Saturday “Daytime Bites” at Blue Butcher

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The bar seats, and the picnic table-style seats at the front, are the only ones available for Saturday lunch, and there are no reservations

One fine Saturday, we were  deciding on a place to have a casual and quick lunch before heading over to The Space to check out Green Queen‘s very first Made In HK Local Artisans Pop Up Market.

As The Space is located on Hollywood Road, we decided to check out Blue Butcher; hoping to catch their brunch but then realising that it’s only on Sundays, we opted for their “Daytime Bites” instead. On Saturdays, only the al fresco ground level bar area of the restaurant is open, offering bar stools and a couple of picnic tables as seating, and it’s walk in only. We were lucky to have a table free, and the menu is  short, which whilst limiting (3 choices each of starters, mains and deserts), is quite refreshing in that you’re not overwhelmed with choice. We skipped starters and went straight to mains – quite simply: burger, pork sliders, chicken.

Seeing that I am on round 3 of the Bikini Fit programme, I attempted to at least look like I was trying to follow the nutrition plan, avoided the very tempting pork belly sliders (grrr), and went for the charred French chicken instead, and a Wagyu burger for my mister.

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Starting off with a refreshing Liberty Ale

The Liberty Ale was tasty and not too heavy, served in cute little mason jars.

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The Wagyu Beef Burger, presented nicely on a wooden chopping board with thin fries

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A close up – Wagyu Beef Burger, Tomato Jam, Balsamic Onions, smoked Gouda cheese, truffle aioli – yum! HK$200

The Blue Butcher burger is definitely one of the better ones that I have tasted in Hong Kong! Many burgers claiming to be Wagyu on the menu are unextraordinary, but this one actually has a thick, juicy patty with nice flavour. The additions of tomato jam and balsamic onions add tasty dimensions to the burger without being too overloaded, and the bun was very nice as well.

Free Range Charred French Half Chicken, Baby Carrots, Pearl Onions HK$180

Free Range Charred French Half Chicken, Baby Carrots, Pearl Onions HK$180

I really loved this dish! The French chicken has a flavour that can’t be beat, and (forgetting for a moment that charring is carcinogenic) the charring was just perfect and so tasty. Those baby carrots and pearl onions were the perfect accompaniment for this rustic dish, although the pan did move around a bit on the table. Soak up that jus with a nice piece of bread!

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Dinner at Wild Grass

Calling Wild Grass for a reservation is hands down the most amusing telephone reservation experience I have ever had. Stephane, the manager is so wonderfully French!  Imagine a super French accent, then add a slow, sexed up tone to it – you just have to hear it. “Hellooooooo, zis is Stephaaaane. Ooooooh yessss, when would you like to booook ze table?” Don’t take me the wrong way, I am not making fun, I am simply trying to relay to you how enjoyable it was to make that reservation. I was giggling inside while I did it. And I really looked forward to meeting him in person – he is the face of the front-of-house, and the guy to ask if you have any questions about the menu or the restaurant.

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Wild Grass does a good job letting you know what they’re all about …

Wild grass do a very good job of promoting their mission statement and restaurant concept, and I liked how they make it a point to make sure you know exactly what is so special about this restaurant, right there on the front of their menu – sustainable ingredients, OBE beef, bread made in-house, and they can host your parties too! I’m a little skeptical about just how much of their menu uses sustainable ingredients … it’s a term that is easily kicked around, a trendy term.  Also, for a nose-to-tail restaurant, there is not much nose or tail. But one thing I can say for sure – for a well-priced, casual Hong Kong restaurant, it has a truly interesting and enticing menu.

There’s not just smoked salmon, it’s smoked salmon topped with radishes and wild salmon eggs! Baked fennel with creamed onions and gratinated with goat cheese (they like goat cheese on this menu). Roasted bone marrow with anchovy and herb salad. Seafood stewed with saffron and fennel. Roasted wild Iceland halibut.  Banana and marmalade trifle! Lemon curd syllabub – what they heck is that, anyway??!!

I was inspired to order at least 80% of it, which made choosing very difficult.

Although we were there in the evening, I could imagine sunlight streaming through those glass paneled window, shining down on the farm chic rustic home-style decor, and attractively mismatched chairs. At night, the restaurant looks like it could be a great place for a long meal followed (or preceded) by drinks at the bar – but when we went on a Thursday, we were one of 4-5 tables, and in such a big space, we felt a bit lonely.

And now to the food! While we waited, we were served some of that house-made bread (soft and fluffy like a pillow!) with a goats cheese butter spread (dangerously moreish). I really loved how we were given a few radishes (which went great with the goats cheese) and pickled onions to snack on – they made the bread platter look beautiful too.

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A very nice French bread board, with goats cheese spread, radishes and pickled onions

The carpaccio of amberjack was a very generous portion, but it was surprisingly lacking in any flavour other than the strong flavour of the passion fruit.

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Amberjack Carpaccio marinated with passion fruit and green onions HK$138

Goats cheese oozing over crispy puff pastry and that beetroot jelly went down a treat!

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Baked goat’s cheese feuillete with bayonne ham, pearl onions, beetroot jelly, rocket and walnuts HK$ 118

My starter of poached egg, asparagus, clams and crispy toasted brioche was a marvelously constructed dish – bravo to the chef!

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Poached organic hen egg with creamed shelled clams, green asparagus and toasted brioche HK$130

The steak was order medium-rare but was served rare. I am always a bit scared to send under-cooked steak back to the kitchen, as it usually comes back over-cooked, but the kitchen did a good job of rectifying it. While it was a very tasty piece of beef, it was a too thinly cut to be enjoyed as a juicy steak.

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Grilled wild organic rib eye steak with Merlot sauce, avocado and beetroot salad HK$ 380 (or HK$40 supplement for the set dinner)

The pork chop was simply amazing – perfectly cooked, juicy, really flavourful and well seasoned. I really loved that chive pesto too – this is a dish I would order again and again.

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Savory breaded pork chop, cider cream, chives pesto, cucumbers, courgettes and snow peas HK$ 278

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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 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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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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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

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

LoveBites Lunches: Gyotaku

Gyotaku

Are you looking for a nice alternative for a relatively light Japanese  set lunch other than Sushi Kuu in Central? If yes, then we are in the same boat. I LOVE Sushi Kuu, but I ALWAYS go there. So when I saw Gyotaku flash by on my Facebook news feed (I know, I know), I clicked.  I work from home mainly, and thus do not know the weekday lunch scene too well – for something like this, one must rely on recommendations!

‘Gyotaku’ is a Japanese traditional method of fish printing. The method was initially used by fisherman in order to record their catches, and is now also practiced as a form of art. As far as I remember, there is no tribute to ‘gyotaku’ in the restaurant apart from their logo, and  but we were too involved in ordering and then catching up. The food at Gyotaku is meant to be creative/fusion, my Facebook buddy DW told me that I just HAD TO try to the wagyu beef hand rolls, but wanting to watch the calories after the holidays, CM and I went for the set lunches instead.

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Sweet Kabayaki Eel lunch set $140

This eel dish was really quite wonderful. Moist and full of flavour, nicely charred from the grill, it was a real winner.

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Side salad

The set comes with the usual rice and miso soup, as well as a side salad, pickles and dessert. All were satisfactory!

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Side sashimi (extra $30)

You can pay an extra $30 for a side of sashimi, which is definitely worth it of you’re craving some fresh, cold raw fish. Or you can also choose from the a la carte menu.

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Grilled Miso Cod Fish Set $140

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In Pictures – L’Altro


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I’ll first take this opportunity to wish Happy New Year to everybody! May 2013 bring you even more happiness, good fortune, delectable meals and lovely friends to eat them with! It has been some time since my last post, and for a good reason – yes, it was Christmas and then new year, but more than anything else, I have been preoccupied with another type of food. Food for the soul – LOVE. Yes, gooey, icky, sweet and wonderful LOVE. I have gone from having a truly amazing boyfriend, to having a truly amazing fiancé! For the next 10 months, wedding planning is going to be taking up a large part of my life and most of my spare time, and although I am tempted to perhaps have a little hiatus from blogging, I am always eating good food and wanting to write about it. So my posts may be scarce, and a tad shorter than usual – but I can’t give up the other love of my life – food.

As part of the celebration for our engagement, my fiancé (takes a bit of getting used to!) took my parents and myself to a wonderful new Italian restaurant in town. Another in a line of restaurants opened by foreign Michelin-starred & celebrity chefs, L’Altro is headed by Philippe Leveille, a two star Michelin chef of Miramonti l’Altro in Brescia, Italy, who serves Italian food with a French twist and flair.

Diners have the option of ordering à la carte, or from two tasting menus: a 6-course Tasting Menu 1 for $880 (gotta love those numbers, why not just go all the way and make it $888??), and an 8-course Tasting Menu 2 for $1080. When we visited in early December, we also had the option of the White Truffle Tasting Menu, which could be ordered with or without truffles. Now, dare I wonder why they would offer a menu that was built around the truffle with an option to not have it with the main attraction, but my man and my stepdad were more attracted by it – so we ordered two of these menu and two Tasting Menu 2s, and shared.

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We were all served this lovely amuse bouche of fois gras with a sugar/nut croquant and green apple sauce (if I remember correctly) – yum!

White Truffle Tasting Menu

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Cauliflower Cream

Wonderfully creamy, a little on the thicker side, it didn’t exactly pique our interest for the rest of the meal, but it was a nice and light way to start it.

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Potato compote, confit lobster, asparagus olive oil emulsion

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