LoveBites Lunches – Cocotte

After visiting Cocotte for dinner when it first opened a few months back, I went back to this lovely French brasserie-style restaurant to try out their new lunch menu, which they introduced just a couple of weeks ago. The menu is a straightforward compilation of tasty seasonal dishes, beautifully presented with choice ingredients, and well portioned to fill you just enough but not leave you bursting at the seams.

You can either opt for the Express Lunch (starter and main) for HK$ 168, or the three course Executive Lunch at HK$ 198, both include tea, coffee or a soft drink. There is certainly a plethora of choice when it comes to lunch menus in the Central and Soho areas, but this one really stands out in terms of the quality of food and the high level at which it is executed.

Gazpacho - tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, extra virgin olive oil

Gazpacho – tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, extra virgin olive oil

 Frisée Salad - poached egg, lardons, Pommery mustard dressing

Frisee Salad – poached egg, lardons, Pommery mustard dressing

These two dishes are a light and refreshing way to start the meal. I’m not one to usually order a cold soup but this gazpacho is super refreshing, with a distinct bell pepper taste and I enjoyed the addition of whole cherry tomatoes for varying textures. The frisée salad is a simple dish with a perfectly poached egg and a grilled slice of baguette for extra crunch.

Confit of Salmon - Salt baked beet, tiny potatoes, horseradish cream, dill

Confit of Salmon – Salt baked beet, tiny potatoes, horseradish cream, dill

Steak Tartare -  truffle egg yolk, salad

Steak Tartare – truffle egg yolk, salad

For something a bit more filling, the steak tartare has got to be my favorite starter of them all. Add as much as you want of the tangy and ever so slightly spicy tartare sauce, with a dollop of the egg white and caper mixture after mixing in the fresh egg yolk (or not!) into that wonderfully tasty beef. The salmon was under-seasoned for my liking, although those baby potatoes and horseradish cream on the side were a nice accompaniment.

On to the mains, whilst hand on my heart I loved every one of them, the star of the show has got to be the filet mignon.  I’m not usually a fan of very lean cuts and usually opt for rib eye for an extra bit of taste, but this filet mignon was incredible – tender, tasty and perfectly cooked. I hope they never take it off the menu! Beware of those fries and béarnaise sauce, they’re dangerously addictive.

Beef Filet Mignon Frites - matchstick fries, Bearnaise Sauce

Beef Filet Mignon Frites – matchstick fries, Béarnaise Sauce

The codfish was also a fabulous dish, transporting you to the Mediterranean with perfectly cooked, large translucent flakes of codfish, moreish polenta disks (I have to try making those at home!!), and a really nice ratatouille.

Codfish Mediterranean Style - spiced ginger polenta, ratatouille, red beet reduction

Codfish Mediterranean Style – spiced ginger polenta, ratatouille, red beet reduction

Continue reading

Advertisements

Cocotte – French Brasserie with a New York Vibe

One of the many fabulous things about the French language (the study of which eludes me daily, no matter how much I talk about picking it up again), is that there are so many words that have various different meanings, and some of the slang is just downright funny.  ‘Cocotte’ is one of those new ones that I just learned when I went to this fabulous new French brasserie earlier this week.

cocotte
kɒˈkɒt/
noun
         1. a small heatproof dish in which individual portions of food can be cooked and served.
         2. a fashionable prostitute.

Love it! I suppose the same thing exists in English where a word can be in one way defined as something to do with food, and yet have another completely different meaning (crumpet for example, or waffle), but it just sounds so much better in French!

Fabulous wallpapers

Fabulous wallpapers

The Bar

The Bar

Cocotte is a new chic French eatery that has opened on my favourite ladder street. It’s located just outside the periphery of the main crowds on Hollywood/Staunton, next to the Cabane a Vin wine cellar and just up from Kushiyaki Beco and On Lot 10.

Opened and run by the Moldovan brothers, who hail from Paris but have a love for all things New York, the decor oozes chic-ness. One of the owners is a friend, and it is so interesting to see his personality directly translated into the look and feel of the restaurant. I love the use of luxurious wallpaper, the moss green velvet banquette, the red white and blue mis-matched chairs, the retro lighting, even the dark purples walls in the bathroom.

And now to the food …

DSC01682

Caprese Salad “Cocotte Style” – Burattina , heirloom tomato, basil, strawberry, aged balsamic HK$168

The burrata burst onto the plate upon the slightest touch, and the pairing with strawberries was unusual yet tasty.

DSC01683

Steak Tartare – roquefort, “truffle egg yolk”, roquette salad HK$168 (or HK$228 as a main)

This dish is a thoughtful one – the beef tartare comes with roquefort, which you can choose to mix in or leave on the side (thankfully, for us blue cheese haters). The tartare sauce is served in a separate jar,  which I thought was very considerate to the diner – one can choose to add as much or as little of it as they’d like.

Foie

Foie Gras Royale – wood-smoked duck ham, rhubarb, raspberry, pistachio HK$168

The foie gras is served with smoked duck, raspberries and a sort of cookie crumb. It is not served with any toast or bread (perhaps you’re expected to eat it sans pain), but you can ask for it on the side.

Believe it or not, I forgot to take a picture of the ‘Langoustine, Barely Touched’. As the name suggests, the langoustine is just ever so slightly seared, very fresh and light. It is clearly one of their more popular dishes, and when we were told that the kitchen only had 3 servings left, we took them all.

Veal

Milk-fed Veal Flatiron – prepared like blanquette, chanterelle mushrooms, heirloom carrots, parsnip HK$ 328

The veal melted in the mouth; moist, with a very subtle taste, and it was perfectly cooked.

Fish

Royal Sea Bream – prawn, corn and brown butter bisque HK$ 328

The fish was very well executed, with a lovely creamy potato puree. Stacked on top were vegetables and crisp shrimp, resting on a rich lightly foamed bisque.

Continue reading

Upper Modern Bistro

Having effectively been out of Hong Kong for the last month and a half, I feel like I’ve come back and ten different new restaurants have opened. Not only are they new, but they are impressive restaurants that have been causing a buzz and sending my Facebook news feed into a visual frenzy of food photography.

We were out for a nice dinner with our friends, the elegantly gorgeous KW and her ever-amusing beau BB – with company such as theirs, a meal is always off to a good start!  Fish & Meat was fully booked, and we were lucky that Upper Modern Bistro has just had a cancellation.

DSC00882

The whimsical ceiling feature @ Upper Modern Bistro

Mirrors and a full glass panel façade makes the restaurant feel very roomy, whilst the soft colour scheme makes the space comfortable and welcoming.  Your eyes are immediately drawn to the fabulous ceiling feature, the design apparently is attributed to chef Philippe Orrico’s love of eggs. The kitchen is set slightly higher than the dining room, and is visible from the street so that you are greeted by the sight of chefs busying away.

At the time of our visit, it felt like the façade was not yet completed, and I had to squint and search to confirm that this was indeed Upper Modern Bistro.  But once I entered the restaurant, I was truly excited to start my meal. Our friends had been raving about how amazing the food was at St. George, the restaurant where Orrico was head chef previously to opening his own place. I had never had the chance to go, and anticipated a great meal at Upper Modern Bistro.

There’s a snack menu, a tasting menu, and the main a la carte menu to choose from. As enticing as the snack menu looked, we decided to go straight to choosing our main meal. With the 4 of us dining, I have lots of lovely food pics for you here!

DSC00886

Oyster w/ Ponzu Sauce @ HK$ 58 each

I started off with 2 Brittany oysters, they were crisp and not too big with a fabulous ponzu sauce.

DSC00889

Steak Tartare HK$ 168

As my first choice of moules marinière was sold out, I went for a bistro staple – the steak tartare.  It was unconventional, served on a base of avocado, mixed with pecans instead of capers, and topped with a parmesan cheese foam. If you are a tartare traditionalist, you will be disappointed, as it hasn’t the tartness or the heavier flavours of a traditional tartare. This one is light, with no discerning meaty taste as the favours of the avocado and parmesan overpowered it a bit. Still, the flavours went well together, and I enjoyed the lightness of it.

DSC00890

63° egg, sauteed crab meat and Bellota ham HK$ 148

63° eggs are one of UMB’s signature components, and Chef Orrico uses them in his main dish of Mushroom Tagliatelle also.

DSC00892

A bird’s eye view

KW’s starter of Chestnut Soup (no photo!) was dreamy, a rich, sweet cream of chestnut with complimentary shavings of white Alba truffle. Delicious. In fact, if you like creamy soups as I do, I would say that soup is definitely one of Upper Modern Bistro’s strong points!

For the main courses, BB ordered a delectable Quail and Foie Gras Pie. It is limited on the menu and yet it was still available for us to order. I suppose it may sound too heavy and rich for many, but I liked its traditionalism.  One bite brought me back to a meal that I had at Au Petit Riche, an old-school Parisian restaurant, where traditional recipes such as meat pies and tête de veau are predominant on the menu.  And hey, it comes with a salad!  With truffles shavings again, no less.

DSC00895

Quail and Foie Gras Pie with Lentil Sauce, HK$ 328

DSC00897

Accompanying salad with truffles!

My main course was the most mainstream of them all, but just as well executed. The pasta was wonderfully fresh and cooked perfectly al dente, and the 63° egg oozed its bright yellow yolk to create a smooth, creamy sauce.

DSC00896

Mushroom Tagliatelle, 63° egg, cheese sauce and parma ham HK$ 168

DSC00900

Oozing egg…

DSC00899

Sole a la meuniere, butternut sauce and sauteed mushrooms HK$ 248

Continue reading

Oyster craving? Check out Edo & Bibo

I write this after another wonderful date night with PB. I’m going to Sydney tonight and we really enjoyed the time to re-group and enjoy each others company before I head off for 5 days. So, I may approach the review of this restaurant in a slightly biased fashion, because above all, the company is what makes the experience truly enjoyable. We really did enjoy our meal at Edo & Bibo, if you’re on a date then the counter seats are perfect for a tête-à-tête, and larger groups are also very easily accommodated. It was certainly a good sign that on a Thursday night, there was not an empty table in sight.

The bread basket

The bread basket

We were the only ones on the counter, which was set up for groups of two. From here, you can see all the action, from the oyster shucking to the salad mixing and even the tartare making. PB had already ordered the wine by the time I’d arrived, and when I asked him what he thought of the selection, I got a shoulder shrug in response – he was not very inspired it seems. He did pick a nice Chablis however, which went well with the oysters. If you’d like to BYO, corkage is HK$150 a bottle.

The bread selection was nicely presented, but not very good quality at all – the baguette was toughly chewy (now that’s an oxymoron!). Oh well, we’re not there for the bread.

IMG_4573

A great deal for a quality selection of oysters

We were there, however, for the OYSTERS! If you are an oyster lover too, make sure you get to the restaurant before 9pm, or you might find the selection severely diminished. The oysters are delivered fresh daily, and E&B is one of four establishments in the same building (all opened by ET Troop) that serves these oysters. Certainly by the end of our meal, there was scant choice left on the ice.

IMG_4574

A wide choice of French oyster selections, not just your usual fine de claire.

IMG_4575

Some oysters I’d never heard of…

The Gillardeau oysters are produced by a small farm owned by the Gillardeau family, which produces only spéciales – a fleshier and thus more expensive oyster. Theirs is a very interesting story, which you might like to read about in this New York Times article.

IMG_4576

And a selection of international oysters..

That day, the oysters included in the buy one get one free oyster promotion were Pacific Rock, Irish Gigas, Fine de Claire, Osole, and Tsarskaya. Not being a huge fan of Pacific Rock oysters (those things are massive – I always feel like gagging when I eat them), we chose the other four plus two of the Gillardeau spéciales.

IMG_4577

The oysters on display in all their glory!

IMG_4579

Our oyster selection, clockwise from the bottom: Irish Gigas, Osole (Korea), Fine de Claire (France), Tsarskaya (France), Gillardeau (France)

We were in for a treat! I have read some mixed reviews of Edo & Bibo (Janice @ E*ting the World was certainly not impressed), but I for one was very pleasantly surprised by the variety, freshness and taste on offer here. The oysters were expertly shucked, and each one seemed to retain the flavour of the water from whence they came. I am a regular customer at Oyster Station in SoHo, and I must say that the oysters at E&B certainly are served with more care.

IMG_4580

Cocktail Sauce and Red Wine Vinegar

A scrumptious cocktail sauce is served, chunkier than most and although it is most likely made with canned tomatoes, it tastes fresh. The red wine vinegar is is dark and seems almost to have a condensed vinegary-ness – a little goes a long way.

We started with the Irish Gigas (HK$58 for two), which were less creamy than I remember them being, in a good way. Perhaps it was due to the fact that they were served quite cold so it made the creaminess more bearable.

IMG_4581

Korean Osole HK$ 59 for two

This is the first time I’ve heard about Korean oysters, let alone eaten one. The Osole were meatier, the water saltier, but for some reason, not our cup of tea at all. I can’t put my finger exactly on it, but the Osole  somehow lacked the refined taste of the other oysters.

IMG_4582

Fine de Claire HK$68 for two

Fine de Claires are always smaller, more crisp, and somehow more savory, and always yummy. They are fine in every definition of the word.

IMG_4583

French Tsarskaya

From Brittany, the Tsarskaya oyster is meant to be more creamy with woody accents, apparently. I say that because it’s the first time I’ve tried them. They are longer in shape, and these ones had a bit too much membrane for me. They were a bit on the skinny side too – the Kate Moss of our oyster selection.

IMG_4584

French Gillardeau HK$68 each

These babies were beautiful, and the all-around favourite. Big, but not to meaty and not too creamy, delicately flavoured with a beautiful briny taste – just perfect really. Too bad they weren’t part of the two for one offer because I could have had a whole plate of them.

Just as quickly as it had started, our oyster round was over (boo). We moved on to our second round of starters, the first we chose from their “Chef Specials”: Edo & Bibo Signature Caesar Salad with Apple Wood Smoked Bacon and Fresh Graded Parmeson (sic)”. As far as Caesar Salads go, it was definitely one of the better ones – crisp Romaine lettuce, a nice tangy creamy dressing. Using the dressing as a plate garnish was somehow lost on us, and there was not enough of that (very nice) bacon. It also rained Parmesan onto our plates when we picked up each leaf – but I love that stuff.

IMG_4588

Signature Caesar Salad HK$108

Continue reading

The Wolseley, London

Setting the scene

It was a special and unexpected treat to visit The Wolseley on my last day in London. The original plan was to meet at Richoux at Piccadilly – and thank the food gods that we didn’t! I have only just this moment realised (while researching Richoux and writing this paragraph) that this restaurant is HORRIBLE. It’s a chain of restaurants and I have visited the one in St. John’s Wood – and swore never again.

As I exited the Green Park tube station, I called DC to see where I should be heading (despite having lived in London for 3 years, I still have an abysmal sense of direction!) He suggested going to The Wolseley instead, and that it would only be a 30 minute wait for a table! I have tried to book this restaurant (unsuccessfully) for my past two trips, and here we were with an opportunity to finally go and eat the famous breakfast at The Wolseley! It was already 1.30pm … but there’s never really a bad time to eat breakfast, is there?

The interior of the restaurant is cavernous, and simply exquisite. The site was originally commissioned by Wolseley Motors Limited as a showroom, and then Barclays Bank acquired the building when Wolseley Motors went bankrupt. It was finally taken over by Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, two of London’s most successful restauranteurs, and transformed into a restaurant in 2003.

After a short wait at the bar with a very nice Bloody Mary, we were sat at one of the tables in the bar area, where you are not charged the requisite ₤2 ‘cover charge’ as you are in the main dining room. The idea of a restaurant cover charge sounds a bit preposterous to me, but we are in London after all, and sometimes these things happen.

Their breakfasts are renowned, so rather than ordering from the (quite varied) Main Course section, we opted to order lots of different starters and ended up staring it all. I’m not sure why, but as I write this, I realise that all of the dishes we ordered are making me wonder about their origins. I love fines de claire oysters, but don’t know where they come from. Why is a dressed crab dressed? Why is Hollandaise sauce called Hollandaise sauce? Here, I shall share some fruits of my random research with you…

Fines de Claire Prestige 1/2 dozen (₤14.75) & Loch Ryan Natives 1/2 dozen (₤16.50)

Served with sliced brown bread and butter

The first thing that caught my eye on the menu were oysters. I made a beeline for the Fines de Claire, as always, whilst DC preferred something more creamy, and he was recommended the Loch Ryan Natives. These were actually superb and I almost preferred them – perhaps I have to reassess my oyster preferences…

The oysters were served with un-toasted, crustless and buttered brown bread – how very English! The red vinegar and shallot sauce was nice, but served in an inappropriately narrow vessel which had to be tipped to acquire a suitable amount of vinegar.

Interesting fact #1: ‘Fines de Claire’ doesn’t actually refer to an area of production, but rather, a method. The ‘claire’ refers to a salt marsh pond, where the oysters are kept over one or two months, with a maximum number of oysters per square meter, before being sold.

Steak Tartare (small) ₤10.50

Interesting fact #2: The name is derived from “steak à la tartare”, a dsh popular in 19th and early 20th centuries. It refers to the original practice of serving it with tartare sauce. Continue reading

La Cabane a Vin – great French small plates and natural wines

After stuffing myself full of tacos for the past few weeks, I’m over South American food, and believe I’ve found my new go-to hangout for quick bites in Soho. Last Tuesday was the Grand Opening of La Cabane a Vin, a charming, rustic and well-situated bar/bistro on Hollywood Road.

Rustic you say, in the middle of Soho? Well, check it out…

The interior of La Cabane

The interior design, done by Elsa Jean de Dieu and Eunice Cheung from Effect, features exposed brick walls, wooden slats that resemble those used to make wine crates, swing chairs suspended from the ceiling, a small temperature-controlled cellar tucked away next to the bar, and all the small touches that make this place a really comfortable and unpretentious place to go for a drink and a (few) snack(s), a light dinner, or even a midnight snack.

Chilled Gazpacho – a rich tomato flavour, but a bit on the oily side for me $70

The local chefs, after some rigorous training, do a good job with the bistro dishes, and the rillettes and terrine are made in house.  The food is authentic, and everything is served in small plates so that one can choose to make a meal of it, or to just order a couple of dishes to accompany a bottle of wine. There are so many fake French bistros in Hong Kong (the worst of which has to be Brasserie de L’île), and it’s nice to see one that is doing it right! They are still tweaking the recipes a bit, and are tireless trying to source the freshesh and tastiest ingredients. La Cabane has tried to use organic produce from local HK farms as much as they can, but have mentioned that the quality is not always consistent; many of their ingredients are sourced from France.

You also have the opportunity to try all of their wines, it’s a huge selection, with some original names, and honestly priced. By that I mean well-priced, with bottles starting from the $200s.

“Les 3 Petits Farcis” – stuffed vegetables $90

MY FAVORITES: Beef Tartare – a wonderfully seasoned and prepared tartare, served with rustic French bread, and well worth the $110

Continue reading