Sunday Brunch @ Domani – this restaurant is now closed :(

The first time I went to Domani, I was a bit worried because I’d not heard wonderful things about dinner here, that it is overpriced and it under-delivers. I never would have gone had we not been invited there for a birthday Weekend Brunch, but what a pleasant surprise!

It is now one of my favorite weekend brunches, for so many of the reasons that matter when considering a lazy weekend meal: the ingredients are simple, fresh, tasty and extravagant (unlimited Boston Lobster anyone?). It is very reasonably priced, at $488 +10%, you can help yourself to their excellent buffet before choosing from their list of tantalizing main courses, and then treat yourself to a little bit of dessert from the buffet. You are also offered free flow prosecco, Duval beer, fresh fruit juices, sparkling or still water, and coffee/tea. Usually, this is where restaurants with buffets such as these hit you with high prices, but here you can not only eat, but also drink everything to your hearts content. The service is excellent, as is the venue: a bright and airy dining room, crisp white linens, and a nice terrace if the weather is fine.

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Fresh foccacia and warm bread rolls

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And a nice ‘n tasty olive oil to dip it in

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We eat silly amounts of meaty, juicy Boston Lobster!

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Happy tummy food at Maya Café

As I grow older, my appreciation for food that is good for me has grown too. Those who know me well might be quite incredulous of this statement – I am a meat-eating, butter-loving, cake-baking foodie who once would balk at the idea of putting a grain or pulse anywhere near my mouth. I honestly still feel like a meal without meat is not a fulfilling one – but I’m getting better.

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Maya Café

Having this food blog definitely helps me to be more open to the idea of eating vegetarian/raw/vegan food. Yes, I know they’re different, and that I’ve grouped all three together in a rather indifferent manner, and yet that’s what they are to me. Vegetarian/raw/vegan = boring. But as I’ve said, things are starting to change, and it’s nice having a light and unbloated tummy after a meal … every now and then.

Carrot juice

The Pick Me Up: Carrot, Apple & Ginger Juice

Red cabbage

The Raw Energy: Tomato, Red cabbage, Celery & Lemon Juice

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The juices are tasty and served in cute glass jars

Thanks to my beautiful veggie friend AB, I heard about Maya Café, located on Moon Street in the trendy Star Street area. She had brought home their quinoa salad as a starter when I went over for dinner at hers, and to my surprise … it was good!

Maya Café has been open for a couple of months and is owned by Mina, a super friendly and approachable Indian lady who runs the front-of-house, and Tina, the French chef. I was eavesdropping on a conversation at another table, and heard that Mina used to work in the diamond industry, and Tina used to be in fashion!

Mina was very happy to answer any questions that I  had about the menu. No butter or flour is used in any of their dishes, and whilst not all of the food is vegan, all of it is vegetarian.

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Dahl of the day – white, red and green lentils

Both the soup of the day and the dahl were vegan, and the dahl was particularly tasty! I am not a lentil lover, but there were lots of layers of satisfying flavour to this dish.

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Soup of the day: Sweet Pea Soup

For the main course, I just had to order the Quinoa Salad again. The veggies change according to what is freshly available.

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Quinoa Salad

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Butternut Squash and Sweetcorn Soup

There are plenty of recipes for Pumpkin Soup out there, but I have always sworn by this one from Delia Smith’s Vegetarian Collection as my go to recipe. I love how the sweetcorn blended in with the soup gives it a bit more texture, and how those crispy fresh kernels just pop in between your teeth when you munch down on them. This is the original recipe but I’ve also highlighted where you can make substitutions to make it healthier (it’s quite obvious, really).

Pumpkin soup

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Thai Pesto Whole Roasted Red Snapper

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Whole oven-roasted snapper, my fishy pride and joy!

After two dinners out this week, I was craving to eat something of which the ingredients were all known to me. Something simple, healthy, and home-made. Sick of cooking the usual grilled salmon, trawling the internet led me to this wonderful recipe, which I tried for the first time, and has now been named by PB as my “best fish dish, ever”.

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Red snapper

You can try this dish with all kinds of white, firm fish – we went with Red Snapper. He had nice eyes and looked fresh!

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Healthy and green!

You’ll need:

3/4 cup tightly packed coriander (leaves and stems)
1/4 cup tightly packed mint leaves
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 stalks of lemongrass, coarsely chopped (white part only, outer layer removed)
3/4″ ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons fish sauce
Zest of 1 lime
1/4 cup peanut oil  1 tbsp olive oil
660g whole red snapper, gutted, scaled and cleaned

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Thai pesto – pretty awesome stuff

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The New Menu @ Brick House

Brickhouse has an all new menu, launched just this week, and I was invited to try it out! I was happy to see that Brickhouse is still as popular and packed as ever, and that despite changes to the menu, some of the old favorites are still there (the watermelon salad, the mexican street corn).

It was the first time that I met some of my fellow Hong Kong bloggers, and had very interesting conversations with G4Gary and Steph’s 852  Diary. It’s quite remarkable how different the dynamic is at a table full of food bloggers –  I could talk about food, for 2 hours, and NOT feel like I was over-talking the subject! I had to wait for my turn to take a photo of the dish, and with such a large group, we had the chance to try a wide variety of dishes instead of having to make hard choices.

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Pisco Sour

I got started with a Pisco Sour – the Brickhouse version was yummy from first sip to last. The egg white gave it a certain creaminess, the lime a nice citrus kick, the sugar cane a different kind of sweetness. Like a Latin American Pina Colada, but healthier and not as sweet. They also have some pretty cool sounding beers that I’ve never seen before – fancy a Trout Slayer, Bohemia, or perhaps a Great White Shark?

For once, I was actually on time for dinner (shocker!), and whilst we were waiting for the others, we sampled their Trio of Guacamole, served with their stone ground chips – fresh and crunchy with just a hint of salt. I’m a bit of a chip-fiend, and was curious – although not made in house, the organic chips are carefully sourced, received raw and fried in-house.

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Trio of Guacamole HK$75

The trio was comprised of a traditional guacamole, a fruit guacamole, and a chipotle guacamole.

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Traditional Guacamole

Traditional: pure avocado with some cilantro mixed in there. It was nice and creamy but a bit on the salty side for me.

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Mango, Apple and Pineapple

Fresh Fruit Guacamole: I’ve never encountered a guacamole with fruit in it, but actually the combination works quite well! Chef Austin Fry adds whatever fruits he feels is best for the day, and the mix of textures, the tanginess from the pineapple and the crunch of the apple was quite lovely! It was definitely my favorite of the three.

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Chipotle and queso fresco

The chipotle version was the same traditional guacamole with a chipotle and fresh cheese topping. The chipotle added a nice little bit of zing, but otherwise it was pretty similar to to the traditional.

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Casa Salad HK$95

Perhaps it was the bright orange plate, the standout colour of the purée, or the blood red beet vinaigrette  but I think this is one of the brightest salads I’ve ever seen. And you know what they say about vegetables – the more colourful they are, the better they are for you! It was a great way to start the meal.

Epazote braised carrot, mozzarella, roasted beet, habanero-carrot purée, mixed field greens, beet vinaigrette and crispy garlic – all those ingredients seem a lot for a salad, but all the elements mix well together. I could order that slightly piquant puree just by itself, it’s so good! In the salad, it provides that little bit of flavour and tingle on your tongue without stealing the show.

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DIY Bone Marrow Tacos HK$135

Oxtail salsa, chimichurri, epazote roasted tomatoes, pungent herb salad, corn tortillas. Oh my goodness. The slow-cooked oxtail melts in your mouth and the marrow is so rich – lightly dipped in flour and flash fried to give an nice juxtaposition between crunchy and smooth. The slight bitterness of the herb salad really balanced out the richness.  A truly standout dish.

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LoveBites Staycation: Tai O Heritage Hotel

We had a special occasion to celebrate last weekend, and I thought that a staycation was just the ticket! After reading an article on Le Figaro online that mentioned the Tai O Heritage Hotel, PB suggested that this place was worth a visit. Tai O is on the western side of Lantau Island, closer to the airport and Tung Chung than it is to Mui Wo. It seems like such a long way away, and by Hong Kong standards, it does take some effort to get there, but boy oh boy is it worth the trip!

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Green, green and more green as far as the eye can see

Tai O is Hong Kong’s oldest fishing village, and is commonly referred to as the “Venice of the Orient”. The houses are built on stilts above water, so I can see where the reference comes from – but that is where the similarities stop.  It is home to the Tanka people, a community who have lived here for generations. Tai O is local beauty in and of itself, and needs not this reference to my favorite city in Italy. Admittedly, you can’t exactly call these stilt houses beautiful – they are built seemingly haphazardly with any materials the villagers can get their hands on. Somehow, each ‘house’ is different, and the residents have added their personal touches, some colourful potted plants, structures of different sizes and shapes, ornate door decorations, and yes, even some familiar looking knomes.

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The Venice of Asia?

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The Caravan House

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The Leaning House of Tai O

The Garden House

The Garden House

The Bonsai House

The Bonsai House

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Apparently, Snow White is a desperate housewife!

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I was really struck by how much character this village has, and how they have maintained much of it’s heritage and industry. We witnessed villagers collecting sea moss for drying, and stirring huge vats of purple goop (shrimp sauce) that will be jarred and sold, fish drying on racks outside houses.  There is a real community feel about the area, from the closely built houses, the large gathering areas,  and the crash crash of mahjong tiles in the evenings. We enjoyed walking across the bridges and gangways to explore different parts of the village. The locals must be quite annoyed by all the tourists wondering into their backyards!

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A gathering area perhaps?

We took an easy hour-long walk along the Fu Shan Hiking Trail, starting just to the left of the Shaolin Wushu Cultural Center. From the pagoda, you can see ocean as far as the eye can see, and watch planes descending towards the airport on the right. Apparently you might catch a white dolphin or two from this vantage point, but I think you’d have to be extremely lucky to!

Tai O Map

Cute illustrated map of Tai O Fishing Village

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The Shaolin WuShu Cultural Center

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An hour-long stroll up the mountain

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The view of Tai O from the top

A walk through the Tai O market is lots of fun, there are umpteen shops selling all sorts of things: seashell and pearl jewellery, dried decorative blowfish (!), hats, toys for the kiddies etc. If you grew up in Hong Kong, you’ll remember those little tubes of goo, a little of which you place on the end of a stick and blow to create a big plastic bubble. Remember? Hours of endless fun!

Bloonies

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All sorts of stuff for sale at the Tai O Market

There are, of course, all the vendors selling a myriad choice of dried fish and seafood, as well as shrimp paste, the smell of which permeates the air, but you get used to it after a while!

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The ubiquitous (in Tai O) shrimp sauce

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Dried fish everywhere

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And more dried fish and seafood

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Looks very unappetising and slightly alien

Most of all, I loved stopping by all the street food vendors and trying all snacks on offer (especially after not being able to during my recent trip to New Delhi!)! Our favorite was the Pandan Egg Ball Waffle Lady, she was situated right at the end of Market Street. For HK$14 she made us these egg balls delicately flavoured with pandan, on an old manual waffle maker.

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Yummy Pandan Egg Balls

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A hint of pandan taste makes these egg balls fragrant and slightly different from the ones that are usually available

There is another egg ball waffle vendor at 59 Kat Hing Back Street, where the majority of the vendors are. He seems to be quite famous, and there was a queue stretching down the street for his charcoal grilled egg waffles.

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Egg balls cooked over an open charcoal fire

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Chinese Pizzas HK$25, similar to Beijing Jian Bing

Well that about says it all! The are similar to the ¥3 Beijing Jian Bing (fried savoury crepe) that were so unkind to my hips yet I so loved when I lived in Beijing! Comparatively, these ‘Chinese Pizzas’ just had too much stuff for my liking, and way too generous on the spring onions. The ladies who served them were super nice and friendly, and I still recommend going to check them out and ordering a pizza.

We stayed at the fabulous Tai O Heritage Hotel on a Saturday evening. Formerly housing the Tai O Police Station, this grade II listed building was beautifully restored by the Hong Kong Conservation Foundation and very tastefully converted in to a 9 room boutique hotel, which opened in 2010. It is a (I’m running out of suitable adjectives) outstanding example of colonial architecture, with it’s arched facade and French windows. They’ve kept many original features (such as the holding cell which is now used for left luggage), and placards outside the doors inform us what our room was once used for (ours was the Barrack Office). This is one example of how Hong Kong has gotten it RIGHT – preserving a beautiful building, rich in history, for us and visitors to enjoy.

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The leafy entrance to the Tai O Heritage Hotel

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Incredible India – Love in New Delhi

Do you recall the first time you watched the first “Incredible India” advertisement, broadcasted some time ago in 2006? I certainly do, and I remember thinking that it was possibly the best advertisement I had ever seen for tourism – I really wanted, needed to visit India after watching that. But the opportunity never arose – I always felt like a country as vast as this deserved a decent amount of my time, at least one week, ideally two.

Fast forward 7 years and I was one of the privileged ones invited to the Indian wedding of a lifetime.  Congratulations to the gorgeous couple, to my friends S & A – may love, happiness, respect and understanding be yours forever and always! If you have never been to an Indian wedding, let me tell you, it is an assault on the senses! Smells, sights, sounds, and tastes swirl around you in colourful opulence, and never have I heard so many resonating “WOW”s as I did during those 4 days.

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A gift from the bride – the reflective mirrors, sequins and bright colours on our Sangeet skirts

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Bangles that adorned our wrists at the Mehindi

Henna

Me, all Henna-ed up!

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Flowers lining the pathways and entrances to each wedding ceremony

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Brightly coloured petal and flower arrangements

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Multi-coloured fabrics provide shade and inject colour

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The most beautiful landscaping

My first Indian adventure was to take place in New Delhi, a hectic, dusty and sprawling city, whose tagline should be “organised chaos”. There were a few things that I was a bit wary of prior to the trip, namely the gang rapes that had occurred recently – into my suitcase went all of the long maxi dresses and light cardigans I have, in an effort to keep covered as much as possible.

The other main concern was “Delhi Belly” – I didn’t want at any point have to miss out of any part of the 4 day celebration. Some of my friends brought their own bottled water from Hong Kong, using it to brush their teeth and wash their faces. We wouldn’t eat any peeled fruit (for some reason, all the fruit wallas insisted on peeling everything, from oranges to carrots). Ice was to be avoided at all times. Fortunately, the hotel provided plenty of complimentary bottled water – the TATA brand of Himalayan water was particularly amusing.

#3 Best Water Label

#3 Best Water Label

#2 Best Water Label

#2 Best Water Label

The Winner!

The Winner! I hope you’re thirsty

We had a wonderful first experience of India, and have come away with lasting memories, new friendships, and a desire to see more of the country.  That is not to say that we didn’t have some less-than-savoury or peculiar experiences. Having to pass through a security scanner when we entered the majority of establishments, witnessing a grown adult (even a women in a beautiful sari) squatting and taking a dump by the side of the road. Watching cars reverse back down highway ramps.  Dragging along a car with our tour bus as we drove the narrow streets of Old Delhi, watching as 5 men gather to lift the car to the side so that the bus could pass (this is after our bus had chopped off the cars side mirror and dented the rear end of the drivers side). Our tour guide, who said, “Sometimes bad things happen, like rapes and all, but at least there are very few kidnappings!”.

Hey, I guess it is all part of experiencing a new country, and one is always bound to come away with stories, good, bad or peculiar.

  (STREET) FOOD 

Being cautious about not eating or drinking anything that could have made us sick unfortunately meant not being able to eat the array of street foods that Delhi had to offer. But thankfully the Bride and her mother organised the most AMAZING catered spread of street foods for the Mehindi luncheon!  Those who warned me that I’ll be eating a lot at an Indian wedding were 200% correct – there was food, all the time, in substantial amounts, and at this wedding to such a high calibre (if this can be said about food). In fact, all of the food that we were treated to during this 4 day celebration was out of this world – I have never eaten such outstanding Indian food before.

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Lamb Seekh Kebabs and Murg Kebabs grilling over charcoal

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Beautifully spiced and flavoured

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??

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A close up

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I believe this is Aloo Ki Tikki – a mashed potato and vegetable cakes which is deep-fried, and served with a sweet-spicy sauce

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Frying the Aloo Tikki in a large flat iron skillet

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Piling it high on the edge of the skillet, ready to be eaten

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A huge amount of curry

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An Indian toaster

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Paneer Kebabs – a favorite amongst all!

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