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About this blog

Follow me on my dining adventures around Hong Kong while I combine my love for food and photography!

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supertastermel
The last birthday celebration for J was at Bibo where we had a tour of its art installations before our dinner! We had been to Bibo before when it first opened two years ago and decided to revisit after we had a great chat with the restaurant group's sommelier about champagne when we dined at The Ocean a few months ago. J wanted to try more kinds of champagne and his birthday coincided with the last week of the month which is when the Art Tours are offered, so we decided to sign up for it. The Art Tours occurs every last Thursday of the month at 6:30pm with no costs and it was definitely interesting to learn about the many different artists on display in the restaurant. It lasted about an hour and we walked all around the restaurant (even up to the private dining room) before making our way back to main dining for the start of our meal.
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Coincidentally, we sat at the same table as last time right by the Invader wall.
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The Bernardaud plates designed by Prune Nourry and JR are still a prominent part of the table decor at Bibo. 
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After J chatted with the sommelier Wallace on what he was looking for, Wallace recommended the Franck Bonville Prestige Avize Grand Cru Brut NV Blanc de Blancs ($1370) for us to try. He recommended the use of wine glass instead of the usual champagne flute to maximize the aroma and taste of the champagne. 
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Food-wise, Bibo offers a 5 course tasting menu for $1100 but we decided to order a la carte instead for more flexibility. After placing our orders, a refreshing amuse bouche with apricot jelly and almond mousse arrived along with bread and butter (one of which was a seaweed butter!). 
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We were treated to this off-the-menu house smoked salmon which had a subtle smoky flavor and deliciously chewy texture to go with our champagne. 
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For appetizers, J went for the Le Pate En Croute ($290) with homemade terrine, foie gras from Les Landes, pistachio and pork belly. As opposed to the soft pate spread, the pate is baked in a crust and is a very "French" dish that may not be for everyone (the people next to us only took a few bites). 
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My Le Calamar ($250) with pan-fried squid, Hokkaido scallop, chorizo, bok choy and lemon dice was solid with very safe flavors but I thought the scallops could have been more raw while the dish could have used more acidity to make the tastes more interesting. 
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Moving onto mains, the Le Bar ($480) with pan-fried sea bass, cherry tomatoes, white asparagus and Jerusalem artichoke puree was nicely executed but again the flavors were pretty safe and tasted as expected. 
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I preferred the Le Homard Bleu Roti ($730) with roasted blue lobster and seaweed butter better which was served with seasonal vegetables, salted butter sauce and triple cooked fries as the flavors were on point and the portion can easily be shared between 2 people!
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Lastly, we had the La Fraise ($180) with fresh berries, yuzu cream, strawberry and ginger sauce, sesame tuiles and lychee sorbet to round off our meal and birthday celebration for J!
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Bibo
163 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan
Tel: +852 2956 3188
http://www.bibo.hk/#new-page




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supertastermel
Rating: ❤❤❤❤❤

The second birthday celebration for J was at VEA Restaurant & Lounge - the brainchild of Chef Vicky Cheng from Liberty Private Works and famed mixologist Antonio Lai! The restaurant is split into two floors with the 30/F as the fine dining restaurant and the 29/F as the more casual lounge with different decor and offerings. I had been to the VEA lounge before where I really enjoyed the creative cocktails and snacks (especially the Parmesan Truffle Fries!) so I was looking forward to trying the real restaurant with J this time. A tasting menu of 8 courses is offered at $1280 per person with an optional cocktail or wine pairing for $680. Just like LPW, most of the seats are at the counter where you can see the live action in the open kitchen but they also have a few sit-down tables too for those who prefer it. 
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I still remember the first time I saw this ensemble of water and napkin (where you pour the water into the napkin) was at LPW which was cool in the beginning but since then, a lot of restaurants in HK have been doing this too. 
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A few edible table decorations had been placed in front of us on the counter already including a cute ladybug on a basil cracker and a yellow cream flower on a twig.
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A few more snacks continued to come including this rendition of "garlic bread" with Parmesan cream in a cannoli and topped with shiso leafs. 
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This Cantonese style steamed fish with soy sauce powder was simply amazing as it managed to combine all the flavors in the traditional and classic dish onto a crispy fish skin!
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The Applewood-smoked quail egg seemed to pay homage to another classic Shanghainese dish tea smoked egg, and it was packed with flavors. 
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The first cocktail pairing was this Dashi Cucumber with lemon and vodka which was light and refreshing to drink while the dashi gave it a very unique taste.
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Our meal got off to a fantastic start with this beautifully constructed signature dish Tuna with Hokkaido uni, espelette, and burnt cucumber jelly. While the uni could have been more fresh but the combination of flavors and texture was absolutely divine. 
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A piece of longan was provided on the side as a palate cleanser of some sort. 
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Basil with gin, yuzu, and egg white
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Spanish Sardine with trout roe, micro tomato and avocado
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Blood Orange with apple and elderflower
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I never thought that I would be served a Sea Cucumber stuffed with langoustine at a French restaurant but this was just another great example of how the chef managed to fuse French and Chinese cuisine together seamlessly.  
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The Shitake with whisky and consomme reminded me of a juice pairing I had at Florilege in Tokyo using shitake mushrooms with houjicha. I think the drink here could have worked better with less consomme as it was almost like drinking broth which took away the unique flavors of whisky with shitake. The bartender told me that some people thought the whisky was too strong so maybe having the consomme on the side to add by ourselves could be a solution. 
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The signature dish Egg with truffle, Parmesan and caviar was a dish that I loved at LPW and it was good to be reunited with a new addition of Chinese fried dough with truffle!
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Tofu Almond with gin and ginger
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I loved the Earl Grey Goose with "lo sui" goose breast, foie gras, taro puff and cherry with its intricate plating as I saw it being painstakingly assembled right in front of me. The use of "lo sui" (Chinese marinade) goose here was just genius and not at all out of place at a French restaurant.
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Chinese Rice with calvados and dark vinegar
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The Pork Belly with girolle, "mui choy" and asparagus was another home run as the pork belly was super tender and simply melted in the mouth. "Mui Choy" refers to preserved mustard greens which is used in a very classic Chinese dish with braised pork belly.  
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The only blemish of the night was the Australian Wagyu beef they sold as an upgrade to the pork belly dish at the start of the meal. We were curious so J got it for an additional $390 but it turned out to be a big disappointment. Not only was the portion tiny for the price (like two tiny pieces), the beef was a bit chewy and the execution of the dish was not that creative compared to all other dishes that we had throughout the night. Granted it didn't help that we just had the best steak of our lives at Shima in Tokyo but even for a normal non-Japanese Wagyu, it wasn't that great to be honest. The staff happened to ask us what we thought when we were eating the beef so we gave him the honest feedback and they were courteous enough to remove the supplement fee from our final bill. 
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The last cocktail pairing was a beautiful Fung Lei with pineapple black tea and rum which I though was a bit too sweet, but overall I thought Antonio and team had put a lot of thought into the cocktail pairing which is definitely worth a try if you dine here!
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The first of our two desserts was Pineapple with osmanthus, yogurt and wild walnut which was a modern twist of the classic Taiwanese pineapple cake complete with a theatrical smoking yogurt on the side. 
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The second dessert was a whimsical Honeycomb with a bold combination of miso and edamame. I've never had edamame in a dessert before and I thought the fusion of sweet and savory flavors was certainly very interesting. 
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In Chinese culture, a whole roasted pig is a symbol of celebration so we were served this cute chocolate piggy as a birthday dessert to J!
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Lastly to round off our meal, we had petit fours in a sphere jar with condensed milk mochi, hazelnut biscuit truffle, grilled corn & coconut macaron, and orange & earl grey madeleine. And just like at LPW, we also had a marshmallow and lychee rosewater that looked like the water and napkin we had in the beginning to come full circle with our meal.
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Verdict - VEA is definitely one of my top favorite restaurant in Hong Kong while the cocktail pairing is also one of a kind! The flavors of the dishes will tastes great to anyone but I think it is best appreciated by those who have an understanding of Chinese cuisine to fully realize the ingenuity of the food here. The menu changes one dish per week and I look forward to coming back to try the chef's new creations in due time!

VEA Restaurant & Lounge
29/F-30/F, The Wellington
198 Wellington Street, Central
Tel: +852 2711 8639
http://www.vea.hk/




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Rating: ❤❤❤❤

It's J's birthday week and one of first birthday celebrations we had with a group of friends was at Le Rêve - a new French-Japanese restaurant located in the hip ZING! building in Causeway Bay. The restaurant is headed by Chef Ryogo Ozawa who had trained at the 3* L’Assiette Champenoise in Reims, and he's combining his modern French technique with superb Japanese ingredients to deliver the best of both worlds in Hong Kong. For dinner, you can choose between 6 courses for $980 or 8 courses for $1380, and we went for the lighter 6 course set menu for our group. Optional wine pairing with 3 glasses and 5 glasses are also available for $320 and $520 respectively.
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The decor at the restaurant was modern and elegant with a bar and wine cellar at one end and the dining room with a view into the kitchen at the other. What was surprising was that the bar almost took up just as much space as the dining room which wasn't big to begin with.
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The theme of the menu is "A Harmony of Earth & Sea" and the table settings reflected just that with a wooden tree stump charger plate and a long brown leaf as a place mat.
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The attention to detail continued with the bread plates which was made from volcanic rocks in Mount Fuji. The bread was actually really nice and when I asked them if it was made in-house, they said no but that they have a Japanese bakery make it for them.
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The first dish was a refreshing Crabe (Hokkaido) / Peache with a mixture of Hokkaido crab meat, scallops, apricot and pear. Topped with beetroot, the taste was light, delicate and nicely balanced. 
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The combination of Pike Conger (Hyogo) / Tomato was impressive as the pike conger tempura was fried to perfection which went exceedingly well with the tomato and cucumber gazpacho. 
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The presentation of the Nodoguro (Nagasaki) / Vin Jaune (Jura) was beautiful as the blackthroat seaperch was surrounded by a crispy potato halo. The tender fish was delicious as nodoguro tends to have a high amount of fat and the accompanying wine sauce was superbly made as well. 
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The Bateau House Challans Duck (Nantes) was another excellent dish as it corporate a bit of every flavor with sweetness, sourness, bitterness and spiciness. The duck was very flavorful while I enjoyed the sauce as well which was a bit spicy. The only thing was that this dish was placed backwards for half of our table which doesn't affect the taste, but for a fine dining restaurant it points to a lack of attention to detail.  
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I loved the stark contrasting colors of the Bamboo Charcoal / Raspberry dessert which had a creamy filling but I thought that the pastry crust was a bit too dry.
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The Petit Fours was a stunning fusion of Japanese and French sweets with mochi, lychee, madeleine and chocolate. It was the perfect ending of our meal which reflected the chef's vision in what he wanted to deliver in his food. 
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Verdict - there is no doubt that Chef Ryogo Ozawa is talented with a lot of potential but the only thing missing at the restaurant was the level of the service which wasn't bad but just not on par with the food. If Le Reve wants to play in the big league and potentially garner a star from Mr. Michelin, this is probably the area it needs to work on improving. 

Le Rêve
10/F ZING!
38 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay
Tel: +852 2866 1010
http://www.lereve.com.hk/index.html




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Rating: ❤❤❤1/2

T'ang Court 唐閣 at The Langham was the only new promotion to 3 Michelin stars in 2016 and one of the three Chinese restaurants besides Lung King Heen and Bo Innovation to receive this accolade. Although the Michelin Guide in Hong Kong has its fair share of critism, I was still curious about it and decided to take a friend from out of town to check out the dim sum here recently. We managed to snag a last minute reservation on a Sunday at 2pm which was a good and bad thing - good that we didn't have to wait a few months unlike Lung King Heen but bad because a lot of its signature dishes were sold out already by the time we got there like the Baked Barbecue Bun, Roasted Pork Belly and Baked Pastries with Abalone and Fish Maw. The restaurant has 2 floors with pale gold wallpaper and elegant tapestry and we sat upstairs by the windows where the tables were well spaced-out. 
T'ang Court 唐閣

T'ang Court 唐閣

The dim sum selection were rather small but we still ordered a few classics to try. The Siu Mai ($88/4 pcs) with steamed shrimp, pork, mushroom and conpoy tasted just like the ones at a regular dim sum restaurant and the ingredients were not premium enough to justify the high prices. 
T'ang Court 唐閣

They didn't have a regular Har Gow (shrimp dumpling) so we settled for the Steamed Shrimp, Pork, Coriander and Celery Dumpling ($88/4 pcs) which again was underwhelming and I could have done without the coriander or celery. The dumpling skin was nice and chewy though. 
T'ang Court 唐閣

Since the baked version was sold out, we tried the Steamed Barbecue Pork Buns ($78/3 pcs) instead which was decent but nothing that you can't get elsewhere. 
T'ang Court 唐閣 steamed barbecue pork bun

The Pan-fried Rice Flour Rolls ($80) with homemade XO spicy sauce was interesting though because the entire roll seemed to have been deep-fried instead of slightly pan-fried on both sides like the usual version. The result was extra crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside like rice cakes almost. 
T'ang Court 唐閣

T'ang Court 唐閣

The Smoked Sliced Cod Fish with Honey Syrup ($200) was highly recommended by the staff and one of the more impressive dishes of the meal as the outside of the cod fish was deliciously crispy while the coating of honey syrup was irresistible as well.
T'ang Court 唐閣 cod fish

The Roasted Lung Kong Chicken ($300/half) was solid with crispy skin, juicy meat and a few lotus root chips on the side. 
T'ang Court 唐閣 lung kong chicken

The Baked Seafood Rice with Cream Sauce in Crab Shell ($120) is a popular signature dish here as it is served in a decadent golden crab shell in addition to a real one. Its looks were probably more impressive than the taste though but it did have a good variety of seafood in the rice including prawns and scallops. 
T'ang Court 唐閣 baked seafood rice in crab shell

T'ang Court 唐閣 baked seafood rice in crab shell

The Baked Stuffed Crab Shell with Crab Meat and Onion ($180) was delicious though as the crab meat was nicely balanced by the sweet taste of onions.
T'ang Court 唐閣 baked stuffed crab shell

T'ang Court 唐閣 baked stuffed crab shell

Lastly, we rounded up our lunch with the Mixed Vegetables with Vermicelli and Dried Wolfberries in Clear Soup ($180) which used quality vegetables but unfortunately the broth didn't have much flavor. 
T'ang Court 唐閣

Verdict - our bill came out to around $500 per person between the 4 of us which is what one can expect at a high end restaurant like this. The dim sum was average and overpriced though while the other dishes were solid but nothing that you can't find elsewhere in this city. For dim sum lunch, I'd much prefer the 2 Michelin star Yan Toh Heen at The Intercontinental Hotel instead where the food was more impressive in looks and tastes.

T'ang Court 唐閣
1/F, The Langham
8 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2132 7898
http://www.langhamhotels.com/en/the-langham/hong-kong/dining/tang-court/




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Rating: ❤❤❤1/2

I usually don't eat a lot of Japanese food in Hong Kong because J and I go to Japan pretty often, but when I heard that Godenya - a sake pairing restaurant - may be the hardest restaurant to book in HK, I was intrigued and set out to make a reservation on its website. You need a code to make enter the reservation page (hint: it's on their Facebook page) and true enough, the restaurant was all booked up 2 months in advance already. I decided to waitlist for some of the dates that doesn't look as full and we lucked out on a last minute cancellation when I got an email notifying us of the availability of 2 counter seats last week. The restaurant was hard to find as well because even though the address says it's on Wellington Street, the entrance is actually in an obscure alley on Kau U Fong with almost no signage except for a tiny white plaque with the restaurant name written in Japanese. 
Godenya Hong Kong

Godenya Hong Kong

We slid the wooden door sideways to enter the cozy restaurant which only has 6 counter seats and a table for 2 plus a private room which can fit up to 8 people. The decor was very minimalistic with bare concrete walls and wooden furnishings, and standing behind the counter was the owner and sake master Goshima Shinya who would be taking care of us for the night. Only a set menu of 9 courses and 7 sake pairing is available here for $1500 per person and the food is described as a fusion of Japanese and Cantonese cuisine which is prepared by Goshima-san's younger brother. 
Godenya Hong Kong

Godenya Hong Kong Goshima Shinya

At one end of the counter were Goshima-san's tools where he can serve his sake at precise temperatures by using thermometers to measure the alcohol before serving. We noticed that the sake he serves were not from famous sake regions like Niigata and Goshima-san explained that he likes to discover sake from small producers so he can age them himself to develop an unique taste. 
Godenya Hong Kong

Godenya Hong Kong

Godenya Hong Kong

The first course was Peach, Glass Shrimp, Soy Milk with a layer of soy milk panna cotta topped with Japanese glass shrimp and two pieces of peach which are in season now. I liked the sweetness of the peaches but the panna cotta didn't have much flavor so the whole dish came off as a bit bland.
Godenya Hong Kong

The first sake pairing was a sparkling sake Hanatome (Nara) Yamahai Junmai Ginjyo Nama 2016 served at 12°C.
Godenya Hong Kong

The Rock Oyster, Seaweed was better as the oyster wasn't too briny while I enjoyed the seaweed sauce on the side. Usually oysters grow at the surface but the rock oyster here came from the deep sea around the Mie prefecture.
Godenya Hong Kong

Chotin (Aichi) Junmai Gingyo Nama 2016 served at 15°C.
Godenya Hong Kong

The Abalone, Liver, Rice was probably the best dish of the night with a tasty risotto that had been cooked with cheese, mushrooms and pine nuts. The best part was the rich abalone liver sauce that tied everything in this dish together. 
Godenya Hong Kong

Sogen (Ishikawa) Junmai Nama 2015 served at 43°C.
Godenya Hong Kong

The Katsuo (bonito), Roe, Iberico Ham, Beets, Black Olive was a disappointing dish though as the beetroot sauce was way too sour and overpowered any flavor of the other ingredients. 
Godenya Hong Kong

Kazennomori (Nara) Junmai Nama 80% 2016 served at 12°C.
Godenya Hong Kong

The Kyoto Eggplant, Morel Mushrooms, Lobster Bisque was promising as I liked the flavor combination but it would have been better of the lobster bisque was stronger. 
Godenya Hong Kong

Godenya Hong Kong

Tenyurin (Mie) Junmai 2004 served at 48°C.
Godenya Hong Kong

The Lamb, Manganji Pepper, Blue Cheese was a bold combination with Okinawan bitter melon but personally I am not a fan of blue cheese so I didn't really enjoy the sauce here.
Godenya Hong Kong

Taenohana (Mie) Kimoto Junmai Nama 90% 2016 served at 18°C.
Godenya Hong Kong

The Wild Ayu arrived in a bamboo steamer and was the only dish of the night that really integrated Japanese and Cantonese cuisine together by steaming the popular Japanese fish with oil and soy sauce. The fish had a lot of tiny bones which made it hard to eat - maybe there is a reason why ayu is usually grilled in Japan - while the soy sauce wasn't rich enough at all like the ones used in Cantonese cooking so the dish ended up neither here or there in my opinion. 
Godenya Hong Kong

Godenya Hong Kong

Our last sake pairing of the night with Bongu (Saitama) Junmai Gingyo 2012 served 47°C. Interesting tidbit about the name of the sake which means common fool in Chinese so we asked Goshima-san about the name. He was surprised that we knew what the word meant because the kanji meaning fool is hardly used in Japanese anymore. As opposed to common fool, the name actually means "unique fool" in Japanese. 
Godenya Hong Kong

The Crude Wheat (Brown Wheat) Udon, Mussels Soup was enjoyable as the soup was deliciously sweet and flavorful from the shellfish. 
Godenya Hong Kong

The last course and dessert was the Black Cherry, Pistachio, Sake with pistachio ice cream and frozen sake on top. It was nice to come full circle by having sake as part of our dessert but I wasn't sure if the flavors worked as the sake was a bit bitter.
Godenya Hong Kong

Verdict - I wasn't too impressed with the food at Godenya to be honest but I think the sake pairing is quite unique and certainly a great experience for those who love sake.

Godenya
182 Wellington Street, Central
Tel: +852 6713 5917
http://www.godenya.com/about_us.php?lang=eng




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Hidden in a basement of an office building, Shima wasn't exactly easy to find with a small discreet sign in front of Tully's. We had to wait outside for 30 minutes pass our reservation time because apparently the people occupying our table wouldn't leave. The lady receptionist was very apologetic about it though and she kept apologizing even as she ushered us into the elevator. The decor at the restaurant was homey and low-key with 6 seats at the counter and a few tables on the side. Standing behind the counter was Chef Oshima Manabu who turned out to be the nicest and friendliest chef ever as he spoke good English and was very hospitable to us. He selects his cattle personally from farms near his hometown Kyoto and grills the beef on binchotan which turns out to be the best steak I've ever had! Best of all, the prices are very reasonable here as the chef only charges ¥‎13,000 (US$120) per 150g of beef compared to the famous introduction-only Kawamura where I hear a meal can easily cost US$1000 per person. 
Shima 島 Tokyo Steakhouse

The menu was simple with a small selection of appetizers and mains (including steaks which is what we are here for). Two kinds of steaks are available - sirloin or fillet - and the chef came by to show us the beef that he uses for the steaks. For sirloin, he uses a Kobe beef from Tajima (Japanese black) cows which are highly prized for its pure bloodline and for fillet, a wagyu from around Kyoto. We ended up getting one of each and true to what we've heard, the chef didn't try to oversell us and assured us that 150g was enough for each of us. 
Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

After we placed our orders, the meat were weighed in front of us to show us what we will be getting. It wasn't until I checked my pictures later that I realized the chef gave us 200g of beef each but only charged us for the price of 150g.
Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

We ended up trying two appetizers that were recommended by the chef as they were not on the printed menu. The first was a white asparagus cooked with eggs and drizzled with oil and vinegar. I liked the flavors of the simple dish but the white asparagus seemed past its prime and a bit overcooked.
Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

The deep-fried crab croquette was crispy with a delicious creamy filling of crab meat. 
Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

Finally, our steaks arrived next! Both steaks were beautifully grilled on the outside with a medium rare center. Initially we were afraid that the fillet would be too lean but it turned out to be just right with delicate and subtle flavors. 
Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

Check out the beautiful color on our fillet!
Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

In comparison, the sirloin was fattier with more marbling and it was equally delicious in its own way.
Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

We had heard from our Japanese foodie friends that restaurants serving Tajima beef would be able to produce a certification verifying the pedigree and production history of the beef, so we were curious and asked the chef if this was true. Indeed it was and he showed us the documentation which had the cow's birth date, name (and names of the parents, grandparents and great-grandfather), and even nose print (which I'm guessing is a unique identifier like our fingerprints?). It was borderline creepy knowing so much about the piece of sirloin steak we just ate...and if you must know, our virgin female cow's name was Yuna and Yuna was very delicious. You can also verify the legitimacy of the cow on the Tajima Beef Certification System by entering the 10-digit ID number on the certification (ours was 1417801143 - give it a try!). The chef ended up giving me the certification to keep as a souvenir so I now have this hanging on my wall!
Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

We were full after our steaks so we moved onto desserts where you can choose from a few options. I went for the custard pudding with caramel and fruits while J chose ice cream.
Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

The petit fours were surprisingly delicious actually. 
Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

At the end of our meal, we received a take-away gift from the chef! I had heard that people would get a steak sandwich for takeaway at Shima, but maybe he had run out of the sandwich as we ended up getting a homemade cheesecake instead. 
Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo

Thank you Chef for the wonderful food and hospitality at your restaurant! I enjoyed my meal a lot and Shima is definitely a restaurant I will be returning to again in Tokyo.
Shima 島 Steakhouse Tokyo Oshima Manabu

Shima 島
3-5-12 Nihonbashi Chuo Tokyo 
東京都 中央区 日本橋 3-5-12 日本橋MMビル B1F
Tel: +81-3-3271-7889
http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1302/A130202/13000495/




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Rating: ❤❤❤1/2

Doutou clams (哆頭蟶子) festival is happening at Putien 莆田 with 7 new dishes to showcase this golden shell delicacy until the end of August! What's so special about Duotou clams you ask? These clams are a specialty from Duo Tou village in the Putian area with over 600 years of history, and they are of superb quality due to the rare black mud in which they are bred which has lots of nutrients and little sand particles. They may look small compared to razor clams but this species is only supposed to be 6cm long with plump and meaty flesh. The restaurant originates from Singapore (which just received 1 star in the Singapore Michelin Guide by the way) with several branches in Hong Kong now and serves Fujianese (福建) cuisine which I've never had before, so I was excited to try the new clam dishes along with some of its classic signatures as well.
Putien 莆田

We started with drinks first and I fell in love in love with this Infusion by Mr. Qu which is a combination of two drinks and created by one of the restaurant's loyal patron Mr. Qu. The mixture of soursop, pineapple, green vegetables and plums was so delicious and refreshing that I ended up drinking 3 of these during the night!
Putien 莆田

The Braised Pig Intestine is one of the signature dishes here where 12 inch-long intestines are meticulously washed, looped and braised with a house sauce containing 12 kinds of spices. Using only the delicate part between the large and small intestine, it is hand folded manually loop after loop before being braised for at least 45 minutes. This intricate and complex method ensures a springy texture with every bite and it is only available in limited quantity on a daily basis - I highly recommend trying this dish!
Putien 莆田

The Iced Bitter Gourd is an interesting way to serve bitter melon with crunchy strips that is served chilled and with a honey dip. I'm not a fan of bitter melon but it should be great for those who love it to be able to eat it in such a refreshing way.
Putien 莆田

The Seaweed with mini shrimps was surprisingly delicious as the restaurant only uses 15cm-long top-grade seaweed that is harvested within 30 days after cultivation.
Putien 莆田

We then started our Duotou clams feast starting with the Stir-fried Duotou Clam ($98) which had been cooked traditionally with ginger and spring onion.
Putien 莆田

The Steamed Duotou Clam ($98) with minced garlic, spring onion, chili is another classic way of eating clams. 
Putien 莆田

The Baked Duotou Clam ($98) served on hot plate with sea salt is highly recommended by the restaurant where you can dip the clam into the sea salt to eat. 
Putien 莆田

Duotou Clam Omelette ($98)
Putien 莆田

The Salted Spicy Duotou Clam ($108) which had been crisp and lightly battered with spring onions and diced chilies.
Putien 莆田

The Steamed Duotou Clam ($98) with the traditional Chinese Hua Diao wine turned out to be my favorite as the clams had absorbed the wine broth which was very delicious and soothing to drink!
Putien 莆田

The Cereal Prawns was impressive as the prawns had been deep fried to golden crisp with egg floss, sliced chilli, curry leaves and cereal. It was interesting to use cereal as the crispy batter which added a distinct taste to the prawns. 
Putien 莆田

The Chinese Mustard Porridge was a crowd favorite and highly recommended by fellow foodies I was eating with!
Putien 莆田

We went all out with the desserts as well as we tried some of the classics here including the Golden Rice Cake, Sweet Potato Balls and Putien Rice Cake. The Golden Rice Cake was probably my favorite of the bunch as it was like sticky rice cake with a deliciously chewy texture. 
Putien 莆田

This dessert is for the durian lovers out there - Deep-fried Durian!
Putien 莆田

Another beautiful dessert here - Purple Sweet Potato with pumpkin cream.
Putien 莆田

*By Invitation

Putien 莆田
7/F, Lee Theatre Plaza 
99 Percival Street, Causeway Bay
Tel: +852 2111 8080 
http://www.putienhk.com/en/




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I was back at Mott 32 over the weekend to try its new specialty dishes featuring Yunnan Mushrooms which will be available until the end of August! I haven't eaten at the restaurant since new Executive Chef Lee Man Sing (previously at Man Wah of Mandarin Oriental) took over earlier this year, so I was excited its old and new dishes alike. We started with some classics like the Iberico Pork Char Siu and Siu Mai with black truffle and quail egg before sampling almost all of the 8 new dishes where I would be surprised with the many different types of mushrooms from Yunnan! 
mott 32 joyce wang interior

mott 32 iberico pork char siu

mott 32 siu mai black truffle quail egg

The Fried Giant Garoupa ($480) featured sarcodon mushrooms and garlic stems. The fish was perfectly stir-fried while the overall flavors were rather light.
mott 32 garoupa

The Fried Mantis Prawns ($560) with termitomyces mushrooms and fresh fennels turned out to be my favorite dish of the meal as the prawns were plump and juicy with deliciously rich flavors.
mott 32 mantis prawn

The Free Range Chicken ($580) with matsutake mushrooms and fresh abalone casserole was also a stand-out especially with the super tender abalone which had absorbed all of the flavorful sauces. 
mott 32 chicken abalone casserole

The Poached Chinese Spinach ($220) with matsutake mushrooms and fresh bamboo pith in rice broth was a good vegetarian option with light and subtle flavors.
mott 32 chinese spinach

The Pan-fried Boletus Mushrooms ($230) was surprisingly delicious as the soy sauce used to stir-fry the mushrooms tasted like the premium kind with strong and rich flavors. 
mott 32 boletus mushroom

I liked the combination of the Steamed Beancurd Sheet ($480) with matsutake mushrooms, but I wasn't sure that the Spanish ham worked here in this dish.
mott 32 beancurd sheet

The Deep-fried Rice Dumpling ($480) with diced Australian wagyu beef and wild mushroom was an interesting dish as the rice ball had been pan-fried with a crispy crust like a Japanese grilled onigiri almost. The rice was then broken apart and mixed with the sauce, and I highly enjoyed eating the crispy rice with the flavorful sauce.
mott 32 rice dumpling

mott 32 rice dumpling

A visit to Mott 32 would not be complete without trying its signature Apple Wood Roasted 42 Days Peking Duck with its impeccably crispy skin and juicy meat! It was skillfully carved right in front of us and we were provided with steamed pancake and sauces to eat with the duck. 
mott 32 apple wood roasted peking duck

mott 32 apple wood roasted peking duck

mott 32 apple wood roasted peking duck

Dessert time! I don't know how but we still managed to try a variety of desserts after all the food that we had including the refreshing Black Sesame Ice Cream, Water Chestnut Rolls with coconut, Almond Purple Yam Puffs, and the Sweetened Beancurd Cream with Mango Soup
mott 32 desserts

mott 32 tofu fa mango soup dessert

*By Invitation

Mott 32 卅二公館
Standard Chartered Bank Building
4-4A Des Voeux Rd Central, Central
Tel: +852 2885 8688
http://www.mott32.com/




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Enjoy your imagination at Takazawa where food is not bounded by rules or conventions! I first heard about the restaurant from my "mostly" vegetarian friend ("mostly" because he makes rare exceptions and this was one of the case) who highly recommended the place. It is currently #33 on the Asia's 50 Best Restaurant 2016 list with no Michelin star, but only because Chef Yoshiaki Takazawa declined - in my opinion, Takazawa could easily have 2 Michelin stars based on the creativity and quality of the food which is Japanese-French fusion. 

Reservations are not exactly easy since the restaurant only serves 10 seats per night, but it's not too hard either as they take reservations by email on the 1st of every month for the following month (i.e. if you want to visit in August, it's best to email them on July 1st). I corresponded with the chef's wife Akiko who confirmed our reservation and asked us to choose between 2 menus: 9 dishes for ¥‎24,000 or Chef's Tasting Menu of the Day for ¥‎30,000. We opted for the latter, and once we made our way up the stairs into the intimate restaurant, we were greeted warmly by Akiko who spoke fluent English and took great care of us during the entire evening. 
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The main focal point of the dining room is the stark metallic table where the dishes would be assembled by the chef and his team. I was free to take photographs of my food but Akiko's only request is that I do not take pictures of the chef who is apparently camera-shy. A piece of paper titled "ENJOY YOUR IMAGINATION" had been placed on our table already with the 10 courses we would be getting for our Chef's Tasting Menu. All of the dish name had a year next to them which I assumed is when the dish was first introduced into the restaurant. 
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The first of our amuse bouche is a refreshing Junsai with Tomato Water. Junsai is an aquatic plant from Akita which is best known for its slippery and gelatinous texture. 
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The next dish was a delcious Baked Clam topped with a crispy cheese and basil crust.
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The last appetizer was a tender Octopus stuffed with its own innards and tentacles. 
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The first course was the chef's signature dish which had been on the menu since the beginning - Ratatouille (2005) with a dash of sea salt and black bean from Kyoto where each of the 12 vegetables had been prepared differently in its own ways. We were instructed to eat this colorful reinvention of a traditional French Provencal dish in one bite and the flavors were very fresh with a myriad of textures and flavors!
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Our bread came next with a tube of onsen water and a jar of pork rillette made from Okinawan Agu pork. We were told to squeeze the tube of water into our mouths first before eating the bread, and it turned out to be one amazing piece of corn toast along with the super creamy and flavorful pork rillette.
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We continued our tasting menu with the next course Like a Caviar Canape (New) with sturgeon, caviar and garnishes of chives, shallots, lemon zest and capers on the side of the plate. I liked the presentation of the dish but not so much the flavors as the caviar easily overpowered the taste of the fish. 
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The Scallop Spaghetti (2013) topped with murasaki uni turned out to be one of my favorite dishes of the night as it was my first time eating pasta made from scallop puree, and it was delicious!
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The 7 Tools (New) is perfect for monkfish lovers as everything on the plate was made from a part of fish with monkfish meat, monkfish skin jelly cube, monkfish liver ice cream and wasabi leaves. The name 7 Tools (七つ道具) refers to the 7 parts of the fish that is edible: flesh, skin, stomach, liver, ovaries, gills and fins. The stand-out was definitely the ankimo (monkfish liver) ice cream - I mean I love eating regular ankimo as is but I never thought it could be turned into ice cream which tasted even better!
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The Candleholder (2007) was another impressive dish with a foie gras brulee and apple jam with a piece of rosemary as the candle wick. We scooped a bit of each onto a piece of ciabatta and the combination was just heavenly.
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The Carbonara (2013) arrived in a case of smoke and the smoky aroma continued to envelop us after the lid was taken off to reveal the white asparagus with bacon and white truffle. Interestingly, I had a similar dish recently at Vinkeles in Amsterdam, but the execution at Takazawa was better with more depth in terms of flavors. 
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The Fish & Chips (2016 version) was an interesting take on the British classic with deep-fried cod fish, edible paper made from squid ink, foams of ponzu and vinegar, and Hokkaido kombu seaweed mayo. It was like deconstructed version if you will but the presentation was probably more memorable than the taste.
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The Dinner in the Forest (2009) made a dramatic entrance in a haze of smoke, and it was then revealed that we were in for special treat as the meat on the tree stump was brown bear from Hokkaido! It was my first time eating bear meat but I'm not sure that I'm a fan of it as it is not as flavorful as beef - in fact it didn't really have much flavor. The baked burdock root was more impressive as it was soft and creamy like a sweet potato.
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We then transitioned to our dessert courses, and we had hot tea made from herbs that had been grown on a rooftop in Odaiba 
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The desserts continued its playful presentation as the Chocolate & Mint (2015) may look like regular soba at first but it was actually noodles made of mint with a chocolate dipping sauce. While I liked the creativity of the presentation, I didn't really like the flavor combo as it reminded me too much of mint chocolate candy.
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The Rice and Egg? (2015) turned out to be another playful dessert with coconut rice, tea jelly, and mango as egg yolk! The eggshell containing the tea jelly and mango were poured over the coconut rice in front of us, and while I liked this dessert more than the previous one, I thought that the coconut rice was too dry.
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Lastly, we had four petit fours which included a cat-shaped cookie, shoyu (soy sauce) marshmallow, matcha macaron and sesame cake. 
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Takazawa is a bit expensive compared to other French-Japanese restaurants in Tokyo like L'Effervescence or Florilege, but it's hard to compare them because the food at Takazawa is almost one of a kind and worthy of an experience if you don't mind paying for it. 

TAKAZAWA
3-5-2 Akasaka Minato Tokyo 
東京都 港区 赤坂 3-5-2 サンヨー赤坂ビル裏側 2F
Tel: +81-3-3505-5052
http://www.takazawa-y.co.jp/en/




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After our exciting adventure at the tuna auction, it was time to reward ourselves with sushi breakfast at the Tsukiji Fish Market. The place that most people think of is Sushi Dai but the queue is notoriously long (think 2-3 hours) and we heard that people were already lining up at the restaurant while we were waiting for the tuna auction, so we decided to check out Uni Tora Kurau instead which is known for its rice bowl with 5 different types of uni (sea urchin)! There are at least two Uni Tora Kurau restaurants in the Tsukuji and we ended up going to the naka dori ten which opens at 7am.
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The restaurant was bright, clean and modern with 9 seats at the sushi counter, and since we had time to study the menu while waiting outside, we already knew what we wanted to get. They mostly serve rice bowls here with sea urchin and seafood, and you can pretty much get any kind of combination you want. 
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J got the Uni Tabekurabe Don with 5 varieties of sea urchin from Japan which costs ¥‎6,458 including tax. The cost is cheaper if you opt for overseas uni instead of the Japanese ones. The uni in the rice bowl included Bafun uni from Iwate, Kita Murasaki uni from Aomori, and Bafun and Murasaki uni from Hokkaido which were decent but not the best quality that we've had - some were better than others but they didn't seem too fresh to be honest. I'd rather have quality over quantity and since the price wasn't exactly cheap, I would prefer to eat sushi lunch at a real sushi-ya like Miyaha which costs about the same.
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I had the Original Kaisen Hitsumabushi with 12 kinds of sashimi and extra servings of domestic uni for ¥‎4,298. This was rather fun to eat since you can eat it in 3 ways:

1) Eat it as a Kaisendon by taking a portion of the sashimi, uni and rice into a small bowl. Season with soy sauce and wasabi as you like.
2) Eat it as Bara Chirashi by mixing the sashimi, mushrooms and lotus roots with the uni thoroughly until the rice turns into the color of the sea urchin. 
3) Eat it as Ochazuke by pouring dashi broth over the remaining rice mixture

I enjoyed this more than the Uni Tabekurabe Don, but I probably wouldn't come here to eat if I wasn't in Tsukiji already for the tuna auction. The unwelcoming service was a turn-off as well. 
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Bonus round! After seeing someone making tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelette) on a Japanese TV show, I really wanted to try some at the Tsukiji as there is a whole row of shops dedicated to this craft. The most famous one is Marutake where the son's owner is a famous TV personality, and you can buy a slice for just ¥100! They have pre-cut the omelette already so you can just pay and grab a tray. You can also buy a whole roll and I saw some Japanese old ladies doing just that. The tamagoyaki was still piping hot but I found it a bit too sweet for my taste.
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I decided try Yamachou just down the street as well which had a bigger corner shop with a tamagoyaki cooking demonstration through a window. They also sell a slice of tamagoyaki for ¥100 with options for an unsweetened or sweetened version which can be topped with grated radish if you wish. I opted for the sweet version which I liked better than Marutake as it was not as sweet and the grated radish also helped to balanced the flavors.
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Uni Tora Kurau
4−10−5 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan
http://itadori.co.jp/shop/shop_04.html




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I finally made it to the Tuna Auction at the Tsukiji Fish Market after going to Tokyo so many times before it moves later in November! It helped that I was jet-lagged from Europe so I couldn't sleep at night anyways. The tuna auction starts at 5:25AM and I knew that I had to show up hours before to line up since there is a limit of 120 visitors per day, but when I tried to look up the best time to go, I found various sources saying to show up at different times ranging from 3AM to 4:30AM. I was all set to go at 3:30AM when a friend told me that when he showed up at 3:30AM earlier this year, he got the last spots for the auction so to ensure that we get into the auction, J and I decided to go at 2:30AM. When we got to the Fish Information Center, there was already a line and a sign on the window that says the Tuna Auction registration time is from ~2:40AM to 3AM. All of the 120 visitor quota for the auction was filled by around 3:30AM so I would say that it's best to arrive by at least 3AM if you want to get into the auction. Also figure out where the Fish Information Center (that's where you register to watch the tuna auction!) ahead of time so you don't have to look around like we did in the middle of the night. We managed to find a paper map at the main gate and this map from Japan Guide is a good representation of it - the registration center is at the Kachidoki Gate on Harumi Street. The Tsukiji Fish Market is also not opened everyday so remember to check the calendar before you decide to show up in the middle of the night!
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Once you make it pass the registration for the tuna auction, you will be handed a colored vest to wear where the colors signify which of the 2 groups you will be. We got the yellow vests which meant that we will be watching the first auction at 5:25AM while the green vests indicated the second auction at 5:50AM. We were ushered into the visitor center where we had to wait for 2 hours before the auction started so brace yourself for the wait. Bring something to entertain yourself and something to sit on as there are no chairs in the waiting area.
Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction

Everyone was handed an information leaflet to read about the rules of the tuna auction such as:
  • Don't do anything to disturb the normal running of business taking place
  • Because the buyers and sellers use their fingers to indicate their bidding prices, don't use flash photography as it may interfere with the bidding process
  • Don't enter the wholesalers' market area before 9AM
  • Be careful with the moving vehicles as you make your way to the auction and you are responsible for your own safety
Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction

Finally it was time for the tuna auction! We were led to the warehouse where the bidding took place with the yellow fin tunas on one side and the blue fin tunas on the other. Before the auction started, we got to observe the bidders diligently inspecting the fish by looking at the color of the flesh and even taking a bit of the tuna to taste as well.
Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction

Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction

Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction

Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction

Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction

Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction

After around 10 minutes, we got to watch the yellow fin tuna auction which lasted around 5 minutes. Watch the video below for the action and remember to turn up the volume as the auctioneer standing in front of us basically singsong his way through the entire auction. He is calling out which tuna is up for sale (each tuna is numbered from 1 to 33) while the bidders are bidding for the fish with their fingers. I hear that each auctioneer has a different style so your experience may be different depending on who you get. Either way it was a great experience to watch and totally worth waking up in the middle of the night for!

After the auction was over, it was time for the bidders to claim their fish and time for us to depart to make way for the next group. 
Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction

On our way back to the visitor center, we had to stop multiple times for the turret trucks which drove around really fast so be careful walking around the market at this busy time. Once we made it back safely, we handed over our vests and it was time for us to get some sushi breakfast at the Tsukiji Market. Stay tune for the next blog post on where we went to eat around the Tsukiji area!
Tsukiji Fish Market Turret Trucks

Tsukiji Fish Market
5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm


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Le Bistro Winebeast is one of my favorite French bistro in Hong Kong with its quality food and reasonable prices, and I was glad to learn that it moved to a bigger and better location! One of its main selling point is that the wines at the restaurant are priced exactly the same as their retail shop so you're not forced to pay higher prices unlike most other restaurants. My only complaint of the old shop was the cramped spaces and uncomfortable seating which was hard for frequent visits so the new location should solve that problem as it is big enough to contain both the retail wine shop and restaurant as well!
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We came here for dinner and had the 4-course tasting menu for $458 plus wine pairing for an additional $100 which is such an amazing meal. The tasting menu changes every 4-6 weeks but you can order a la carte dishes as well which contains most of its signature dishes. 
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On top of our tasting menu, we had an appetizer platter where you can choose from a variety of Frapas (French Tapas) at $38 for 1 Frapa, $68 for 2, $98 for 3, and $128 for 4. We had the Beef TartareCroquette of Haddock Brandade, and Homemade Hummus, and my favorite was of course the famous beef tartare with smoked chili, red onion pickles, basil oil and coriander!
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The first dish of the tasting menu was the Sea Bass Tartare with pineapple marmalade, red onion, and cream of horseradish. I liked the tartare as it was fresh but I thought the pineapple marmalade was a tad too sweet which overwhelmed the flavors of the fish.

Wine pairing: Alsace, Audrey & Christian Banner, Les Saveurs 2014
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I loved the beautiful and colorful plating of the Seared Red Tuna and Pan-fried Foie Gras with reduced raspberry vinegar jus and fresh fruits, but there was a bit too much going on with all the different sauces and fruits so I'm not sure what I'm supposed to focus on.

Wine pairing: Bourgogne, Dom. Pierre Damoy 2011
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However, the Braised Beef Cheek with grilled new onion, horseradish jus, and spring onion oil was executed beautifully with rich flavors and tender textures.

Wine pairing: Bergerac, Ch. de Larchere, La Coste du Moulin 2013
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The Strawberry dessert was also outstanding with strawberry and lemongrass coulis, marshmallow, vanilla and wasabi mascarpone, and strawberry sorbet. It wasn't the first time I had wasabi in dessert and it was very well-balanced here!

Wine pairing: Cremant de Loire, Langlois Brut Rose
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*By Invitation

Le Bistro Winebeast
141 Thomson Road, Wan Chai
Tel: +852 2782 6689
https://www.wine-beast.com/le-bistro


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Rating: ❤❤❤❤1/2

22 Ships' former executive chef Nathan Green has just opened a new restaurant in Sai Ying Pun in collaboration with Yenn Wong - the mastermind behind 208, Chachawan, Duddell's, Fish School and Meen & Rice. Named after the chef's grandmother who's also a great cook, Rhoda is a family-style restaurant with a focus on ingredients cooked on wood fire and charcoal. The decor of the restaurant is anything but grandmotherly though as the industrial chic interior had been designed by Joyce Wang (the designer behind the stylish Mott 32) with metallic trimmings and bare concrete walls - there's even a small lounge area with designs that's been inspired by barber shops and tattoo parlors!
rhoda hong kong

rhoda hong kong interior

I came here with a girlfriend on a Thursday night and we got seated at the counter which are arguably the best seats in the house with an unobstructed view to all the action in the kitchen! Besides the grill dishes, the counter is also where desserts are made and Chef Nathan Green was there to look over everything coming out of his kitchen.
rhoda hong kong

We got to observe all of the ingredients that were being grilled from meat to seafood to vegetables right in front of us and it was honestly tempting to try them all! The menu was divided by appetizers, cold dishes, grill items, and dishes meant to be shared so there was something for everyone - you can order as much or as little as you want. Since there were only 2 of us, we couldn't get the bigger dishes so we ended up ordering a bunch of appetizers and grill items which turned out to be more than enough for us. 
rhoda hong kong kitchen

rhoda hong kong kitchen

First up was the complimentary Beer Bread made with Suntory dark ale and served with seaweed butter. The bread was fluffy soft and light but I wasn't sure that the seaweed butter worked for me - I think I would prefer normal salted butter more. If one portion of bread isn't enough for you, you can order from the menu for only $28. 
rhoda hong kong beer bread seaweed butter

The Lotus Root Chips ($38) was really addictive to eat as the chips were super thin and crispy, but it was the chicken liver cream that stood out to me with its rich and enticing flavors.
rhoda hong kong lotus root chips chicken liver cream

One of the famous signature dishes here is the 12-hour slow cooked Hawke's Bay lamb shoulder that needs to be pre-ordered in advance and meant to be shared between 4-6 people, so we opted for the Pulled Hawke's Bay Lamb Shoulder Burger ($118) instead which uses the same lamb so we could get a taste of it. I polished it off in seconds as the lamb was flavorful and soft while I loved the sauerkraut which balanced the meat perfectly.
rhoda hong kong lamb burger

rhoda hong kong lamb burger

The Chicken Wings ($118) came fresh off the grill with a smoky charcoal aroma and glazed with Xeres vinegar - a gourmet wine vinegar made from Sherry. As a result, the chicken wings had a deliciously sweet flavor with nicely crisp skin.
rhoda hong kong chicken wings

I had heard good things about the Slow Cooked Octopus ($138) with fennel, oregano and preserved lemon, and it didn't disappoint with tender textures and refreshing flavors. 
rhoda hong kong octopus

rhoda hong kong octopus

We were already full at this point so we moved onto desserts with this colorful Summer Berries ($98) with cherry granita and lemon creme fraiche. It was very refreshing, not heavy at all, and the perfect ending to our wonderful meal.
rhoda hong kong dessert summer berries

Verdict - the tab came out to only ~$500 total for the 2 of us which was more than reasonable for the quality and amount of food that we had considering that I had paid more than double at similar new restaurants with less satisfying experiences. Rhoda is a restaurant that I am definitely going back to and I'm getting a larger group next time so I can try the whole chicken, snapper baked in kombu and 12-hour slow cooked lamb shoulder!

Rhoda
345 Des Voeux Road West, Sai Ying Pun
Tel: +852 2177 5050
http://www.rhoda.hk/


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Rating: ❤❤❤❤

Japanese dessert lovers will not be unfamiliar with Nakamura Tokichi (中村藤吉) - a renowned tea house from Kyoto - and it has finally reopened at The Miramar Shopping Center after the closure of its cafe at The One. Sure we've had pop-ups at Pacific Place and Mira Mall, but it's great to have the full-blown tea room again with a complete menu of savory and dessert items. While the view here may not as nice as The One, fans of the brand will be please to know that new additions have been added to the menu and best of all - no lines (yet)! 
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The new location has more seats than the old one which helps to cut down the crazy queue that we all have become familiar with last year.
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Before jumping straight into desserts, we tried a variety of its noodles starting with the Matcha Wheat Noodle Set ($118) which comes with matcha udon, rice, pickles and matcha tea jelly. While the matcha flavor wasn't that apparent in the udon, I did enjoy the chewy textures of the chilled noodles and dipping them into the tsuyu sauce to eat. 
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Besides matcha udon, Sōmen ($78) - a very thin Japanese noodle made of wheat flour - is also available as well.
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If you prefer a hot bowl of noodles, the Kitsune Matcha Wheat Noodle Set ($118) is the one for you with clear broth and topped with sweet aburaage (deep-fried tofu skin). 
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Moving onto desserts! One of the new items that has just been released is Kuzukiri (葛切) ($88) - a popular Japanese dessert in the summer made from arrowroot flour that is served in ice. The thick gelatinous noodles were deliciously chewy to eat with your choice of homemade matcha or Okinawan brown sugar syrup and perfect for cooling down in the summer heat!
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One of the most sough-after items here is the Warabi Mochi ($88) which was only available in limited quantities before as it had to be flown in directly from Japan. The good news is that the cafe will now be making them in Hong Kong so more quantities of this delicious confection will be available each day! Two flavors are currently available (matcha and soybean flour) and while I usually like anything matcha, I preferred the flavor of the kinako (soybean flour) warabi mochi more actually.
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This dreamy Maruto Strawberry Parfait ($108) is only available for a limited time only with layers of matcha soft serve, matcha jelly, chiffon cake, mochi, strawberry cream and strawberry puree.
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Who can resist shaved ice in the summer and the new Uji Kin Ice ($98) will sure to be a hit with your choice of matcha, houjicha or brown sugar syrup and topped with matcha or houjicha soft serve! I got to try all 3 flavors of the syrup and honestly I thought all of them were equally good - it just depends on what you prefer. The size of the kakigori was huge and can be shared easily between 2-3 people. Apparently, a smaller version will also be available at the Nakamura Tokichi take-out shop on the ground floor in Mira Mall in a few weeks as well. 
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If you want to take a piece of Nakamura Tokichi with you, you can buy some of its tea collection and an array of confections and cakes to enjoy at home.
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I couldn't help but get the fluffy soft Houjicha Chiffon Cake ($63) to eat as breakfast for next day, and we easily polished it all off in one setting as the cake was super airy and light!
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*By Invitation

Nakamura Tokichi 中村藤吉
Shop 3005-9, 3/F, Miramar Shopping Centre 
132 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2156 1168
https://www.facebook.com/tokichi.hk/


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Tai Hang has always been one of my favorite hunting grounds for hidden gem cafes, dessert shops and local comfort food, and with the opening of Little Tai Hang (a new complex with hotel, serviced apartments and restaurants), there will be even more reasons to visit this quaint neighborhood! One of the new restaurant concepts is BOND which aims to bond the local community by providing classic Western comfort food at affordable prices. Located on the 2/F, the restaurant is comfortably spacious with a bar and dining room plus an outdoor lounge that is perfect for escaping from this hectic city. 
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We started with the Beetroot Salad ($88) with goat cheese and orange which was light and refreshing to eat. 
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The Deep-fried Calamari ($98) with zucchini had a deliciously light and crispy batter but I thought that the honey mint yogurt dip was a bit too sweet. 
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The French Onion Soup ($78) with toast and Gruyere cheese smelled absolutely enticing but the soup itself could have been more flavorful.
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We saw the Table Side Spaghetti in 24 month Parmesan Cheese Wheel ($198) being wheeled around while we were eating our appetizers so we were pretty excited when it was finally our turn! The cheese wheel had to be prepped first with a torch to melt the cheese with Bicardi rum before tossing the pasta in it with black truffle and Tasmanian black pepper. The result was a heavenly rich mixture of spaghetti and cheese with a hint of spice, and even though some of my dining companions thought it was a bit salty, I thought the flavors were just right for me. This is a dish that you don't want to take pictures for too long or else the melted cheese will dry out and make it hard to eat!
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The Fresh Seafood with Homemade Strozzapreti ($268) with scallops, clams, squid, prawns and chili flakes is another great option for pasta as the seafood were all perfectly cooked while the pasta was delightfully chewy.
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For mains, the Sea Bass in Clam and Saffron Stew ($220) is a solid choice as the fish was nicely cooked with a crispy skin.
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The Slow-cooked USDA Baby Back Ribs ($230) had been slathered with a homemade BBQ sauce which contained a number of spices and is perfect for sharing.
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I don't know how but we ended up trying 3 desserts even though we were stuffed with the Seven Layer Chocolate Cake ($68), Thai Milk Tea Creme Brulee ($68) and Tiramisu ($78). It was a close tie for me between the chocolate cake and creme brulee but the Seven Layer Chocolate Cake won my heart with a rich chocolaty mousse, hint of rum and crunchy crust!
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*By Invitation

BOND Restaurant & Bar 
2/F, 98 Tung Lo Wan Road, Tai Hang
Tel: +852 2155 1777
https://www.facebook.com/bondhongkong/



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Over the weekend, I was back at The Ocean for their 4-hands collaboration dinner with 2 Michelin star Cuisines Michel Troisgros from Tokyo! The exclusive pop-up dinner only lasted for 2 days from June 24-25 where the chefs from both restaurants came together to create an 8-course menu for $1,488 per person. I've only been to The Ocean before during daytime (check my previous post for more pictures of the beautiful venue), so I got to experience a different side of the restaurant this time and watched a beautiful sunset over Repulse Bay with J while we wined and dined through the night. 
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The Ocean has an extensive wine list which had been picked out by the restaurant group's sommelier and since we were primarily eating seafood, we chose champagne to be paired with our food.
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We kicked off the meal with a series of amuse bouche including an eggshell of Parmesan mousse with lobster confit, clam with green apple and celery jelly, clam ceviche, black truffle cream puff and deep-fried cod's throat on a stick. 
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The onion bread was irresistibly aromatic while the pairing with a whipped sea salt and honey butter was heavenly as well.
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Our first course was a Smooth Tofu and Sea Urchin topped with Oscietra caviar and creme fraiche. I liked the contrasting textures between the creamy sea urchin and the crunchy green peas underneath the tofu layer while the flavors were refreshingly light overall. 
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The next course was a Smoked Scallop with salicornia texture and girolle mushroom which arrived with a maple leaf shaped crisp on top. The hickory smoked scallops were cooked just right with a perfectly browned edge and slightly raw center but the mushroom sauce was a bit sour and didn't really add to the flavors of the scallops.
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The Lobster refreshed with anise flavors was our favorite dish of the night as it was cooked perfectly with a super tender texture! I felt that the sauce could have been richer to enhance the flavors of the lobster but I did like the apple and cucumber slices which added refreshing textures to the dish.
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The Grey Sea Bream was beautifully plated on a spiral onion puree with a braid of allium, morel mushrooms and edamame on the side. The sea bream had a really crispy skin but unfortunately it was a bit overcooked as well.
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I loved this gorgeous palate cleanser which came as a pearl on a shell with lemon sorbet, strawberry foam and crumble! The pearl had a beautiful translucent shell which broke easily with a gentle tap of a spoon.
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The desserts here continued to shine with this delicious Passion Fruit Meringue with chantilly cream, corn sauce and popcorn! The flavors were perfectly balanced between the sweetness of the cream and the tartness of the passion fruit while I enjoyed the fun textures of the popcorn as well.
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Lastly, our mignardises of the night with chocolate-covered mushrooms and biscuits with peanut cream filling. The peanut biscuits were a bit too sweet but the chocolate mushrooms were more successful with a well-balanced taste.
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Verdict - I thought that the food we had this time was better than our previous visit which I felt was a bit too safe, and with its gorgeous venue and impeccable service, The Ocean definitely has the potential to be one of the top fine dining spots in Hong Kong if the chef can find the right balance in combining flavors and ingredients with seafood.

*By Invitation

The Ocean
Shop 303-304, 3/F, The Pulse, 
28 Beach Road, Repulse Bay
Tel: +852 2889 5939
http://www.theocean.hk/#home


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Rating: ❤❤❤1/2

I had heard much about the exciting opening of Potato Head before my trip to Japan and Europe so when I got back to Hong Kong I immediately paid a visit with some girlfriends! Brought to us from Bali, Potato Head Hong Kong has landed in Sai Ying Pun right next to Fish School with a 8,000 square foot space that houses a lifestyle retail store, a coffee shop, an all day bar and cafe, and a restaurant serving authentic Indonesian cuisine called Kaum which is where we went for dinner. Kaum means "clan" or "tribe" in Indonesian and the restaurant aims to pay tribute to over 600 ethnic group by presenting true flavors that accurately reflects Indonesia's heritage. 
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We walked pass the bustling bar and lounge area on a Saturday night before arriving at the restaurant which was only divided by a curtain. 
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The restaurant has two large communal tables and a private dining room as well as counter seats which faces the open kitchen. We sat at one of the communal tables and shared the cozy space with our dining neighbors. 
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The open kitchen design allowed patrons at the counter to see the action up close but it also led to a a rather smoky environment - and at one point the smoked enveloped the entire space - which wasn't ideal.
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Potato Head is well known for its cocktails so I got the Kookaburra ($120) to try with lemongrass infused Tanqueray gin, bar-made vanilla sugar, mint and citrus. Crowned with passion fruit and vanilla foam, the cocktail was fruity and refreshing to drink which helped to cool the heat from hot and humid weather Hong Kong has been blessed with these couple of weeks. 
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This wasn't ours but we couldn't help but snap some pictures of this Soltice Punch which looked like a lot of fun to share with a group of friends! 
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The menu had quite a bit of choices and it was hard to choose at first, so we basically selected the ones that were marked as signature dishes. We started with some small plates and the Gado Gado Kaum ($80) turned out to be a great choice with assorted blanched garden vegetables tossed in a white cashew peanut dressing. Served with fried shallots, free range egg, tempeh and prawn crackers, the vegetables were appetizing to eat as the sauce had quite of a bit of spice in it.
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The Mangut Ikan Asap ($80) with house smoked fish fillet braised in a mild curry of coconut, lemon leaves and stinky beans was less successful as we couldn't really taste the fish and while the curry was spicy, it lacked the appeal of a Thai or Indian curry as the flavor was quite one dimensional.
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The Ayam Kebiri Berantakan ($195) with pan-fried free range chicken, crispy garlic, fried curry leaves, shredded oyster mushrooms, red chili and toasted coconut flakes looked promising and while the chicken was nicely cooked with crispy charred skin, we expected more seasoning and flavor as the chicken tasted a bit bland to us. 
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We liked the Timbugan Babi ($290) though with pork belly marinated with Balinese spice paste, shallots, chili, garlic, torch ginger and sweet potato leaves. Bamboo cooking is described as a dying art and only a handful of restaurants in Indonesia still practice this ancient cooking technique. Cooked in bamboo shoot and banana leaves over lava stones, this dish is worth a try as the pork belly was very tender and infused with flavors. 
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Lastly, we wrapped up our Indonesian journey with a classic Nasi Goreng Bumbu Cabe Asap Udang ($148) with prawns, home-smoked chili paste, stinky beans, lemon basil and fermented prawn paste. The rice had been nicely stir-fried with a good texture but the prawns were tiny and few while a bit heavy-handed with the fermented prawn paste. 
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Verdict - we ended up spending close to $600 per person for dinner which was rather high for the type of food we had. I'm not sure I would go back for the food but I liked the cocktails here so I would come back for drinks and to check out the "I Love You So Coffee" take-out coffee shop!

Kaum at Potato Head
100 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun
Tel: +852 2858 6066
http://www.ptthead.com/
http://www.kaum.com/




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Rating: ❤❤❤❤

Gia Trattoria Italiana has replaced Giando in its old location at the Fenwick Pier and is operated by the same chef - Gianni Caprioli who has built up a loyal following in Hong Kong with various restaurant concepts such as Giando, Fishteria, EAT.it and Mercato by Giando. Gia is focused on family-style regional Italian cuisine so expect hearty portion that are meant for sharing! The Fenwick Pier may not the most convenient location to get to, but once you make it out there, you will be rewarded with a spacious restaurant with a view of IFC and the Observation Wheel.

We started off with a Stracciatella alla Romana - a classic comfort soup with organic Italian chicken egg and pecorino cheese in chicken consomme. It reminded me of the Chinese egg drop soup but with a thicker and creamier texture that was soothing to drink.
Stracciatella alla Romana egg drop soup

We then had a Mixed Platter of appetizers that was custom-made for us by the chef so that we can sample a bit of everything. Normally you would have to order each appetizer separately but Chef Gianni said that he can put this together for anyone who requests it. Of the appetizers we tried, I liked the burrata cream mozzarella and mixed fresh Italian tomatoes and the zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta cheese, mint pesto and anchovies the best. 
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The Deep-Fried Baby Sicilian Calamari with paprika mayo could have used a crispier batter but the squid was cooked perfectly.
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For pizzas, you can choose between a tomato base or without tomato, and we ended up trying one of the white pizzas with Black Truffle Paste, Mixed Green Leaves, Mascarpone and Mozzarella with summer truffle shaved on top. It was very aromatic with a crispy crust while the flavors were on the light side. 
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Chef Gianni then came out to tell us the different between summer and winter black truffle by showing us his collection. The summer truffle comes from Italy and the winter truffle is from Australia where it is winter now. Winter truffle are more expensive and aromatic than the summer truffle which has a more subtle and earthy flavor. We got to try some of his pastas with the summer and winter truffles so that we can taste the difference. 
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The first pasta was a Spaghetti with Summer Black Truffle Pesto with bottarga and asparagus. The flavors were light and I quite liked the saltiness of the bottarga (salted cured fish roe) sprinkled on top.
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The next two pasta - Tagliatelle with mixed mushrooms and Scialatelli with rabbit ragout - had heavier flavors and my favorite of the three is actually the tagliatelle with its rich and creamy sauce that was complemented wonderfully by the winter truffle. Again the chef had adjusted our pasta size so that we can sample more so these are not the regular portion sizes (although this can be requested as well for those who want to try more than one pasta).
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We were already full at this point so imagine our surprise when the mega Italian Porter Chianina Beef came out with grilled vegetables! It's definitely meant to be shared and very reasonably priced at $1188 for the portion as you can easily share this among 3-4 people. 
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But of course when it came to dessert time, it's like I have a second stomach and I was ready to dig into the Homemade Fresh Milk Ice Cream with crunchy almonds, berries and chocolate sauce! The ice cream was incredibly creamy and smooth, and I was perfectly happy eating it alone without any toppings at all - it was that good.  
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Lastly, we couldn't resist Chef Gianni's offer of his homemade Tiramisu which had the perfect ratio of mascarpone cheese - it was super delicious and gone in seconds!
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*By Invitation

Gia Trattoria Italiana
1/F, Fleet Arcade, Fenwick Pier 
1 Lung King Street, Wan Chai
Tel: +852 2511 8081
http://www.giatrattoriaitaliana.com/




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Summer is here so cue the launch of summer themed menus starting with the Summer Shores Weekend Brunch at Popsy Modern Kitchen! In partnership with Chandon, the restaurant is launching a weekend brunch that includes a buffet bar + main course + dessert corner for $388 (half price for kids) from June 18th - August 28th and free flow Chandon which comes with a Chandon gift bag and one complimentary handcrafted ice pop from N*ice Pops for $168. You can also exercise your creativity by partaking in the Eat More Art Cookie Workshop where you can create your own sparkling sea shore cookie gift box with one complimentary glass of Chandon for $350 - available from 3-5pm on every Saturday during the same period. 
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I loved the tropical flavors of the special edition ice pop that came in the shape of a sphere.
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The brunch buffet bar included a selection of salads, shell pasta on sea shell, deviled eggs, cold cuts and cheese. 
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Once you're done with the buffet, you can go ahead and place your order for the main course with 6 options to choose from. We sampled good variety starting with the brunch classic Popsy Egg Benedict with smoked salmon, spinach, eggs, homemade Hollandaise sauce and English muffins.The Hollandaise sauce was pretty nice and this is my top choice for the main course. 
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The Seashore with pan-seared scallop and zucchini risotto with crab roe and seaweed is solid but some of the scallops were more cooked than others.
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Weekend Roast with roasted lamp chop, chorizo, mashed potatoe and sauteed Brussels sprouts with mint gravy.
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Fish Aquarium with pan-fried mackerel fillet, sun-dried tomato Orecchiette pasta in tomato sauce.
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My favorite part of the brunch is of course the dessert corner which is on the other side of the buffet bar with marshmallows, jelly, cakes and tarts to choose from.
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I loved this cute goldfish marshmallow on a stick.
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It's a gummy bear chilling under a sun umbrella!
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After watching countless dessert making videos on YouTube (without making any), I finally got the chance to decorate my own cookie with icing at the Eat More Art Cookie Workshop. You can choose from a starfish, conch or seashell shaped cookie as your base and work your imagination!
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Well there you have it - my amateurish decorated starfish cookie trying to blend in with the other seashells. You can choose to eat it on the spot or take it home in an elegant box provided by the restaurant.
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*By Invitation

Popsy Modern Kitchen
5/F, The Wellington
198 Wellington Street, Sheung Wan
Tel: +852 2907 8188
http://www.popsymodern.com/




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Renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten of the 3* Jean Georges in NYC has launched the second venue of his casual Italian restaurant Mercato in the California Tower at Lan Kwai Fong! Similar to its sister restaurant in Shanghai, Mercato serves Italian food using quality ingredients with light and refreshing flavors. I got back to Hong Kong in time to catch the chef in person where he was going over the final touches of Mercato - I was told that he was very hands-on and involved in every aspect of his restaurants. The elegant venue had an impressive bar at one end and an open kitchen at the other. I got to try a variety of its appetizers, mains and desserts on the menu which are all reasonably priced and the lunch menu is definitely a great deal at $198 for 2 courses in Central.
Mercato Bar Hong Kong

Mercato Hong Kong

The seats by the windows had a totally different vibe than the the ones in the center of the buzzing dining room with a more private and quiet atmosphere. 
Mercato Hong Kong

Chef Jean-Georges was busy and a bit camera shy so I just got a shot of him from afar. 
Mercato Hong Kong Jean Georges Vongerichten

Another feature of the restaurant is the Mercato Bar which specializes in original cocktails made with the finest Italian spirits as well as a diverse selection of old and new world wines. I went with the Vodka Thyme Lemonade ($98) with Absolut Citron Vodka, lemon and thyme which was sweet and refreshing to drink on a humid summer afternoon in Hong Kong. 
Mercato Vodka Thyme Lemonade cocktail

We started with a series of appetizers and my absolute favorite had to be the Home Made Ricotta ($118) with strawberry, olive oil and garlic bread! The sweetness of the strawberry puree went perfectly with the creamy ricotta, and was very appetizing to eat with the crunchy garlic bread sticks. 
Home Made Ricotta Mercato Hong Kong

The Salmon Carpaccio ($138) was light and simple with olive oil, sea salt, lime and herbs.
Salmon Carpaccio Mercato Hong Kong

Italian Chicories Salad ($98) with orange, fennel, aged balsamic and olive oil.
Italian Chicories Salad Mercato Hong Kong

Spicy Tuna Tartar ($148) with black olives, cucumber, avocado and mint.
Spicy Tuna Tartar Mercato Hong Kong

Endive and Sugar Snap Pea ($108) with Parmesan dressing and herbs.
Endive and Sugar Snap Pea Mercato Hong Kong

Of the main dishes, the Black Truffle Wood Oven Pizza ($238) with three cheeses and farm egg was easily the crowd favorite with its enticing truffle aroma and delicious flavors!
Black Truffle Wood Oven Pizza Mercato Hong Kong

The Rigatoni and Meatballs ($128) with smoked chili tomato ragu was a close second as the meatballs were moist and tender all the way through.
Rigatoni and Meatballs Mercato Hong Kong

Crispy Skin Chicken ($178) with braised potatoes, lemon, golden onion, green chili and herbs.
Crispy Skin Chicken Mercato Hong Kong

Porcini Crusted Salmon with warm leek vinaigrette and herbs.
Porcini Crusted Salmon Mercato Hong Kong

Parmesan Lemon Risotto with roasted mushrooms and black pepper.
Parmesan Lemon Risotto Mercato Hong Kong

Desserts are not to be missed here and we practically tried every dessert on the menu which are all priced at $68. First up was the ever classic popular Italian dessert - Tiramisu!
Tiramisu Mercato Hong Kong

Italian Cream Cake with raspberry sorbet and fresh raspberries.
Italian Cream Cake Raspberry Mercato Hong Kong

Blueberry Lemon Crostada with creme fraiche.
Blueberry Lemon Crostada Mercato Hong Kong

The Chocolate Fudge with vanilla meringue, caramel popcorn and cinnamon crumble was simply irresistible with its rich and luscious chocolate flavors.
Chocolate Fudge ice cream Mercato Hong Kong

The Dark Chocolate Passion Fruit Tart with its velvety smooth texture is another must-try for chocolate lovers!
Dark Chocolate Passion Fruit Tart Mercato Hong Kong

If you're looking for something lighter, the Homemade Mascarpone with macerated strawberries and young ginger granite will be the perfect choice for you.
Homemade Mascarpone Mercato Hong Kong

*By Invitation

Mercato Hong Kong
8/F, California Tower
32 D’Aguilar Street, Central
Tel: +852 3706 8567
https://www.facebook.com/mercatohongkong




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Where to Stay:

It was not our first time in Amsterdam so instead of staying in a hotel near the city center like last time, we decided to stay in a houseboat through Airbnb! Having lived in Seattle for a few years, we have always wondered what it would be like to live in a houseboat so we decided to go for it in Amsterdam. There were quite a few houseboats to choose from on Airbnb and the one that we chose was located on the edge of the city center. There's actually no engine on this houseboat as it's not really a boat but more of a house floating on water, and it was designed from scratch by the owners which took years to built. Pictures online don't always translate into reality but the interior of our houseboat looked even better in person! The room we stayed in was super posh and well-designed with its own mini kitchen and bathroom. Our host was also very gracious and stocked the kitchen with fresh bread, drinks, eggs, fruits and even stroopwafels for us to help ourselves to during our stay!
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What to Eat:

Check my previous posts on the fine dining restaurants I've visited in Amsterdam but if you're looking for casual eats, read on below for the places I hit up this time. 

Bocca Coffee
http://www.bocca.nl/

Bocca Coffee will satisfy any coffee snobs as the roaster was crowned as the Best Coffee Roaster in the 2014 European Coffee Awards! Even though they were coffee roasters for many years, their flagship shop was only established last year and it was roomy and expansive with a large bar counter in the center. The casual vibe reminded me of the cafes in San Francisco and it's got different pockets of space for people to drink their coffee whether it is at the communal tables, bar counter or wooden sofas by the windows. The coffee menu is quite simple with two choices: black or white. Don't miss out on their pastries either - my raspberry brownie was simply luscious with a rich and velvety layer of chocolate!
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Two For Joy Coffee Roasters

Two For Joy is another Third Wave coffee cafe that roasts its own beans. We actually passed by this cafe many times during our stay, and we finally popped in on the last day. The flat white was not as good as Bocca's though but the lemon meringue tart was irresistible and the cafe had a lot of different areas (both inside and outside) to chill as well. 
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Foodhallen Amsterdam 
http://foodhallen.nl/

This indoor food market is perfect for rainy days with over 20 different food stalls to choose from. Located at the De Hallen culture center, you can enjoy a casual meal or snack with a wide range of choices from Vietnamese to burgers or even a drink at the large island bar in the center of the market - there's something here for everybody. We had heard good things about Viet View which serves a kick-123 banh mi and we couldn't resist getting some Iberico ham as a take-away to munch on. 
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Winkel 43
http://www.winkel43.nl/

The apple pie at Winkel 43 is famous for being the BEST apple pie in Amsterdam! It is a deep-dish pie with a crunchy cookie-like crust and chunky apple slices served with whipped cream on the side, and it was the best apple pie I've ever eaten. The cafe has both indoor and outdoor seats, and we enjoyed ours outside with some people watching. Remember to try the mint tea as well!
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Upstairs Pancakes

Upstairs Pancakes is apparently the smallest restaurant in Europe with only 4 tables! You need to climb a very steep staircase to reach the dining room and then you will be rewarded with your choice of savory or sweet Dutch pancakes. I ended up trying the King with fresh Dutch strawberries and cream, and it was super delicious! It's best to make a reservation ahead of time as I saw a lot of people being turned away due to the limited space.
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What to Do:

There are lots to do in Amsterdam and for first timers, I'd recommend checking out the major museums like Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum! Whenever I'm visiting museums, I always like to check ahead of time the best possible way to avoid queues like buying the tickets online, etc.
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I also love taking walking tours and the most popular operator would have to be Sandemans which offers FREE tours (gratuity encouraged). The free walking tour covers all major sights like the Red Light District, The Jewish Quarter, the World's first stock exchange and many more!
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One way to see how the locals live is to visit some of the neighborhood markets like farmer's markets, the Waterlooplein flea market or the Singel flower market on floating barges. 
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 If you want to get out of the city, what better way to do it than to take a bike tour to the country side! Our tour with Joy Ride Tours started at the famous Vondel Park and we ended up at a 400 year old working farm which specializes in the making of Dutch cheese and clogs!
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Lastly, just wander around the picturesque city, get lost and admire every canal you come across because each one is different and charming in its own way. 
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De Kas is a farm-to-table restaurant set in a beautiful greenhouse at the Frankendael Park. The founder and owner Gert Jan Hageman converted the old Amsterdam's Municipal Nursery into the gorgeous 8 meter glass house restaurant and nursery that it is today back in 2001, and the restaurant has generated rave reviews over the years. With a focus on the freshest possible ingredients, De Kas doesn't have set dishes but rather one daily menu that changes base on the harvest of its nursery. We came here for dinner one night where the 3 course prix fixe dinner menu costs €49.50, but while the setting inside the glasshouse was certainly breathtaking, the food was another story. The food was simply lackluster as the flavors and ingredient combinations were not really harmonious with each other, and since the restaurant is a bit far from the city center, I'm not really sure that De Kas is worth the trek considering the quality of the food for the price. 

Our night got off to a great start as we were dropped off by the entrance of the park and we had to cross this picturesque bridge to reach the restaurant. The sun doesn't set until 9pm in Amsterdam during this time so it looked like day time even though we were there for dinner.
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We took a peek at the nursery as we were walking into the restaurant. 
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The expansive restaurant can seat up to 140 people and can make a great location for a wedding or any type of celebration.
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We were given some pickled appetizers and bread first before our starters. 
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The first of three mini starters was a chilled cucumber soup with mustard seed and mint oil. The chilled soup was refreshing to drink in summer time but the flavors didn't really pop though. 
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The next starter was a grilled octopus with pepper dressing. The octopus wasn't crispy enough on the outside and tender enough on the inside while the sweet pepper dressing didn't do much to enhance the flavor of the octopus. 
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The last starter was a mix of vegetables with buffalo mozzarella and almonds.
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Our main course was lamb with white asparagus. The lamb was a bit tough and could have been more tender - I couldn't finish it to be honest. I've had a lot of white asparagus over the past couple of weeks, and the flavor here was relatively flat while not well integrated with the lamb.
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I was looking forward to the dessert since I'm a sweets person but while the lemon cake with strawberry sorbet looked promising, the lemon cake was too dry - I rarely do not finish desserts but I couldn't finish the lemon cake at all. 
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De Kas
Kamerlingh Onneslaan 3 
1097 DE Amsterdam, Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 462 4562
http://www.restaurantdekas.nl/home




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Our first dinner in Amsterdam was at the 1 Michelin star Vinkeles located in the luxury boutique hotel The Dylan. The head chef is Dennis Kuipers whose style is best described as a combination between traditional and modern French cuisine with an international touch. Housed in an old 18th century bakery, the ambiance of the restaurant was relaxed and warm with no dress code. The restaurant is highly rated on Tripadvisor and I can see why as the level of service was really high and attentive - the restaurant manager goes out of his way to make sure everyone leaves feeling special. The food was solid with few surprises but even so we enjoyed the meal due to the great service and they even invited us to have a few dishes at the chef's table!

The menu is quite flexible as you can order a la carte dishes or the Chef's signature menu of 10 courses for €145. A shorter Menu Alliance is also available with 5 and 6 courses for €90 and €105 which is what we end up ordering. 
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Smoked white asparagus with pork belly
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Shrimp on tapioca crisp with kombu seaweed
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Giant pearl from oyster? I'll take two please! I loved the presentation of the edible Pearl which was filled with a White Lady cocktail with gin and triple sec. We were instructed to tip the beautiful oyster shell back so that the pearl can unleash a delicious concoction in our mouths.
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Cucumber meringue with sea bass, celery and chili
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Hamachi with unripe strawberries, yuzu, jalapeno, coconut, pistachio and chamomile
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Sot l'y laisse with curry, Jasmine rice, apple confit, mint, shallot and cashew nut
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Asparagus "Carbonara" with white asparagus, Parmigiano Reggiano Gravero 1er cru, and Bellota Iberico Admiracion. I thought that this was a rather interesting way to imitate the flavors of carbonara by using white asparagus.
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The next 2 dishes were served at the chef's table right next to the kitchen where we got front row seats to the kitchen!
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"Oosterschelde" lobster with white asparagus, morels, green peas, sea lavender, quail egg and bear leaf
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Halibut with razor clam, cuttlefish, corn asparagus, Petit Doruvael, sorrel, cockles and green herbs jus
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Anjou pigeon "Imperial" with breast, marinated peach, young white carrot, cinnamon, and sauce of bones and liver
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Gariquette strawberries with rhubarb, yogurt, thyme and rose water
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Petit fours with tandoori spices crisp and marshmallow with lemon and fennel
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The chef's take on apple pie
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Cherry bon bon chocolates
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Vinkeles
Keizersgracht 384 
1016 GB Amsterdam, Netherlands
Tel: +31 (0)20 530 2010
https://www.vinkeles.com/en/




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Our next stop after Copenhagen in Europe was Amsterdam where we stayed in a super posh houseboat for the first time! We spent a few days exploring the city and had some of the best apple pies and Dutch pancakes ever before taking a day trip out to Zwolle to dine at the 3 Michelin star and #38 on World's 50 Best Restaurant De Librije for lunch. The train ride from Amsterdam to Zwolle took a little over an hour and we walked through some beautiful scenery in the city center before arriving at the restaurant inside the Librije Hotel. Located in a monumental former women's prison from the 18th century, De Librije is run by husband and wife team Jonnie and Thérèse Boer and serves modern innovative dishes based on authentic regional ingredients and cutting-edge cooking techniques. 

A tasting menu of 5, 6 and 7 courses are available for €175.5, €185 and €192.5 respectively but the way you order here is a little different from just a set tasting menu in that you get to select the ingredients for 4 dishes and the chef will supplement the rest to make the meal a little more exciting and surprising. You can also order a la carte from 8 classic dishes selected from the past 17 years and a vegetarian menu as well. The meal turned out to be amazing with uniquely flavored dishes and it's not to be missed by anyone visiting Netherlands!
librije hotel

We passed through the stylish lounge and were asked if we wanted to grab a drink first but since we were famished, we headed straight into the dining room which is situated in the inner courtyard with a beautiful glass roof.
de librije lounge

I loved the huge amount of natural light and trees surrounding us in the main dining room which made me feel like I was dining in a garden.
De Librije dining room

The unique drinking glass and ceramic bread plate at De Librije. 
De Librije

The chef collaborated with knife manufacturer Ryusen Hamono in Japan to create the ultimate steak knife for De Librije. 
De Librije ryusen hamono

Our meal got off to an intriguing start tomato ring when we were presented with a ring to wear with a tomato on it! The presentation of the dishes here were very hands-on as many of the dishes were put together with tweezers at the table and one was even assembled on our hands (more on that later). 
De Librije tomato ring

Crispy puff with Holland shrimp
De Librije crispy puff holland shrimp

Spiced peanut crisp
De Librije spiced peanut crisp

Cuttlefish with seaweed crisp
De Librije cuttledish seaweed

Cheek of cod fish with sesame sauce
De Librije cod dish sesame

"May I have your hand please?" The next dish of steak tartare and oyster was assembled right on our hands! It started with a drop of oyster cream, topped with a leaf of lettuce with "Roodbont IJssel beef" tartare, followed by chive mayonnaise and a Pommes souffle, and finished with a slice of oyster and some Ankums blauw (oyster leaves). You can watch how it was assembled here!
De Librije steal tartare oyster

The last of our amuse bouche was brioche with bacon.
De Librije brioche bacon

Amazingly soft butter to go with the delicious grain bread that is made locally.
De Librije butter

De Librije grain bread

My first course was "Gagel" with brown crab and foie gras. The crab was smoked in a wooden box at our table so we were enticed by the smokiness beforehand. 
"Gagel" with brown crab and foie gras de librije

"Gagel" with brown crab and foie gras de librije

Oyster with spruce and tulip
Oyster with spruce and tulip de librije

The langoustine with kombucha and "Boemboe" turned out to be one of my favorite dishes of the meal! Served with green bean juice, the langoustine had been marinated in the kombucha for 4 hours and seasoned with Indonesian spices.
langoustine with kombucha and "Boemboe" de librije

Scallop with young sunflower, coconut, sherry and mushroom 
Scallop with young sunflower, coconut, sherry and mushroom de librije

Monkfish with fermented peppers and eggplant
Monkfish with fermented peppers and eggplant de librije

River trout with eel, fennel and lemon grass
River trout with eel, fennel and lemon grass de librije

Kamper lamb with ceps and seaweed
Kamper lamb with ceps and seaweed de librije

Roe deer with cabbage and "royal sauce Mangalica"
Roe deer with cabbage and "royal sauce Mangalica" de librije

The first of our desserts was a toasted white chocolate with pistachio and blue cheese.
toasted white chocolate with pistachio and blue cheese de librije

I wasn't so sure that the foie gras with dried apple and celeriac worked for me as a dessert though.
foie gras with dried apple and celeriac de librije

The "Gin & Jonnie" dessert was made with a gin that the chef created by himself. 
"Gin & Jonnie" de librije

"Gin & Jonnie" de librije

The coffee ice cream with cardamom arrived in a cute sack while kept cool on ice pack. 
coffee ice cream with cardamom de librije

"Flavors In and Around the Forest": wild mushrooms with dark chocolate, spruce top caramel with salt, elderflower with white chocolate, and juniper with lemon. We were really impressed with the chocolates as the flavors of nature were infused with the chocolate perfectly!
"Flavors In and Around the Forest" chocolate de librije

Our last dish was small avacado with fennel and pistachio.
small avacado with fennel and pistachio de librije

I came away very impressed with the food here which was very refined and creative in both the presentation and flavors. The chef used Asian spices in a number of his dishes and he made it work seamlessly with the ingredients he selected. The only thing that I felt was off was the service as it took a long time before anyone came to take our order at the beginning of the meal. They were not short-staffed though as they had a lot of staff walking around but for some reason we were ignored for quite some time - long enough that we started to feel confused and uncomfortable. Otherwise, the meal was very enjoyable and De Librije is a restaurant that I would not hesitate to return to again!

De Librije
Spinhuisplein 1 
8011 ZZ Zwolle, Netherlands
Tel: +31 (0) 38 421 2083
http://www.librije.com/home2/?lang=en




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A foodie trip to Copenhagen would not be complete without a visit to gastronomic mecca Noma - a 2 Michelin star restaurant and currently #3 on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list after being #1 for 4 years! Run by Rene Redzepi, the restaurant is known for its reinvention of the Nordic cuisine and one of the most influential restaurants in the world. Reservations are notoriously hard to get as reservations open 3 months in advance and gets booked out quickly but luckily I was able to get a seating here as part of the Opinionated About Dining's Top 100+ Weekend

Since it was my first visit to Noma, I was super excited about my visit but I do have to admit that it wasn't exactly what I had imagined. Obviously I had really high expectations given the reputation of the restaurant and the price of the meal, and the food was certainly very interesting and different to anything that I've tried before but if you ask me if this was the best meal I've ever had, I don't think the answer is yes. The food was good and the restaurant served a lot of local and seasonal vegetables using innovative techniques to create dishes that are new to the usual palate but flavors-wise I'm not sure some of the dishes worked 100%. Don't get me wrong though, I am still glad that I visited and tried the food for myself, and I think everyone should do the same to form your own opinion.

The tasting menu cost DKK1900 (US$290) with wine pairing at DKK1100 (US$168) and juice pairing at DKK700 (US$107). Apparently the menu is shorter than before with 15 courses and the same menu is served at both lunch and dinner. One note about the wine pairing is that Noma serves biodynamic wines which are made using the principles of biodynamic agriculture developed by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920's. It's like one step above organic but the method is not without its criticisms and has been characterized as pseudoscience (I'm not going to get into here but you can read more about it by googling this topic). J had the wine pairing while I had the juice pairing, and he didn't quite like his wines as he found the taste to be not as clean as regular wines. Maybe it's an acquired taste as it's all about your preferences and what you are used to. If you choose to forgo the pairings, you can also choose your own wine on their extensive wine list.
Exterior of Noma

We made our way to Noma on the day of our lunch reservation and of course had to take an obligatory selfie in front of the restaurant sign before walking in. 
Supertaster Mel Noma

As we entered through the doors, we were greeted by Rene Redzepi himself and his entire team who were all gathered in front of the entrance which was a nice surprise!
Noma dining room

Noma lounge area

I started my meal with a glass of champagne (2013 Le Champ du Clos, Charles Dufour, Landreville-Aube) before getting the juice pairing later. 
2013 Le Champ du Clos, Charles Dufour, Landreville-Aube

Our first course was this Rhubard and Seaweed in the shape of a beautiful rose with sorrel and rose oil. The rhubard was crisp and acidic which served as a refreshing start of the meal.
noma rhubard seaweed rose sorrel rose oil

The next course was a Vegetable Platter with pickled quail egg, black currant berry, and flatbread with ant paste. Initially we were surprised to be told to start with smoked quail egg but it turned out that the black currant berry was able to overcome the smokiness easily with its bright and tart flavors. 
noma Vegetable Platter smoked pickled quail egg, black currant berry, flatbread & ant paste

The Radish Pie with seaweed tart, vegetable fudge and horseradish oil was a delectable treat with a hint of spicy finish from the horseradish. Rene told us that the radishes weren't even ready until a few weeks ago so I was glad that we got to try this in time. 
noma radish pie

My first juice pairing with Verbena/Pine came with the next course which was Fresh Green Asparagus and seasonal herbs served with whipped cream. The asparagus had been barbecued with ants (but it's not visible on the vegetables) which was flavorful to eat with the horseradish whipped cream.
noma fresh green asparagus seasonal herbs

The Bread with virgin butter turned out to be amazing with a super crunchy crust and yet the interior managed to remain fluffy soft and moist. 
noma bread virgin butter

Fresh Milk Curds and the first green garlic shoots with kelp and roasted yeast in mushroom broth. I quite liked the tofu-like texture of the milk curds while the flavors were light overall.
Noma Fresh Milk Curds first green garlic shoots

The next juice pairing with white currant and black currant wood oil.
noma juice pairing white currant black currant wood oil

Pan Seared White Asparagus with barley, elderberry leaves and black currant shoots while topped with fermented caviar sauce.
noma White Asparagus caviar barley elderberry leaves

Sweet Danish Lobster with lavender and rose oil.
noma  Sweet Danish Lobster with lavender and rose oil.

We were then treated to a Æbleskiver which is a traditional Danish pancake in the shape of sphere with salted flower blossoms and almond.
noma Æbleskiver

The Steamed Norwegian King Crab in cured egg yolk sauce turned out to be our favorite dish of the meal! We were intrigued on how the egg yolk was cured and apparently it was cured in fermented beef which gave it a rich and complex flavor.
noma steamed norwegian king crab cured egg yolk

The Sorrel/Apple juice pairing.
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The Charred Ramson was another interesting dish as it had been grilled with smoked butter and scallop paste. The ramson had such intense scallop flavors - it was like eating scallops but without the real thing. 
noma charred ramson scallop paste

I loved the presentation of the Turbot grilled on the bone with sweet shrimp ravioli in sweet mushroom broth as it looked like a lily pad pond. 
noma turbot grilled on the bone sweet shrimp

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The second part of the Turbot dish included its ribs which had been brushed with a mushroom glaze and served with salted trout roe and pickled rose. We were told that Rene didn't want to waste the meat near the ribs of the fish which is actually very tasty so he came up with this creation.
Noma turbot ribs salted trout roe pickled rose

Before we know it, we were already moving onto desserts with this Dessert of Bitters "Gammel Dansk" (a Danish alcoholic beverage) ice cream with flakes of dry milk and sorrel juice. The dessert wasn't that sweet and we felt that it could have easily passed as one of the starter dishes.
noma Dessert of Bitters "Gammel Dansk"

noma Dessert of Bitters "Gammel Dansk"

The last juice pairing of Elderflower & Kombucha.
noma juice pairing Elderflower Kombucha.

Our last dessert was Moss Cooked in Dark Chocolate with Swedish pine mushroom seasoned with licorice salt. It was my first time eating moss and it was very crunchy to eat. 
Noma Moss Cooked in Dark Chocolate

The dessert was paired with Egg Liqueur with elderflower in it. 
noma egg liqueur

After our meal was finished, we got a tour of the kitchens with three in total so we can see where our meals were prepared. 
noma kitchen

noma lobster

Many of the dishes were cooked on this grill which is outside the restaurant. 
noma charcoal grill

We then walked back inside to check out the private dining room on the second floor. 
noma private dining room

The second floor also housed the second kitchen where the interns were painstakingly assembling the radish pie. 
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The last kitchen was an experimental kitchen where ideas are brainstormed and tested. 
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The Noma fermentation lab, or Nordic Food Lab, is situated behind the restaurant and is dedicated to finding new flavors and processes. 
noma fermentation lab

Thank you Rene Redzepi and team for the wonderful experience at Noma!
noma supertaster mel rene redzepi

Our group picture with Rene and team with the other OAD participants.
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Noma
Strandgade 93 
DK-1401 Copenhagen, Denmark
Tel: +45 3296 3297
http://noma.dk/




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