group (who seem to be aiming for a monopoly on steak in Hong Kong), attention to detail is definitely the motto for this restaurant.

Photo courtesy of sassyhongkong.com

The Interior – photo from sassyhongkong.com

Crisp white linens, leather paneled chairs, beautiful wooden flooring, brass lighting. Everything is quite masculine, yet the decor is welcoming and appealing to all. What impressed me – the Christofle cutlery and engraved Laguiole knives! It really seems as if no expense was spared, and not only was the food rich, but so was the eating experience.

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amuse bouche – butternut squash purée with home-made marshmallows

Before out starters arrived, we were served an amuse bouche of butternut squash soup. It was comforting albeit slightly unsophisticated, and a touch on the sweet side. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it, but one of those in our party didn’t finish it. It wasn’t a good indicator of the meal to come, certainly.

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Scallop Agrumato: Live Scallops with house-made Mandarin Oil HK$178

We started with live scallops with a wonderful citrusy oil, a sophisticated dish that was beautifully presented. I could always do with more scallop though!

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Calamari with Spicy Tomato HK$168

Our waiter that evening was extremely knowledgeable about the menu, and although there was a big discrepancy between some of the staff, many of them looked as if they had been very well trained on the menu, the ingredients and service to a higher level in general. Hats off to Batali/Bastianich for making service a priority, it’s hard to come by in Hong Kong.

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Kushiyaki Beco, and the first time I tasted yuzukosho

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The Chefs Recommendation board

I recently asked a friend, who lived for several years in Tokyo, what her favorite Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong is – and Beco was her answer. Never one to ignore a good recommendation, I booked a table there as soon an an opportunity arose. She then very sweetly sent me a list of things to eat, “in order of importance” 🙂

Butter-yaki scallops
Short rib yakitori
Tofu steak
Croquette
Goya Chanpuru
Beco Pork Miso Soup
Liver yakitori (for the liver lovers)

Opened in 2011, a collaboration between Sushi Kuu chef Satoru Mukogawa and On Lot 10’s David Lai, Kushiyaki Beco is located along one of the stairway streets off Hollywood Road, where La Cabane Cellar is. It’s a small, cozy eaterie reminiscent of the tiny yakitori restaurants in Shinjuku. With just 20 seats on the ground level and around the same upstairs, it’s casual and quite unassuming, as some of my favorite restaurants tend to be. I saw Quail Egg Skewers on the Specials board, and I knew we were onto a good start.

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Ground level dining

I was wondering what the name meant, and found out that kushiyaki means ‘grilled skewer”. I asked myself, doesn’t yakitori mean then same thing? Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Yakitori (焼き鳥, やきとり, ヤキトリ?), grilled chicken, is commonly a Japanese type of skewered chicken. The term “yakitori” can also refer to skewered food in general. Kushiyaki (skewer grilled), is a formal term that encompasses both poultry and non-poultry items, skewered and grilled. Both yakitori and kushiyaki mean the same, so the terms are used interchangeably in Japanese society.

You learn something new every day!

IMG_4336Another new discovery that evening was that of yuzukosho (yuzu paste), simply the most bad-ass crazy-awesome sauce out there. It’s a fermented paste made out of yuzu orange peel, chilis and salt. The type of yusukosho depends on the the colour of the chili used – bright green for green chilies, and orange-y red with red chilies.

The taste and mouth-feel of this paste is quite extraordinary. At first taste it is salty, but then your tongue is tricked into thinking it’s more bitter than salty, due to the yuzu peel. Then the chili kicks in, not a kill-your-palate burn, but a warm, subtle numbing heat.  Forget wasabi, I am now going to be using yuzukosho with everything! Want to know more? Check it out here.

At Beco, yuzukosho was served with the short-rib skewers and ox tongue skewers. The short-rib is beautifully tender and incredibly tasty, and whilst the ox tongue had a nice texture, it wasn’t as flavourful as I would have hoped.

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Short rib (HK$60 per skewer) and  ox tongue (HK$65 per skewer)

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Tofu steak  – HK$45 for 3 pieces

The grilled tofu ‘steaks’ were smeared with a yuzu jam and topped with pine nuts and red pepper threads, served atop a piece of lettuce for easier transfer from plate to mouth. Again, I was a big fan of the yuzu jam, but the tofu wasn’t seasoned enough for me, and it was a bit bland.

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Grilled Hokkaido Scallop “butter-yaki” HK$100 each

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A Dim Sum Compendium

I recently read an article about a book called “The Paradox of Choice – why more is less”. Being quite an indecisive person when it comes to consumerism, I can relate to the authors premise that whilst choice is good for us, we are presented with too much choice nowadays. It can be psychologically disadvantageous and ultimately, makes us more unhappy. And so, faced with all of this choice, many of us do the simplest thing – choose the same option over and over, because we know it, because we’re comfortable with it.  While this is all a bit too serious as an introduction to dim sum, the logic is quite the same.  There are many choices in this city for Dim Sum – which one should we choose?

I have a long list of Dim Sum restaurants in my phonebook, a Dim Sum Compendium, if you will. Some are the good old favorites, some are the easier option, some take that extra effort to get there but are worth it, and some are on my “To Eat” list. All are worth trying – why choose, when you can have them all? Continue reading

Plaza Mayor, Hong Kong

The chefs at work

The chefs at work

After failing to secure a table at Ted’s Lookout, we decided to head over to Plaza Mayor around the corner for some tapas instead. I haven’t been to the Star Street area in a while, and it’s amazing how many new places have opened up in the last year. Named after a stunning central plaza in Madrid, it was a grand name to live up to. Sadly, it didn’t quite do so.

The original Plaza Mayor, Madrid

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Solera – a gem in Discovery Bay

IMG_4279I’m in a taxi and the driver is careening onto Connaught Road like a mad man. My IPhone clock strikes 8pm – and my heart sinks. I’ve missed it, I know I’ve missed it. Still, the driver continues, clear in his purpose and adamant to fulfill it. We hit a light, we hit another light – my eyes dart between the clock and the road. “Time to do those sprints!!!”, my friend SN texts me, “I’ll hold it as long as I can!”.

We screech to a halt in front of Pier 3, I throw a $50 note at this amazing man who has managed to get me here on time, and tell him to keep the change. My brown 4-inch heeled boots strike the pavement HARD – people must have heard me coming from a mile away. CLOP CLOP CLOP CLOP, I doot my Octopus Card, fly past the barrier, SN is at the ready throw the ferry steward in the water in case I don’t make it. But I’ve made it! I stop with a panting finish onboard the ferry – we are on out way to Discovery Bay!

IMG_4278Our destination: a girls dinner at Solera, a new Spanish Tapas restaurant located in DB Plaza. At first sight, it is obvious that they have tried everything to make this place as Spanish as possible, to the point where they go overboard just a tad. However, the result is that after a while, you could actually start feeling like you’ve been transported to a restaurant in Spain, and the feeling grew on us.

Once we started eating the food, the illusion became complete.

Iberico Cold Cut Selection (served with tomato bread)

Ibérico Cold Cut Selection (served with tomato bread) HK$250

We started off with an Iberico cold cut selection, served with a very flavorful tomato bread. Whilst it was a lovely platter, it doesn’t really serve to show the “edge” that this restaurant has with the rest of its food.

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Pan y Tomate (also offered separately on the menu at HK$20)

Solera tries to offer a slightly different interpretation of traditional tapas dishes, and they hit the spot with this one – their version of Heuvos Estrellados, a simple dish of fried potatoes, fried egg and Iberico Ham. The saltiness of the cube-cut-then-fried Iberico ham  is juxtaposed by the sweet onion confit, and using fried potato crisps instead of larger pieces adds a wonderful crunch. The egg coats the whole dish with rich creaminess, and it is so deliciously moreish.

Organic Egg Slow Cooked at 63° served with Ibérico Ham on Onion Confit anf Fried Potato

Organic Egg Slow Cooked at 63° served with Ibérico Ham on Onion Confit and Fried Potato HK$120

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Gyotaku – dinner time!

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Ever since DW told me about the wagyu and truffle hand rolls here and how amazing they were, I have been trying to find an opportunity to get my hands on one of those rolls!

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Hamachi Tataki Salad (HK$100)

After a very satisfying set lunch at Gyotaku, which featured more of the traditional and predictable Japanese fare, I was excited to try their “creative sushi” items, as well as some of the signature dishes that I had read about in anticipation of the meal.

First off was the Hamachi Tataki Salad, featuring salad greens and seared hamachi with a sesame dressing. The sesame flavour were nice and the dressing not too heavy, the serving of hamachi was quite generous for the price. I still am totally smitten with the sashimi salad and the Japanese black pork shabu shabu salad at Sushi Kuu however, which remain the favorites.

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Gyoza (HK$40)

 The gyoza were very sub-standard and not a good example of the creativity featured on their menu. They could have also done with more filling.

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Spicy Tuna Maki HK$120

Now, these maki were AMAZING! After eating a VERY disappointing Spicy Tuna Maki at Taku the week before, this one is visually impressive, with a nice crunch from the cucumber, a spicy minced tuna filling, and a super yummy spicy sauce garnish. I’ll go back for that. Continue reading

Taku – overhyped tofu and killer onsen egg!

Searching for a late night bite to eat last Friday, and with a particular craving for Japanese food, we happily came across Taku after finding out that Gyotaku had already closed their kitchen for the night – I was happy to taku what I could get at that point.  I had eaten dinner here before and it was not particularly memorable. Last year however, it had been a big regret that I missed the special menu by local celebrity chef Christian Yang, so in we went.

Taku makes an effort to stands out from other Japanese restaurants in two ways, however I’m not entirely convinced with them. They make their own tofu each day, and have a nice selection of chilled, steamed and fried (agedashi-style) dishes based on this humble ingredient. I was excited to try it and although agedashi tofu rocks my world, I thought a chilled option would really let the taste of the tofu shine. It ended in unfortunate disappointment, as I found the texture of the tofu too grainy to be called silken, and with a ever so slight whiff of un-freshness. Now, I am no tofu expert, but I certainly have had much better elsewhere.

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“The way”

At Taku, you aren’t provided with little dishes in which to pour your individual serving of soy sauce. Here, you paint your sushi! There is a communal pot and brush on each table – whilst an original idea, I’m not sure whether the people before me were as careful not to get a fish roe or two on the brush before sticking it back in that pot. To be fair, I did see them take all the pots away at the end of service to be emptied. Still, its a tad unhygienic isn’t it, not to mention a bit of a waste? I still ended up asking for a little dish and pouring it anyway…

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Painting sushi…

And now, for the food!

The true highlight of our meal, and the one thing that would keep me going back for more, is Taku’s Seafood Onsen Egg – it is truly a magnificent dish. This is not just a pretty face – not only does it look amazing, it’s packed with a sweet-salty flavour of the sauce, the firm freshness of the raw scallop, the silkiness of the uni, the POP of the salmon roe, and the crunch of the scallions made this (literally) one of the best Japanese dishes I’ve ever tasted. Why have I never ordered onsen egg before??

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Seafood Onsen Egg HK$68

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