The Principal: Deserving of a 1 Star Rating

There are only certain occasions when I agree with the Hong Kong Michelin Guide‘s rating of a particular restaurant in Hong Kong – you know as well as I do that some of their 1 Star ratings are just preposterous. However I am so happy (and so is my belly) to say that The Principal is completely, entirely 100% deserving of it’s 1 Star rating!

Chef de Cuisine Jonay Armas hails from the Canary Islands and takes a fresh and thought-provoking approach to each of the contemporary European dishes. He applies molecular techniques to some, whilst others are more complex versions of traditional dishes, and each dish appeals to your five sensations of taste: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami.  There are three Tasting Menus available, and what is more notable is that one is of them is entirely vegetarian.

We went for the 7 course menu at HK$ 890 with optional wine pairing – some dishes are certainly more impressive than others; PB and I found that with each course that was served, we were more and more excited to be served the next. I would definitely say that this is the best of The Press Room Group‘s restaurants, and we are eagerly anticipating our Sunday Brunch reservation in January 2014 (it gets booked out weeks in advance). If you are looking for a date venue to impress, boys, this is the restaurant to reserve a table at.

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SNACKS: Passion Campari

The server will warn you not to take a bite of this, but to put the whole thing in your mouth. Once you take a bite, a cool, passion fruit Campari-laced liquid bursts out of its waxey container, much to your surprise!

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SNACKS: Mimetic peanut

This peanut buttery imitation of a peanut definitely amuses your bouche. I love how it is served on a bed of crushed peanut shells.

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Sesame Dentelle & Pâté Bonbon

These two were less impressive, but you can never go wrong with a pâté bonbon!

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UNI: Chawanmushi, sea urchin, sake, dates

On The Principal website, chef Armas says, “My aim is to respect the origins of each ingredient, to pay homage to the cooking methods that have come before while introducing my own interpretation.” Well he has certainly done this with the UNI dish – chawanmushi served in a cute sea urchin vessel and topped with uni and a date crumble (of sorts).

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EGG: Free-Range Onsen Egg, Iberico Ham, Parmentier, Chanterelles

I love, love, love onsen egg, and order it whenever I see it (here, here and here). This one did not disappoint, with potato cream and the most delicious fresh petit pois. When was the last time you ate a fresh green pea? I can’t even remember … before this dinner, of course.

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A very souped-up version of Egg and Soldiers

PB lifted up the glass bowl to get the very last bit in the bottom, and all of a sudden, we smelled SMOKE! We didn’t realise immediately where it was coming from and thought that perhaps something was burning in the kitchen, but we then noticed the wood-scented smoke trapped in the hollow space at the bottom of the glass bowl.

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BLUE LOBSTER: butternut, béarnaise, wild rice, tarragon

The wild rice was crispy like a popped rice, which imparted a smokey, burned popcorn flavour.

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COD: Black and white

The white sauce was a cod-juice cream, and I can’t recall what the black was.

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A view from the top

Bulgarian Bessa Valley Wine

Bulgarian Bessa Valley Wine

The wine list atlas at The Principal is impressive both in its size and in its range. We opted for the wine pairing for our meal (HK$400), and found it to be of excellent value and selection. We were served a new glass of wine with each course, and towards the end were making an effort to finish our glasses before the next course.

For our main course selection, we were served this Bulgarian wine, and I was intrigued enough to take a picture. I’ve never tried (let alone heard of!!) Bulgarian wine before, so I decided to do a little research. Apparently, Bulgaria is one of the world’s oldest wine growing regions, but a law voted during the Gorbachev period as a result of anti-alcohol measures called for uprooting the country’s vines. The Enira vineyard is located in the Bessa Valley region, and for those planning a trip to Bulgaria any time soon, a wine tasting there sounds like good fun!

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SUCKLING PIG: Baby endives, lemon purée, cabbage, pomegranate

Whenever I take a Tasting Menu, I always find that the main course lacks the flair and genius that the appetiser courses do. This suckling pig was nice, but not as amazing as what preceded it.

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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

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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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