Hakkasan Hanway Place

Apparently, there is a lot of hoohah involved when it comes to booking a large table at a decent restaurant in London. We had a big reunion dinner at Hakkasan Hanway Place, with some of my university friends, and some old friends who had moved over to London from Asia, as well as PB, who came in on the Eurostar for one day of fun in the big smoke. It was a fun group, and Hakkasan is a cool place to have a good meal and a good time.

The last time I visited Hakkasan, it was to their Mayfair branch, which I feel has a much cooler vibe with it’s trendy bar upstairs, packed with beautiful people, bankers and one guy who was so snobby and full of himself that we (two girls) didn’t know whether or not to take him seriously or to laugh out loud.

Hakkasan Hanway Place is the original of the two Hakkasan restaurants in London. After descending into the dark and vibey restaurant via a black, scented staircase, you’re greeted at the bottom by the welcoming and well-dressed staff. From the entrance it looks quite swanky, but once you enter the dining room, it almost has a canteen feel to it. The décor hasn’t changed since it’s opening in 2001, and it is looking rather dated.

We were offered a selection of set-price ‘Signature Menus’, a must for large parties. The reservation (and the menus) had to be confirmed at least 48 hours in advance, and any cancellations after this time would be subject to a £40 charge! We went for the £60 menu, featuring dim sum, main dishes and dessert. It was actually a huge amount of food, and I felt bad that quite a bit of it was wasted – I certainly ate my fill!

The dim sum selection featured your usual har gau, scallop siu mai and two different from your average dim sum options, a Chinese Chive Dumpling and Shimeji (mushroom) Dumpling.

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Dm Sum Selection

Also under the ‘small eats’ section were the Jasmine tea-smoked organic pork spareribs. The sauce was okay but the spare ribs were not tender and didn’t have much meat on them. The rack was served whole and then sliced messily and rather unceremoniously at the table.

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Jasmine Tea-Smoked Organic Pork Spare Ribs

The stir-fried black pepper rib eye beef with merlot was the best thing on the menu, tasty, tender cubes of high quality beef in a black pepper sauce, which was subtle and wonderful. I was popping piece after piece into my mouth far after reaching capacity!

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Stir-fried Black Pepper Rib Eye Beef with Merlot

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London Pub Grub @ The Prince Alfred: Cool Pub, Bad Grub

Good things hardly ever come of choosing a restaurant at the last minute, in a country that you are not familiar with. I always feel the pressure when we go abroad – because I write a food blog it is automatically assumed that I know where we should go for a meal. On top of that, I didn’t get my tendency for critical analysis of food from no where – I got it from a love of good food, yes, but also from years of osmosis from my family. And so, if I choose a bad restaurant for us to eat at, it is automatically my fault that we ate a bad meal. The words of a great Brit, Freddie Mercury, ring true – when we are in London, I am Under Pressure.

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And so here I am for my annual May trip, and I was faced with such a challenge yesterday. Given 15 minutes to choose and reserve a table for lunch at a restaurant that served decent (but not too expensive) food, near Finchley Road, I found an interesting looking pub called The Prince Alfred:

Good but inexpensive = pub grub ✔

Located in Maida Vale ✔

Added bonus: an establishment with character and interesting features ✔

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I was attracted to The Prince Alfred because I do love some good pub grub, and also because of its interior features. It’s a rare example of a late Victorian Public House, or “Pub”. It’s separated into 5 compartments as “some preferred not to be seen drinking by their inferiors, or superiors for that matter”. There are tiny access doors in the mahogany partitions between the compartments, which we had to duck under à la Alice in Wonderland, and were seated in a bright and airy separate dining room, which was the restaurant section of the pub, called The Formosa Dining Room.

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They offer a very reasonable set lunch, two courses for ₤12 or 3 courses for ₤15.50. The sticky toffee pudding was particularly enticing, but we decided to order from the à la carte menu, which featured more of it’s ‘specialties’.

IMG_5518After seeing this sign on the wall, I just had to order that ‘crispy’ pork belly. However, when it was served, the plate was rather unattractive, lacking in colour and bland – I immediately ordered some sautéed spinach, which was the best part of the meal. To be fair, the black pudding was also quite tasty. The pork belly however, was dry, fatty, and not very nice to look at. ‘Twice-cooked’ was an intelligent spin on the fact that it had been pre-cooked, and then re-cooked.

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Twice-cooked Crispy Pork Belly, Braised Red Cabbage, Black Pudding, Apple Sauce £16

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Catalunya comes to Hong Kong!

Thanks to our friends AB and VZ, we managed to get a table at Catalunya last weekend, Hong Kong’s newest Spanish restaurant. Until now, we have had a few Spanish restaurants to choose from (Fofo By El Willi being my personal favorite), but I must say, none as classy as Catalunya. Earthy and sensual tones, plush banquets, wood paneled ceilings, warm red walls and a stunning central lighting fixture: there’s only one word for it, and that is sumptuous.

The choice of location is a strange one, off the Wan Chai Road, on a street that houses an office building, a Baptist Church, Queen Elizabeth Stadium, a hospital. In other words, after a certain time of day, the only activity on this road comes from Catalunya, and the flashing lights of ambulances as they pass the restaurant. Nonetheless, the restaurant was packed, and we were seated in the Cocktail Lounge for a short while to wait for our table. Not to worry at all, we kept ourselves busy with sangria, cava, and something to whet our appetites.

The word has already been spread that Catalunya’s Executive Chef Alain Devahive Tolosa honed his skills for 1o years at El Bulli with Ferran Adria, a molecular master of creative and thought-provoking cuisine, which I sadly never got to try. But Catalunya is very different, it’s warm, comforting, indulgent, and introduces you to tapas that are different from the run-of-the-mill. Here they serve a cross-section of Catalan favorites – a tortilla is not just a tortilla, and bikini is not a bikini.

You’ll see what I mean …

We started off with the only molecular item on the menu, a ‘spherical olive’, created by the process of ‘inverse spherification’. Olives are pressed for their juice, mixed with calcium chlorate, then submerged in sodium alginate (!!), which causes the outer layer of olive juice to harden, but not all the way through. The result is olive juice that looks like an olive, is shaped like an olive, but bursts in your mouth upon the slightest pressure of your tongue. I haven’t had many experiences with molecular cuisine, and it is a curious thing to bite down on something that you think is one thing, but is in actuality, quite another.

Olive

Spherical Olives @ $15 each

“Have them in one bite and watch out for the pit!” Many of Catalunya’s individual dish descriptions on the menu have these cute, tongue-in-cheek comments which I found quite amusing. It made reading the menu fun, and also entices you to order certain dishes that you may not have ordered, because sometimes the title itself doesn’t jump out at you.

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Iberico Ham

We were very generously given a few appetisers to start with while we were waiting, so I wasn’t exactly sure what they were, and whether they represent the regular portion size. All I can say is that this ham was incredible.

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Pa Amb Tomaquet HK$55

“Your first introduction to Tapas” the Pa Amb Tomaquet, or tomato bread, was a good start – a sweet tomato sauce, garlic scent and rustic bread.

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Mediterranean Red Prawns HK$500 (portion unknown)

You choose the style, we give the flavour.” Aaah the famed gamba roja. I say famed because I recently watched an episode of “Around the World in 80 Plates” where the contestants travel to Barcelona and cook with them – ever since I’ve wanted to try one. Ours were served grilled, and the flavour of the prawn was just incredible. I loved the richness of the prawn head juice … is there a proper name for that stuff? We were completely spoiled with this starter, and it was on this high that we were then seated at our table.

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Ham Cheese and Truffle ‘Bikini’ HK$115

“You’re not getting a swimsuit!” These little parcels of calorific goodness are not to be missed! Truffle shavings, heaps of melted cheese and ham in between two pieces of pan-fried bread. As for why it’s called a bikini? Well, I’ve read that in Catalonia, the ‘bikini’ is a tapas bar staple – a Catalonian truffle, ham and cheese sandwich, if you will. When it’s cut into quarters diagonally, each piece resembles biniki bottoms!

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LoveBites Lunches: Sushi Kuu

We all have those places – those places that we go to over and over again, and every time, we order the same thing. Because we know it’s good, because we have a craving for it, because we know we love it. The Sashimi Salad at Sushi Kuu is my ‘thing’. There are so many delicious choices on the lunch menu, and yet most of the time I say no to the menu, and I order the sashimi salad.

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Sashimi Salad

Salad greens, dressed with a yummy yuzu dressing, and topped with a generous amount of fresh sashimi, and this amazing crunchy stuff, it hits the spot. It satisfies the hunger without being too filling. I have been ordering it for years, and the portions have always remained consistent, as well at the selection of fish. As an added bonus, it’s always the quickest dish to arrive, so if you’re in a rush, it’s a good one to order.

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All my favorite sashimi selections

The salad has all of my favorite sashimi selections: scallop, salmon, sweet shrimp, hamachi and tuna.

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Yum

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Sen Ryo: Fresh Sashimi, Unbeatable Prices

What do I do if I’m craving some sashimi but I don’t want to pay through the teeth? Why, go to Sen Ryo of course!

There are a few places here in Hong Kong that serve sashimi at unbelievable prices. When I was in high school, we would catch the bus down to Causeway Bay and grab a seat next to the conveyor belt at Genki Sushi, Sen Ryo’s cheaper sister restaurant. Sushi One is Causeway Bay was also a favorite for a short period of time after it first opened, but when the sashimi quality started getting noticeably worse, it spelled the end of my custom there.

Thank goodness my sushi spending is no longer limited to a pocket-money budget, and Genki Sushi is a thing of the past. Whilst Sushi Shin and Sushi Kuu are my favorites, if I’m in the mood for a sashimi super feast, Sen Ryo is it – with it’s fresh seafood, consistent quality and crazily unbeatable prices. For fresh fish that is imported from Japan, you’re not going to get better than this – eat to your hearts content, until you are close to bursting, and you will still only pay around $150-$200 per person.

A loaded conveyor belt

A loaded conveyor belt

During the main dining hours, the sushi belt is loaded with colourful plates of different choices from the menu. If you’re short on time, then this is the way to go, but I prefer to order fresh from the menu. The menu is extensive, featuring sushi, sashimi, hand rolls, salads, grilled and cooked items and desserts. Check out their full menu and prices here on their website.

Sen Ryo unfortunately doesn’t take bookings, so if you are going for lunch, unless you show up at 12pm or even 11.45am to be sure, you will wait 45 minutes to an hour for your table, especially if you have a party larger than 4.

If you become a Sen-Ryo Member, you can join the online queue for your restaurant of choice via their app to save time. Simply ask for a points card at one of their outlets and spend $1200 within two months (very easily done).

Here are some of my favorites …

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The Fun Facts: Carbohydrates & Sugars in Vegetables & Fruits

In the interests of being Bikini Fit, I have been researching the fun facts – they say everyone should have their five a day, but just what am I putting into my body when I eat fruits and vegetables, and are there any vegetables that could be bad? Or rather, let’s say relatively less beneficial. Well, as boring and as tedious as it all is, there were a few things that surprised me, and so I thought I would share it with you.

Prepping for the pain!

Prepping for the pain!

Let me just give you a little background information. The idea of outdoor ‘bootcamp’ training has really gained momentum in Hong Kong over the past few years, whether they are organised and advertised groups such as Bikini Fit, Circuit 25, Hong Kong Bootcamp, or Apefit, to name a few, or one-on-one personal trainers. After spending most of your waking hours in an office, it’s nice to get out into nature and kick about for a change, rather than sweat on a hamster wheel in air conditioning.

I joined the Bikini Fit 4 week mini-program after being recommended by a girlfriend, to:

a) Figure out if I could wake up early every morning before work and get my ass in gear (I can!)
b) See if it would raise my energy levels during the day (It has!)
c) Lose some fat and gain some muscle and more upper body strength (… a work in progress)
d) Look good in my wedding dress!

My goal is not to change my lifestyle and nutrition completely – it would be unrealistic, impossible and let’s face it, really rather miserable. The idea is to be just a little bit better, drink less, exercise more, take more pride in my body, and be more aware about what I put into it.

The Bikini Fit trainers advocate minimal carbs, no sugar, dairy or wheat, and more protein. Oh, and no alcohol (that’s a real toughie, and there has been cheating happening on my part!). However, even if you manage to stay away from bread, pasta and potatoes, you still take in carbohydrates in veggies. So, to make the most of this bootcamp , I put together these tables to try and eat more low-carb vegetables and low-sugar fruits.

I’ve included a column for what I find are suitable levels for a low-carb diet (this is in no way a professional opinion) – I’m hoping that following a low-carb diet will help me to shed some of my body fat percentage, now at 20.6%.

Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart1 Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart: How Lean Should You Be?

Chart from the American Council on Exercise, http://www.wikipedia.com

Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart2 Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart: How Lean Should You Be?

Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart3 Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart: How Lean Should You Be?

Body fat as a function of age

While I was at it, I also introduced a column to show which fruits and vegetables are acceptable for the Wild Rose Detox (a detox that I do once a year, after new year’s eve), as a easy way to cross-reference both. One thing I have noticed is that the Wild Rose Detox has pretty clear guidelines for acceptable fruit, but not much at all on acceptable vegetables. I therefore assume that all vegetables, apart from the ones that are mentioned in the guidelines, are acceptable.

All of these figures were obtained from Wikipedia, and show values per 100g.

Make of this information what you will, and I hope you find it useful!

 Good Veggies and Not-So-Good Veggies 

Vegetable

Carbohydrates

Protein

Sugar

Fiber

Calories

WRD friendly?

Low-Carb Diet friendly?

Pak Choi †

2.2g

1.5g

1g

13

?

Yes

Lettuce (butterhead)

2.23g

1.35g

0.94g

1.1g

13

?

Yes

Basil

2.65g

3.15g

1.6g

22

?

Yes

Endive †

3.35g

1.25g

3.1g

17

?

Yes

Radishes †

3.4g

0.68g

1.86g

1.6g

16

?

Yes

Olives

3.84g

1.03g

0.54g

3.3g

146

?

Yes

Spinach †

3.6g

2.9g

0.4g

2.2g

23

?

Yes

Asparagus

3.88g

2.2g

1.88g

2.1g

20

?

Yes

Tomato †

3.9g

0.9g

2.6g

1.2g

18

Yes

Yes

Mushrooms (brown)

4.1g

2.5g

27

?

Yes

Cauliflower †

5g

1.9g

1.9g

2g

25

?

Yes

Kale ∆

5.63g

1.9g

1.25g

2g

28

?

Yes

Broccoli †

6.64g

2.82g

1.7g

2.6g

34

?

Yes

Haricot Vert †

6.97g

1.83g

2.7g

31

Acceptable

Yes

Avocado †

8.53g

2g

0.66g

6.7g

160

?

Yes

Brussels Sprouts

8.95g

3.38g

2.2g

3.8g

43

?

Yes

Carrot †

9.6g

0.93g

4.7g

2.8g

41

?

Not really

Beetroot ∆

9.96g

1.68g

7.96g

2g

43

?

No

Butternut Squash

11.69g

1g

2g

45

Yes

No

Leek

14.15g

1.5g

3.9g

1.8g

61

?

No

Green Peas †

14.45g

5.42g

5.67g

5.1g

81

Acceptable

No

Potato *

17.47g

2g

2.2g

77

Yes

No

Parsnip †

18g

1.2g

4.8g

4.9g

75

?

No

Corn kernels †

18.7g

3.27g

6.26g

2

86

?

No

Sweet Potato

20.1g

1.6g

4.2g

3g

86

Yes

In moderation

Lentils (dry weight)

60g

26g

2g

31g

353

Acceptable

Big No

*   Raw, with skin
†   Raw
∆   Cooked

These items in orange are actually technically fruits, but I have included them here for ease of reference. I also added lentils just because I was curious about trying a lentil and cabbage soup recipe … that’s obviously not going to happen now!

 Low-sugar and High-sugar Fruits 

Fruit

Carbohydrates

Sugar

Fiber

Calories

WRD friendly?

Low-Carb Diet friendly?

Coconut water

3.71g

2.61g

1.1g

19

No

All fruits in moderation (limited to 2-3 pieces a day)

Watermelon

7.55

6.2g

0.4g

30

No

Strawberry

7.68g

4.89g

2g

32

Yes

Cantaloupe

8.16g

7.86g

0.9g

34

No

Grapefruit

8.41g

7.31g

1.1g

33

Probably no

Honeydew melon

9.09g

8.12g

0.8g

36

No

Peach

9.54g

8.39g

1.5g

39

Yes

Blackberry

9.61g

4.88g

5.3g

43

Yes

Orange

11.75g

9.35g

2.4g

47

No

Pineapple

13.12g

9.85g

1.4g

50

No

Apple

13.81g

10.39g

2.4g

52

Yes

Blueberry

14.49g

9.96g

2.4g

57

Yes

(Green) Kiwi fruit

14.66g

8.99g

3g

61

Probably yes

Raspberry

14.7g

5.4g

8g

63

Yes

Mango

15g

13.7g

1.6g

60

No

Longan (fresh)

15.14g

1.1g

60

No

Pear

15.23g

9.75g

3.1g

57

Yes

Cherries

16g

12.8g

2.1g

63

Yes

Lychee (fresh)

16.53g

15.23g

1.3g

66

No

Mangosteen

17.91g

1.8g

0.58g

73

No

Grape (red or green)

18.1g

15.48g

0.9g

69

No

Banana

22.84g

12.23g

2.6g

89

No

Coconut flesh

24.23g

6.23g

8g

354

No

33.49g of fat!