Monday, April 9, 2012

Tin Lung Heen 天龍軒 in Ritz Carlton Hotel Kowloon

It was a cloudy day, so you couldn't see very far.
The surrounding sea wasn't the most picturesque part of Victoria harbor either.

There are restaurants where you enjoy you see from the windows more than you enjoy the food. Riding up the high-speed elevator going up to the 103th floor lobby of Ritz Carlton hotel, mum was expecting Tin Lung Heen to be one of those restaurants. The elevator ride up was surprisingly speedy and quiet. Once you're on the 103th floor lobby. you need to ride the escalator down one floor to the Chinese restaurant. The ceiling was high and spacing between tables was generous. Service was courteous to a fault.

So how about the food?

The dishes they ordered were all good!! Definitely more memorable than the food they had in Lung King Heen in Four Seasons Hotel.

So mum's expectations were turned upside down!! In a good way!!

至尊甘荀鮮蝦餃 Shrimp Dumpling
西杏雪影叉燒餐包 Almond Crusted BBQ Pork Bun
This is much better then Tim Ho Wan and Lung Keen Heen in Four Seasons, but comparable to World Trade Centre Club Chinese Restaurant (not been mentioned in our blog).
西班牙黑豚肉叉燒腸粉 Iberico BBQ Pork Rice Roll
Big Chunks of BBQ Pork, I would order this again and again.  I am not a fan of BBQ Pork Rice Roll but this has given new meaning to the dish.

蟲草花湯牛肉丸 Beef Balls in Soup
The highlight of the meal.  Seasoned perfectly with the right mix of texture and flavour.  Never seen before so its a novelty to us.

蒜香鸡 Deep Fried Chicken with Garlic
The crispy skin chicken was well presented and cooked and cut to perfection.  Sauce was good but probably too sharp on its own.  Best eaten with white rice.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Coffee Shop - Kitamura Coffee in Happy Valley Hong Kong

So what is the minimum investment to make a good cup of coffee? An espresso machine with combo grinder will set you back for around HK$6,000 minimum. A set of cheap siphon or a french press jug will cost a few hundred dollars. But if you come to Kitamura coffee, you will find out that the minimum investment is a grinder, either hand or electric, a simple set of filter and some freshly roasted coffee beans.
Single origin Peruvian coffee beans roasted on location that day.

Kitamura coffee is probably the longest surviving locally roasted coffee shop in Hong Kong. Opened in 2003, it has moved its location a few times and now located on the second floor of an apartment building in  one of Happy Valley's many side-streets. Inside a tiny apartment, Kyoko Kitamura serves you coffee from beans that are not just locally roasted but roasted on location. There are no fancy equipments just a grinder and a few filter holders. The brewing method is "pour over" which allows more control over the brewing temperature and time of the coffee.

You must be thinking - jee I can do that as well, pouring hot water over ground coffee!!
If you thinking the same, you should read an excerpt from the web-link below: - The barista dampen the filters, insert a precise measure of grounds, and then slowly and smoothly pour the hot water over the grounds, often using a funky looking teapot with a spout specifically designed to give the most controlled pour possible.  The weight and time and temperature are watched closely in order to achieve a good cup of coffee that brings out both the highs and lows of the coffee being brewed, usually a single origin coffee.  The pourover method creates a clean cup of coffee that typically balances out the flavors available in the coffee, and as Tom Pikaart at notes in the Oregonian article, it typically brings out the floral or fruity essences in delicate coffees — flavors that otherwise might be missed using a French press or other brewing method.

If you like a smooth, clean cup of mild aromatic coffee, you should head over to Kitamura. You might discover all the floral and fruity notes that people keep talking about but you never quite get.

Address: 2/F, 4 Shing Ping Street, Happy Valley, Hong Kong

Note - the photos were taken by iPhone.

Ramen - Hide Chan Hong Kong 秀 Japanese Ramen with a local twist

This time last year, mum and dad went to Kyushu and spent 2 weeks driving around the island.  It was a month after the biggest earthquake to hit Japan and nobody wanted to visit Japan. They had a great time there and wouldn't hesitate to recommend friends to visit. They tried ramen in a good number of places, some good and some average. Check out where they went here.

One of the shops they tried in Fukuoka was Hide-chan. Other than its char-siu, there wasn't a whole lot to write home about their ramen. As it turned out at round the same time they had Hide-chan's bowl of Ramen in Fukuoka, the ramen chain opened a branch in Hong Kong. Today is the Hong Kong branch's one year anniversary and they ran a promotion where you buy one bowl of their original ramen, you get a bowl free.

White Hide Ramen 白秀ラーメン

There was no queue when the promotion started at 6pm and the shop wasn't full at no time during their 30 minutes stay. The ramen was similar to the one in Japan and yet again the highlight was the slightly charred char-siu. The soup broth was overly greasy and it would be a real challenge to empty the whole bowl.  They also tried the spicy tsukemen, which was essentially ramen dipped into a bowl of sauce. The spicy sauce had a nice kick to it but some might find this an acquired taste.

Spicy Tsukemen 赤秀つけ麺

The shop wouldn't really be worth writing for the quality of its food. Mum and dad heard a fair amount of bad word-of-mouth comments about the store. Were these comments too harsh? Hell no!! You need to wonder when the waitresses and cooks behind the counter chit-chats overwhelm those of the restaurant's customers!! Some of the waitresses handling of other customers were borderline rude. Lets just say you get better service in some of Hong Kong's ubiquitous Cha Chan Teng 茶餐廳. Unless you want to verify our words, you might be better off going to Tsui Wah 翠華 next door!!

Address: 33 Wellington Street

Don't be fooled by our photos!!
If you reading this and has no idea what Cha Chaan Teng is, check out the very well written overview in CNNGO.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Coffee Shop - Espresso Alchemy in Quarry Bay Hong Kong

Peter Lau, the owner focusing on brewing
When mum and dad visited Espresso Alchemy (EA) last Sunday, there was no references on the web and the physical location was in existence for just over 2 weeks. The only reason why they knew its existence was because Daniel at KC Coffee mentioned during the coffee appreciation class.

As they didn't go there on purpose, all the pictures were taken using the small Nikon Coolpix AW100.

EA is one of the coffee shops which uses locally roasted beans. The espresso was the best cup he had experienced in Hong Kong and she was impressed by the piccolo latte. The espresso was low in acidity, great texture and full of citrusy flavor. If you work in Quarry Bay, it's definitely worth giving it a try.

Their hot chocolate was like a cup of melted chocolate with a bit of milk. If you like a thick cup of chocolate on a cold wintry evening, you will like it.

Address: 4-6 Hoi Wan Street, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong

One of the staff was still drawing up the white-board with the shop's alchemy signs, the 4 elements of good coffee.

Piccolo latte - also known as caffe macchiato - espresso with a smaller amount of milk than a typical latte

Like liquid gold - one sip and it's all gone, so make sure you smell before you drink. 

Coffee Shop - 18 Grams in Causeway Bay Hong Kong

The one thing missing after the delicious desserts from Tony Wong Patisserie (TWP) was a cup of good strong coffee. Since attending the coffee appreciation class, there are a few more coffee shop names on mum & dad's checklist. 18 Grams is one of them and one is located not far from TWP in Cannon Street, Causeway Bay. The location of the shop is prominent among the shops along this tiny stretch of street next to World Trade Centre. The decor is hip and it has a tiny but well equipped kitchen which serves all-day breakfast, which looked appetizing. Perhaps next time.

The espresso was aromatic and strong, but it was a bit too acidic. The latte was average. And the shop appeared to have some difficulties taking orders. One of our cups came out as espresso instead of doppio as ordered and it took almost 10 minutes for the replacement cup to come out. During that 10 minutes, two lattes was served to a couple when two piccolo lattes were in fact ordered.

If you are in Causeway Bay, you might want to try Cafe Corridor in Russell Street near Times Square for a better cup of coffee. The best cup is arguably the newly opened Espresso Alchemy in Quarry Bay. We shall write about these at a later stage.

Best Cake in HK - Tony Wong Patisserie in Wan Chai Hong Kong

Meticulous presentation - also notice the lower amount of glare and condensation on the glass of the display fridge. Wondering if it's the lighting, the glass or the fridge.

Hope the photos do justice to the real thing. They remind us of some of the better cake shops in Japan.

Dad mentioned that Tony Wong Patisserie had some good reviews when its only shop was in Kowloon City, but the area was never high on his culinary list ever since they follow the advice of Chua Lam (蔡瀾) and went to this Thai restaurant located in Kowloon City which was diabolical. It was the era before the advent of GPS phones and you could only find your way by navigating a booklet of maps, known as "A to Z" in the UK and 地圖王 in HK. With absolutely zero sense-of-direction inside a dimly-lit car, you can just about imagine, so we're not gonna bore you with the details. Suffice to say after driving round and round blocks after blocks of nondescript buildings, he finally stopped the car inside a tight semi-lit car multi-level carpark nearby. When the Tom Yum Kung arrived, it was lurk warm and the prawns didn't taste very fresh either. The rest of the meal brought no positive surprises. Two lessons came out from this journey to the dark side:

  • take a handful (not just a pinch) of salt on any culinary advices offered by Chua Lam, 蔡瀾. [Would love to hear anyone's take on this!]
  • don't drive to Kowloon City

So when dad heard that Tony Wong Patisserie (TWP) has opened a branch in Wan Chai, he couldn't wait to go. Finally he and mum went there with Uncle & Auntie S. After having queueing for 1 hour for ramen at Tamashii 魂, (yes again!!), they walked over to TWP. The shop was brightly lit with very clean and simple decor. There were a couple of stools and two cantilever benches either side of the shop,  not a romantic hangout by any stretch of imaginations. The shop's highlight are the rows after rows of mini patisserie, tarts and cakes inside two display-fridges. And rightly so. They picked 4 different ones and shared every single one. Lets just say mum and dad will go back there soon!!

Green Tea Opera - a lot of different flavors in one bite, you can even tell the green tea taste from the chocolate. A bit firm for the chocolate layer but I guess it adds texture to the cake. This looks like the Tanabata special edition cake from Sadaharu Aoki without the sugar Milky Way and the Macaroon featured here in this blog.

Tiramisu - you might say it doesn't look very special, then again you can't taste it. Good balance of amaretto and the juicy spongy cake. There are even crunchy bits in the pot.  Picture just doesn't do justice.

Chocolate Truffle Cake - they occupy the most prominent part of the fridge and rightly so.

Napoleon Cake - it's good but then it wasn't as memorable as the other ones. And there was no good pictures of it before it turned into a mess!!

Chocolate Truffle Cake -  the mini cake offered by La Maison du Chocolat in Hong Kong, which one is better? It's well worth going to both shops and compare yourself.

Address: 399 Lockhart road, Hong Kong
Note: These photos were taken with no special props or lighting and the cakes were all bought of the shelves, ie not hand picked. Really show the care they put into each and every single output. If Chua Lam (蔡瀾) and a bunch of TV crews were making a show, you should expect nothing less. That's why most culinary advices from celebs are inherently pointless.