LoveBites Lunches: Aberdeen Street Social

It is considerably harder to get a reservation for dinner than it is for lunch, so the lunch menu is a great way to enjoy Aberdeen Street Social. The third establishment in Hong Kong to be spearheaded by Jason Atherton in collaboration with the JIA Group after 22 Ships and Ham and Sherry, Aberdeen Street Social is a nod to Atherton’s flagship restaurant in London, Pollen Street Social, which opened in April 2011. My my, has he come a long way since then!  After three years and with multiple restaurants in London, Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong, it’s a wonder this guy gets any sleep!

The lunch menu is very enjoyable, with a good range of choice in the starters and the main courses, for a reasonable HK$238 for two courses, and HK$ 288 for three courses. I say it is reasonable because the food is beautifully prepared, eaten in a sophisticated setting, and tastes fabulous. The menu changes every two weeks, so if it becomes one of your regular treat lunch spots (as it will with me), you shouldn’t worry about getting bored.

You can also choose from the à la carte menu as well, which is not dissimilar to his Pollen Street Social menu of ‘modern British cuisine’.  Both feature a yummy-sounding egg starter, scallops, a fowl such as quail or pigeon, a beef sharing dish and … crispy pig ears. His mains are a nice balance of fish and meat, but with no vegetarian options. Having said that, if you give them some notice I think the kitchen could whip you up something fabulous in a snap.

Amuse bouches of garlic, cheddar and rosemary flatbread, with fried chicken topped with a lovely (tomato?) jam

Amuse bouches of garlic, cheddar and rosemary flatbread, with fried chicken topped with a lovely (tomato?) jam

The amuse bouches were wonderfully moreish comfort foods, that fried chicken was served piping hot (be careful when you take that first bite!), and so very good. The flatbread is available on their bar menu if you want more, but alas not the chicken. They are in no way light and healthy things to eat, but just those small morsels of guilt-ridden pleasure are just enough to get your comfort food fix.

A nice and light starter with a sort of aubergine purée that was full of flavour.

Aubergine Caviar, Garden Vegetables

Aubergine Caviar, Garden Vegetables

Iberico Ham, Egg and Peas

Iberico Ham, Egg and Peas

They don’t give much away with the description of the dish, so my starter of soft-boiled, crumbed then fried egg, together with crispy pancetta and smashed peas was a wonderful surprise! It’s not on the a la carte menu, and am a bit sad that I might not have the opportunity to eat it again …

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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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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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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

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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Lunch @ MO Bar

If you are looking for a smart and upscale place for lunch in Central without the (unreasonably) smart price tag, then MO Bar at the Landmark Mandarin Hotel is the place to go. I took my mother there for a pre-birthday lunch today, as she has been singing praises about their Hainan Chicken Rice for  ages (“the best in town!!!”, she says), and it’s only the best for my mother.

Tomato bread, and our usual hot water with lemon

I called in the morning and they were fully booked but they kindly said they would squeeze us in, and when we arrived we were shown to a very nice table. Our main waiter, in true Mandarin form, was gracious and informative. He was there when we needed him, and yet seemed to vanish when we didn’t. He expertly guided me through the menu, and demonstrated some remarkable NLP skills – so that even though I only planned to go for a starter and a main, I somehow managed to fold for a dessert and a glass of wine too.

They serve a nice sun-dried tomato bread, which was nice, soft and fresh, but nothing fabulous.

The venue is chic yet casual at the same time, and while the set lunch menu is more expensive than your average lunch in Central, it’s still not going to break the bank at $228 for 2 courses (including tea or coffee) – that extra bit is really worth it for the ambience and quality of ingredients they use.

Sweet corn, rocket and chorizo salad, and beef short rib cannelloni

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Seeing Stars: 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana

I went to Otto e Mezzo Bombana for the 3rd time this month, the first was for a quick late dinner with PB. We strolled in at 9.45pm with no reservations, and the manager, Mr. A, kindly let us take a seat for the last order at 10.30pm. My mother then made a lunch booking in advance with no one in particular (seeing that reservations are increasingly difficult to get), anticipating that someone would go with her – that someone ended up (gladly) being me! Finally, we went again for Valentine’s Day lunch on Tuesday (with PB, not my mum). Each time was a well-rounded and tasty experience.

Otto e Mezzo opened in January 2010 and was awarded two Michelin stars within two months. Dare I say that this new rating was perhaps not 100% due to 8 1/2’s magnificence on the global Michelin stage, but also due to the relatively new presence of the Michelin Guide in Hong Kong. But The Guide can give, and The Guide can take – what is more notable is that 8 1/2 has not only kept it’s stars, but collected a third in December 2011, making it the only 3 star Italian restaurant outside of Italy. Continue reading