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About this blog

thisgirlabroad is an expat living, working, and eating her way through Hong Kong, and traveling throughout South East Asia without any plans to slow down. 

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thisgirlabroad
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One of the things Japan is known for is their food: from the time and effort spent preparing a dish, to the quality ingredients used. Finding a “good” restaurant in Japan isn’t difficult. You could walk into any little place and know that whether you’re spending ¥1000 or ¥5000, you’ll have a great meal. Despite the ease of dining out, I wanted to try my hand at the Kaiseki Cooking Class Tokyo at Cooking Sun studio. Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese meal involving many small courses. Since I was only in Tokyo for five days, Flight Centre Hong Kong arranged the cooking class in Shibuya before I landed (nothing beats a little less stress while traveling!).

Arriving at the Kaiseki Cooking Class Tokyo

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Located in a cute neighborhood in Shibuya, Cooking Sun is about a 30-minute walk from the main Shibuya station and resides in a homey, bright apartment (though no one lives there). Our cooking instructor, Hiromi, took the time to explain how to make each dish and touched on the meaning behind the idea of Kaiseki.. there’s a big emphasis in Japanese culture to make the dishes look “beautiful”!

Course 1 – 4:

Sesame Tofu (ゴマ豆腐)
Steamed Veggie with Miso sauce (野菜の酢味噌和え)
Rolled Egg (だし巻玉子)

Dashi based Clear Soup (お吸い物)

kaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-2-1024x683.jPutting the bonito flakes into our dashi brothkaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-3-1024x683.jBlack sesame tofukaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-6-1024x683.jLearning how to make the rolled eggkaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-7-1024x683.jMy rolled egg masterpiecekaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-5-1024x683.jThe bowl for my dashi based clear soup

We began by making the Dashi broth, as it would be used in a few of the dishes. Dashi is incredibly simple to make. The only two ingredients (aside from water) are kombu (dried kelp) and bonito flakes (dried bonito fish), both of which give this broth that umami flavor. You can expect an arm workout while making the sesame tofu, since a fair bit of fast mixing was involved. While I initially thought this dish was meant to be a sweet dessert, we were told it would in fact be savory. After we let the tofu set in the cup, we poured soy sauce on it and added a dash of wasabi. I liked the texture of the tofu, but wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor. We then made miso sauce for our steamed vegetables (carrot and green beans), and lastly learned how to make the perfect egg roll. Hiromi modeled how to make the egg roll and then we all had the chance to practice on our own. Admittedly, I was pretty pleased with the way mine turned out!

Course 5 – 9:

Sashimi (刺身)
Wagyu Beef steak (和牛ステーキ)
Simmered Pumpkin with Wagyu Beef (かぼちゃの煮物)
Accordion Cucumber Salad (きゅうりの酢の物)

Ice cream with Kuromitsu and Kinako (黒蜜きな粉アイスクリーム)

kaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-10-1024x683.Cooking the wagyu beef steakkaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-11-1024x683.Plating the wagyu beef steakkaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-9-1024x683.jSimmered pumpkin with wagyu beefkaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-8-1024x683.jAccordion cucumber saladkaiseki-cooking-class-tokyo-13-1024x683.Ice cream with kuromitsu

We lightly seasoned our wagyu beef steak before cooking it medium rare and adding sauteed mushrooms to the dish. The beef was tasty, though I cooked it a little too long (oops!). Hiromi told us that in Japanese culture, cutting food into three pieces is common because that way it cannot be “broken up”. We cut our pumpkin into three, punched cute cherry blossom shapes, and added slices of lean beef to our simmered pumpkin with wagyu beef (one of my favorite dishes I made). Though cutting the cucumber for the accordion cucumber salad required more effort than I usually put into making food, I was pretty darn pleased with how it turned out. Since the sashimi was raw (obviously), no cooking was required (also, obviously). We simply assembled our dish of scallop and salmon sashimi to “look beautiful”, as Hiromi would say. After we sat down to enjoy all the courses of our Kaiseki meal (all dishes are traditionally presented at once on a tray/mat), we were able to indulge in dessert without having to make it. Kuromitsu (a dark sugar syrup, akin to molasses) and kinako (soybean flour) were put on top of the vanilla ice cream. Needless to say, we ended our cooking class on a sweet note.

Verdict on the Wagyu Kaiseki Cooking Class Tokyo

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If you love Japanese food and are looking for a unique experience in Tokyo, I would highly recommend signing up for the Kaiseki Cooking Class at Cooking Sun. I spent a lot of time going to restaurants and little shops for food while in Tokyo, so I found it really interesting to be on the other side of things in this cooking class. I was able to get a feel for the time and effort that went into preparing a Kaiseki meal. Overall, the Kaiseki Cooking Class Tokyo was a great experience.

Where to book the Kaiseki Cooking Class Tokyo

This class was booked through and provided by Flight Centre Hong Kong. Prior to my trip, I had no idea that Flight Centre offered more than just flights. Flight Centre is incredibly helpful in arranging just about everything for your holiday. From flights and hotels, to holiday packages and activities, Flight Centre covers a range of countries and has an extensive list of travel options available. They have locations in Central, Happy Valley, and Wan Chai in Hong Kong, and their telephone service center is open 24/7 at +852 2830 2899.

Visit flightcentre.com.hk for more information!

More information about the cooking class

Time: 
Classes run from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm.

Price:
The cost of the class is ¥8,500 for one individual person, but you can get a reduced rate if you book in a larger group (¥8,000 per person in groups of 2-3, ¥7,500 per person in groups of 4-8).

Cooking Sun Tokyo
Shinanomachi 18
Shinjuku-ku
Tokyo
(Maya Shinanomachi 2, Room 314)

Tel: +81-3-6380-6028


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thisgirlabroad
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There are so many great brunch options around Hong Kong that it can often be quite the task to find something that sticks out from the crowd. One thing that this city lacks is a good selection of al fresco dining, so when I heard that Beef and Liberty were throwing together a massive weekend rooftop BBQ for a very reasonable HK$258 for as much as you can eat, I had to go (in fact, I’ve now been twice!). The Beef and Liberty BBQ Brunch is a great option: laid back rooftop vibes, selection of salads and grilled meat, DIY burger station, and free-flow drinks.

Vibes at the Beef and Liberty BBQ Brunch

beef-and-liberty-bbq-chef-1024x683.jpgBBQ Areabeef-and-liberty-bbq-rooftop-1024x683.jpRooftop Vibes

If you’ve never been up to the roof of Beef and Liberty in Wan Chai, you should definitely check it out. There were quite a lot of other groups having a great time when I went, which certainly added to the already fun atmosphere. While I liked almost everything about the vibe on the rooftop, I think having live music of some sort would potentially be a great addition.

Salad bar, BBQ, and dessert

beef-and-liberty-bbq-salad-bar-1024x683.Salad Barbeef-and-liberty-bbq-burger-1024x683.jpgMy DIY Burgerbeef-and-liberty-bbq-pulled-pork-1024x68Pulled Porkbeef-and-liberty-bbq-dessert-1024x683.jpDessert Selection – bread pudding & giant cookie with cream

All of the BBQ-ing takes place right on the rooftop, so you know you’re getting fresh, straight from the grill meat. The salad selection is simple, with choices of a classic caesear salad, coleslaw, or (my personal favorite) heirloom tomato and goat cheese. I then moved onto the DIY burgers, where I picked up a giant, juicy burger patty that must have been at least 3 inches thick and stacked it high with almost all of the toppings available: lettuce, bacon, red onions, pickles, and cheese. Not to give myself too much credit, but this was definitely one of the best burgers I’ve had in awhile. If red meat isn’t your thing, you could also opt for the piri piri chicken or the ribs (or all three!), which were all drool-worthy.

Besides the burger, I could not get enough of the pulled pork. The crackling was addictive and the pork was so tender, it practically melted in my mouth. Be sure to save enough room in your belly for dessert because you won’t want to miss the bread pudding and giant cookie skillet with cream.

Verdict

I really loved the Beef and Liberty BBQ brunch and think it’s a great choice in a city where rooftop restaurants are hard to come by. I enjoyed a tonne of fantastic food and plenty of prosecco on their laid-back roof, all for a very reasonable price. This is definitely a brunch I would 100% recommend.

Beef and Liberty BBQ brunch details

BBQ only (adult): HK$258
BBQ + free-flow drinks package (includes Bloody Mary, prosecco, Brooklyn Lager beer, and soft drinks): HK$388
BBQ only (kids under the age of 14): HK$128 

Beef and Liberty 
23 Wing Fung Street
Wan Chai 

Tel: 2811 3009


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thisgirlabroad
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When I came back from Cambodia, a lot of people asked me how I liked it and, likely surprising to most, I had a hard time articulating my feelings. I know lots of people absolutely love Siem Reap and for good reason – there was certainly many things I really enjoyed while I was there; the temples are beautiful, the history is rich, the food is great, and the people are lovely. But, as with any area (especially here in Southeast Asia), once it becomes popular with tourists, it tends to lose a lot of its authenticity. Essentially, the reasons why people originally fell in love with that place have been stripped away and replaced (ie westernized). This is how I feel about Siem Reap.

The reality of visiting Siem Reap’s temples

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Let’s begin with the temples, since most people visit Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat. Without a doubt, the temples are absolutely stunning and are well worth a visit (read about all my temple-hopping adventures in Siem Reap here, here, and here). The history behind the temples and the structures themselves are fascinating, and to see them in person is beyond impressive. However, on both days I toured the temples in Siem Reap, they were swarming with other tourists to the point that I had a hard time fully appreciating them. Between getting constantly nudged around, watching dozens of people taking selfies throughout the temples, and finding it near impossible to get a photo of the temples without other people in it, my patience level was certainly thinning. That being said, I’m well aware I chose a bad time to visit (Chinese New Year), so the majority of the tourists were swarms of Mainland Chinese. Because of this, I would highly recommend planning your trip to Siem Reap when there are no Asian holidays taking place.

When the sun sets in Siem Reap

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What I found completely perplexing was the vast difference between day and night in Siem Reap. During the day you’re exploring all of these beautiful ancient temples, and are immersed in a whole lot of culture and history. In stark contrast to that, at night tourists flock to Pub Street, which, given the rather self explanatory name, turns into a giant street party. The streets are overflowing with tourists and have endless amounts of western restaurants on either side of the street, most of which offer pints of Angkor Beer for US$0.50 – $1.00 (which, let’s be real, I wasn’t exactly complaining about). As the night continues, buskers will come to the streets in various forms. I ended up seeing one who initially tried his hand at some card tricks (but then messed up [we’re fairly certain he was drunk and/or extremely high] and everyone could see that the stack of cards were not real, though we all had a good laugh about it) and later moved on to perform a fire show (which was quite nerve-racking given his state). To put it simply, Pub Street reminded me of a smaller version of Khao San Road in Bangkok, and not in a good way.

I spoke with a few locals in Siem Reap, all of whom told me that it’s the government who is pushing to turn Pub Street into a massive tourist hot spot because of the revenue it’s currently generating, and that the vast majority of locals do not want this. I just found it so sad that this beautiful country that was once (and not that long ago!) quite a “unique” and relatively untraveled place to visit is now crawling with tourists and much of that old, untouched, historical/cultural charm in the city center has dissipated and become westernized.

A few final thoughts

After taking time to reflect on my trip to Cambodia, I still have mixed feelings. On one hand, there really was so much I loved about the country; the history, culture, food, and people. On the other hand, the temples were hard to enjoy because of all the tourists and Siem Reap seems to be having an identity crisis; trying to keep their culture intact while also pleasing and catering to the increasing number of tourists (and yes, I realize many other places around the world do this, but I wasn’t expecting that from Cambodia, which was perhaps quite naive on my part). Ultimately, I would still recommend visiting the country if you’ve never been, but at the same time I feel no strong urge to return.

If you’ve been to Siem Reap, I’d love to hear about your experiences, positive or negative, in the comments below!


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thisgirlabroad
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When I travel, I love to immerse myself in as much of the local culture as possible. One way I do that is through my stomach. I love local food and always look forward to trying regional dishes throughout the countries I visit. Everyone knows a handful of Thai and Vietnamese dishes, but I was less familiar with what Cambodian food was all about before my flight to Phnom Penh. I certainly ate my way through the country at various night markets, little hole-in-the-wall shops, and street stalls, and really came to appreciate the local food scene here. Though not necessarily my top choice for Southeast Asian food, I really loved all the local food I ate in Cambodia while I was there. If you’re wondering what to eat in Cambodia, here is a list of my 10 favorite dishes.

1. Beef Lok Lak

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Beef Lok Lak is one of the most popular local dishes you’ll find in Cambodia. This dish can be found pretty much everywhere; from local shops to more Western-focused restaurants. This dish is comprised of tender stir-fried beef in a slightly sweet brown sauce with rice, a fried egg, a bit of veg, and a peppery sauce on the side. At any local restaurant, this dish will cost around US$3.

2. Fish Amok

Aside from beef lok lak, the next most popular Khmer dish is fish amok. The smooth texture and rich taste of the coconut curry will likely leave you wanting this for at least one meal a day while in the country (especially since it’s near impossible to find an authentic version outside of Cambodia). The fish curry is steamed and served in a banana leaf. This was one of my favorite dishes I had in Cambodia and is a definite must-try.
*Sorry, no photo – I was too busy stuffing my face!

3. Grilled Bananas

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If you love bananas, you should give Cambodia’s tiny grilled bananas a try. Admittedly, the idea of grilling bananas doesn’t exactly sound like it would taste great, but the bananas are warm, surprisingly firm with a softer inside, and have that grilled taste to them that I really love. Plus, this stick of four bananas costs US$0.50, making for a healthy and inexpensive snack.

4. Iced Coffee (from a street stall)

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If you like sweet coffee, you’re going to love the iced coffee in Cambodia (which is actually quite similar in most other parts of Southeast Asia). Found along random street corners throughout the city, these cafe’s on wheels serve up a ridiculously refreshing (and massive!) iced coffee made with condensed milk for only US$0.50 – US$1.

5. Beef Noodle Soup

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A breakfast staple for locals in Cambodia, the beef noodle soup here is fantastic and quite different from other noodle soups I’ve had throughout Southeast Asia. The egg noodles are made fresh, the beef is surprisingly tender, and the broth is rich in flavor. This specific bowl was purchased at “Chan Reash 10 Makara” (my go-to family-run restaurant while I was in Siem Reap) for US$2 and was the best I had in Cambodia.

6. Coconut Cake

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Found on a busy street across from Central Market in Phnom Penh, these little cakes stuffed with a variety of sweet ingredients (including peanut butter and red bean paste) were sold at a food stall. I opted for the coconut-filled cake, which had a nice fluffy yet moist interior surrounding the subtly sweet coconut filling.

7. Fresh Fruit Smoothies

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Easily found everywhere around Pub Street in Siem Reap, these smoothie stalls serve up some incredibly fresh, huge, and inexpensive smoothies. With practically every fruit imaginable listed on the menu, you’ll be sure to find something that tickles your fancy. Most stalls charge US$1.50 for one flavor. You can add multiple fruits to your smoothie and make it sweeter or less sweet with the addition or exclusion of liquid sugar.

8. Anything at a Night Market

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Heading into a local night market can be a bit of a daunting experience if you’re a tourist, but I promise it’ll be an incredibly authentic and tasty one as well. The Night Market in Phnom Penh is very local and serves up an array of skewered meat and seafood, and plenty of noodles (just be sure to have toughened up your stomach lining a bit before indulging).

9. Coconut Ice Cream

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This amazing dessert was also found at the Phnom Penh Night Market. Get ready for three scoops of ice cream (choice of coconut, chocolate, or taro) into a coconut shell with shaved fresh coconut, jack fruit pieces, peanuts, and condensed milk. This was the best dessert I had while in Cambodia and only cost US$1.25.

10. Pineapple on a stick

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Aside from the fact that eating fresh fruit off a stick in the blistering heat is pretty damn refreshing, I loved getting this pineapple for the experience. The lady will take a fresh pineapple and cut it in front of you using a massive knife to get the skin off and to create the swirling “design” in about a minute, which was pretty impressive. Afterwards, you’ve got yourself a deliciously sweet pineapple cut into four pieces with sticks in a bag, all for US$1.


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thisgirlabroad
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The first thing people said to me after I told them I would be travelling to Phnom Penh was that I had to visit the Killing Fields. My response: a concerned look followed by a mumbled, “I’m not so sure I want to visit somewhere so sad on my holidays”. Most people followed up by telling me that, despite it being difficult, the whole experience was exceptionally well-done and moving. After getting a similar response from so many other travelers, I knew that I should stop Googling “should I visit the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh?” and just experience it for myself.

If you’re asking yourself “should I visit the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh?”, the answer is a simple yes.

should-i-visit-the-killing-fields-in-phnChoeung Ek Monument, built in 2012should-i-visit-the-killing-fields-in-phnInside the monumentshould-i-visit-the-killing-fields-in-phnInside the monument

Before I actually went to the Killing Fields, I wanted to educate myself about what actually happened in Cambodia between 1975 – 1979. What I gathered was that the Khmer Rouge came into power (and were SOMEHOW accepted by the UN) after the Cambodian Civil War and replaced the “military dictatorship of the Khmer Republic”. They saw educated citizens as a threat, and (to make a sickeningly unfortunate and long story short) thus began the Cambodian genocide. (More information here).

After paying the entrance fee, I was given an audio guide (they have them in a variety of languages) and was told to press 1 when I was ready to begin the tour. I really appreciated that I could go at my own pace with the audio guide; if I wanted to pause between sections, replay a section, or listen to an additional audio excerpt, I could.

The tour began and ended at the Choeung Ek Monument, which was the only structure standing throughout the Killing Fieldsbecause all of the other former buildings were torn down by angry and upset locals after the killings stopped in 1980. It’s eerily real, authentic, and chilling as you continue to walk around the site, led by your audio guide. I found it really difficult to put in words what I felt during this experience, so just trust me when I say that it is well worth your time to visit the Killing Fields.

What to expect at the Choeung Ek Killing Fields

should-i-visit-the-killing-fields-in-phnYour guide will tell you when to walk to each station.should-i-visit-the-killing-fields-in-phnOne of the mass graves of 450 victimsshould-i-visit-the-killing-fields-in-phnThe saddest part (personally) of the Killing Fields: The Killing Tree
  • Expect your heart to break a little.
  • Expect to spend a lot longer inside than you may have anticipated.
  • Expect to be absolutely shocked and disgusted when you realize this happened LESS THAN 40 YEARS AGO.
  • Expect to be touched by the desperately sad but beautifully true stories you hear.
  • Expect and accept the fact that you will cry.
  • Expect to appreciate how thoughtfully and carefully this site was put together to enlighten and educate visitors.
  • Expect to be speechless.
  • Expect to be guided through mass graves, the “killing tree” (the most difficult part of the tour for me), empty land where buildings once were, various bones, and ripped clothing of the victims. 
  • Expect to feel off for a few hours after you leave.

Getting to the Killing Fields & Entry Fee

While many hotels can offer a taxi or tuk tuk to the killing fields, your best bet is to flag down a tuk tuk yourself. I paid about US$10 for a tuk tuk to take me there, wait for me to tour around, and then take me back to my hotel. The entrance fee for the Killing Fields was US$6.

Click here to learn more about what happened in Cambodia between 1975 – 1979.


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thisgirlabroad
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I’m always on the hunt for a good brunch spot in Hong Kong and had recently heard good things about The Pawn. Having only been there previously for drinks, I jumped on the opportunity to head into Wan Chai for a long, lazy Saturday of eating and drinking. If you’re like me and aren’t a fan of buffets where you’re constantly interrupting conversation to fill your plate up with mediocre food, then The Pawn brunch is a great option. The starters and dessert are brought to the table as sharing plates and each guest chooses their own main course. Throw in some fab balcony seating vibes and bottomless Moet & Chandon, and you’ve got yourself one fantastic brunch.

Vibe at The Pawn Brunch

pawn-brunch-champagne-1024x683.jpgMoet & Chandon Rose Imperial

For those that have never been, The Pawn is situated in a heritage building in Wan Chai overlooking Johnston Road. The building is incredibly charming itself, and when coupled with the restaurant’s minimalist-modern decor, the whole area gives off a rustic yet contemporary vibe. If possible, try to snag a table on the balcony; the natural light, the hustle and bustle from the streets below, and the airy breeze certainly heightened my overall experience.

Starters

pawn-brunch-starters-1024x683.jpgStarters for sharing

We began our boozy brunch with a glass of Moet & Chandon Imperial Rose (life doesn’t get much better on a Saturday afternoon). I also tried the banana and oat smoothie in an attempt to be healthy, but it tasted off. Thankfully, the mango lassi that I ordered instead was much better.

Shortly after our drinks were served, the sharing starters came out. On one plate we had two slices of french toast with a blackberry caramel sauce and vanilla blackberry mascarpone. I’m not sure I would classify this as french toast, which is not to say I didn’t like it, but it had a very light, fluffy consistency, whereas most french toast I’m used to is quite dense. The sauce and mascarpone blended well together, adding the right amount sugary sweetness to the dish.

The brunch board consisted of housemade ricotta with balsamic, crushed avocado on toast that was surprisingly spicy, spinach salad that tasted great with the crab meat spread, grilled vegetables, and french fries. I thought it was an odd mix of starters, but each sharing dish was delicious, so I can’t really complain.

Mains

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The minute steak, hash browns, and fried egg made for a very Instagram-worthy dish. Cooked to a perfect pink center, this dish was satisfying yet light. In trying to be somewhat healthy, I ordered the sweet corn pancake with grilled avocado. The pancake was thick and quite light with plenty of sweetcorn throughout. I liked the pancake, though I wish the flavor was more pronounced.

Dessert

pawn-brunch-dessert-1024x683.jpgPudding platter

For dessert, the menu said “unlimited refills for puds platter”, so here I was being all un-British expecting a platter of different types of pudding. You know, the kind of pudding you dip a spoon into and out comes a dollop of creamy, smooth, and sweet deliciousness. Totally wrong. Much to my surprise, pudding is just another word for dessert in the UK. On our pudding platter there was creme brulee, a chocolate tart, white chocolate with matcha mousse, a buttercream cupcake, and a treacle tart. My favorites were the creme brulee and the white chocolate with matcha mousse. As for the other three, I really wasn’t crazy about them. The selection of desserts at The Pawn brunch change regularly, so you can expect something different each time you go.

Verdict

The Pawn brunch offers chilled vibes, a great setting (make sure you get a seat on the balcony), and a wide variety of options for food and drink. I left brunch feeling satisfied without being sickeningly full (as I so often do because I have no self control). Whether you’re with a small or large group, I would definitely recommend paying a visit to The Pawn for brunch.

The Pawn Brunch Options

Set 1: Sharing starters, one main, unlimited dessert with free-flow soft drinks, orange juice, and smoothies – HK$498

Set 2: Sharing starters, one main, unlimited dessert, with free-flow Moet & Chandon Rose Imperial, Bloody Mary, house red or white wine, bottled beer, cider, soft drinks, smoothies, orange juice, coffee or tea – HK$598

The Pawn 
62 Johnston Road
Wan Chai

Tel: 2866 3444


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thisgirlabroad
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Tycoon Tann has been around for a little while now, but they have recently added new Chinese/Western fusion dishes to their menu, so I figured it was about time I paid a visit. You’ve likely walked past Tycoon Tann multiple times thanks to its convenient location on Wellington Street in Central. Though it may look like a small bar at first glance, Tycoon Tann actually has three floors. Each floor is its own cozy, modern, and intimate dining space, which could be a great spot to go for a date or for a celebration since your dinner will be far from cheap.

Starters

tycoon-tan-cha-siu-1024x683.jpgCharcoal-grilled Hungarian Mangalica Hogs (HK$328)tycoon-tan-crab-1024x683.jpgBaked Crab Shell Stuffed with fresh crab meat, onion, and cheese

We began with the signature Charcoal-grilled Hungarian Mangalica Hogs (HK$328) in a light honey sauce. Each piece of char siu was tender, slightly sweet, and had the perfect fat-to-meat ratio. Despite enjoying the dish, I couldn’t help but gawk at the price for only ten pieces of meat. The Baked Crab Shell Stuffed with fresh crab meat, onion, and cheese (can’t remember the price and there are no prices on Tycoon Tann’s website [one of my biggest pet peeves about online menus]) looked promising and I couldn’t wait to tuck in. The crab shell was packed with crab meat and had a thick layer of melted cheese covering it, but I found the onions to be a bit overpowering.

Mains

tycoon-tan-beef-1024x683.jpgPan-fried Beef Cubes (HK$268)tycoon-tan-rice-1024x683.jpgFried Beetroot Fragrant Rice (HK$218)

The Pan-fried Beef Cubes (HK$268) with foie gras and Thai basil were, thankfully, less “foie gras-y” than I thought. Each tender beef cube was coated in a rich sauce and you could truly taste the quality in every bite. The Fried Beetroot Fragrant Rice (HK$218) with conpoy, yannan ham, and egg white was one of Tycoon Tann’s new dishes and came with rave reviews. In order to achieve the deep purple color, the rice is soaked in fresh beetroot juice, however, I really couldn’t taste any beetroot. Admittedly a beautiful dish, I found the overall flavor too subtle.

Dessert

tycoon-tan-dessert-ball-1024x683.jpgPearl of the Dragon (HK$248) – as presentedtycoon-tan-dessert-ball-2-1024x683.jpgPearl of the Dragon (HK$248)

The “Oooh” moment at dinner came when dessert arrived in the form of this massive glowing ball. The Pearl of the Dragon (HK$248) is a giant made-to-order Chinese sesame ball. The hollow sesame ball was brought out to the table for photo purposes only and was then taken away to be cut up and dished out (though everyone at the table would have preferred ripping apart this dessert ourselves for both the entertainment value and for the fact that when it was served to us later, it was a bit cold). There were some complaints that this dish was oily, but I actually really enjoyed it and believed the cooking method was in line with the traditional sesame balls you’d find at a local shop.

Verdict

On one hand, I could taste the high quality of ingredients in most dishes, I enjoyed the cozy and intimate atmosphere, and I have no complaints about the general service. On the other hand, the food came out painfully slow and I felt the dishes were priced far too high. If money or time isn’t an issue, I’d definitely say give it a go. Otherwise, you might be better off staying down at the bar to enjoy a delicious cocktail (their version of a negroni is fantastic).

Tycoon Tann 
74 Wellington Street
Central 

Tel: 3125 3228


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The new Michelin Guide Dining Series, Hong Kong and Macau is making it much easier for you to to experience some of the cuisine found at various Michelin-starred restaurants around the world. Launched earlier this year, the dining series will showcase a different Michelin-starred chef each month for a 2 – 4 day pop-up dining experience in Hong Kong or Macau. I was lucky enough to partake in Chef Chen Kentaro of Shisen Hanten’s (two Michelin-starred Sichuan restaurant in Singapore) six-course modern Sichuan dinner with wine pairing.

Michelin Guide Dining Series: Chen Kentaro

I was originally expecting more of a local Sichuan dinner, but Chef Chen Kentaro’s style is much more modern and curated for a wider audience. His grandfather actually introduced Sichuan cuisine to Japan (Yokohama) in 1958, and he has since taken over and expanded the family business. Chef Kentaro is also widely known from his appearance on “Iron Chef” in Japan. In 2014 he brought Shisen Hanten to Singapore, which was given a 2 Michelin Star rating in 2016.

Course 1 – 3

michelin-guide-dining-series-shisen-hantAppetizer of the Day paired with Champagne Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, RP90michelin-guide-dining-series-shisen-hantStir-fried Lobster paired with Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale 20113, RP91michelin-guide-dining-series-shisen-hantFoie-gras flanc topped with Alaskan crab and crab roe

We began our extravagant six-course meal with the Appetizer of the Day paired with Champagne Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, RP90. The trio of bite-size Chinese treats were comprised of cold shredded chicken, wagyu beef, and bitter melon. The first two appetizers were delicious, but I found the third to be too bitter for my liking. I loved the Stir-fried Lobster paired with Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale 2013, RP91. This dish was full of flavor and the lobster was incredibly juicy, but it was the lightly fried fish that stole the show. I promise that the Foie-gras flanc topped with Alaskan crab and crab roe tasted much better than it looks. While this dish may appear simple, the complexity of flavor was impressive. Underneath the crab layer on top, the foie-gras flanc was irresistibly creamy and had a more subtle flavor than what I had expected.

Course 4 – 5

michelin-guide-dining-series-shisen-hantSteamed Japan Kue Fish and Hamaguri Clam paired with Le Petit Havt Lafite 2014michelin-guide-dining-series-shisen-hantChen’s Mapodoufu paired with Chateau Corbin Grand Cru Classé 2010, RP92

The Steamed Japan Kue Fish and Hamaguri Clam was unwrapped at our table and was paired with Le Petit Havt Lafite 2014. The longtooth grouper was delicious and the Sichuan pickled chili added an interesting sweet/sour element to the fish. One of the star dishes of the evening was Chen’s Mapodoufu paired with Chateau Corbin Grand Cru Classé 2010, RP92. This signature dish made of tofu and minced pork in a Sichuan sauce was bursting with flavor, and had the perfect level of spice. Served with Japanese rice and pickled veg, this dish was certainly a standout.

Dessert

michelin-guide-dining-series-shisen-hantMandarin Orange with Almond pudding – as presentedmichelin-guide-dining-series-shisen-hantMandarin Orange with Almond pudding – opened

We concluded our meal with a beautifully presented Mandarin Orange with Almond pudding. Both subtly sweet and deliciously smooth, this pudding was the perfect ending to an incredible meal.

Verdict

I really love the concept behind the Michelin Guide Dining Series. It’s a great way to showcase internationally recognized chefs and their restaurants that many people in Hong Kong wouldn’t get the chance to dine at. Though the price of these dinners is far from cheap (this dining experience was priced at US$285), if you have a strong appreciation for quality ingredients and really like ‘once in a blue moon’ dining experiences, these Michelin Guide Dining Series dinners are right up your alley.

What’s coming up next?

Local Chef Showcase: Umberto Bombana of three MICHELIN starred 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong, March 27- 28

International Chef Showcase: Yoshinori Ishii of two Michelin starred Umu, London, March 29  – April 1


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Talk of Dragon-i usually surrounds a few stories of late night misadventures where bottles were bought and far too much money was spent. It’s safe to say that most people in the city associate this well-known establishment with Russian models and messy, pretentious nights out. Dragon-i is now working a new angle to entice people to pop over for dinner well before the debauchery begins. In case you were unaware (as I was), Dragon-i actually serves dinner (not just all-you-can-eat dim sum) and they’ve just introduced a new dinner tasting menu for 4 or 6 people for a bargain. Only the test of time will tell if peoples’ outlook on Dragon-i shifts from a late night club to a restaurant/club.

Vibe at Dragon-i

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a bit weird going up the escalators to Dragon-i on a Wednesday at 7:00 pm. The restaurant area was dark, quiet, and empty; the latter of which are in stark contrast to a typical night at Dragon-i. Overall, I found it a bit hard to judge since the idea of going to Dragon-i for dinner hasn’t exactly caught on with Hong Kongers, which certainly had an impact on the atmosphere. This could be a good place to start your night with a late dinner and followed by drinks out on Dragon-i’s terrace afterwards.

Starters

dragon-i-tasting-menu-dumpling-1024x683.Chili Pork Dumplingsdragon-i-tasting-menu-soup-1024x683.jpgSun-dried Scallops and Bamboo Pith Soup

The Tasting Menu for 6 began with a very traditional chilled cucumber and jelly fish starter. Though that dish wasn’t my favorite, I loved the Chili Pork Dumplings that came next. These babies were stuffed with delicious pork, were surprisingly spicy, and were a personal favorite of the evening (so much so that I couldn’t resist sneaking an extra one in before the next course). Keeping in line with a very traditional Chinese meal, we were each served a bowl of Sun-dried Scallops and Bamboo Pith Soup. Admittedly not much to look at, I really liked the rich aroma and consistency of the soup.

Mains

dragon-i-tasting-menu-beef-1024x683.jpgSliced Spicy Beef in Szechuan Styledragon-i-tasting-menu-rice-1024x683.jpgPregnant Women’s Fried Ricedragon-i-tasting-menu-chicken-1024x683.jPoached Chicken with Root Ginger

Moving onto the large sharing plates, we began with a delicious Sliced Spicy Beef in Szechuan Style. The beef was coated in a delicious Szechuan sauce with just the right amount of spice. The Pregnant Women’s Fried Rice went well with the beef, although I still find the name to be a bit odd. We were all curious about the story behind this dish. Apparently, the chef’s wife, who was pregnant at the time, would come into Dragon-i and he would prepare this simple yet fried rice dish for her that included an array of healthy ingredients. Unfortunately, the Poached Chicken with Root Ginger just wasn’t my thing. I’ve never been a fan of Hainan chicken because of the bones and skin. Thankfully, those with a more local palate were more than happy to have my share.

Dessert

dragon-i-tasting-menu-dessert-1024x683.jPapaya and Snow Fungus Sweet Soupdragon-i-tasting-menu-fruit-1024x683.jpgSeasonal Fruit Platter

To finish off our meal, we each had a bowl of Papaya and Snow Fungus Sweet Soup. The warm papaya didn’t have that strong papaya taste that people either love or hate. Though I’m still not sure what snow fungus is, I liked the overall subtly sweet flavors of the soup. Lastly, we all shared a Seasonal Fruit Platter with honeydew melon, watermelon, pineapple, and kiwi. Nothing special, but the fruit was a nice way to cleanse our palate after our meal.

Verdict

My feelings are mixed on the new dinner tasting menu at Dragon-i. On one hand, I enjoyed many of the dishes (though the menu is certainly catered to a local palate). On the other hand, the atmosphere needs a bit of work. Dragon-i at 7:00 pm was a bit too quiet and still had that ‘club feel’. But, for the price, I think it’s certainly worth a try. Especially if you plan on making a night of it.

Dragon-i’s dinner tasting menu for 6 people is a steal at HK$1032 (under HK$200 a person!).
The dinner tasting menu for 4 people is HK$688.

Dragon-i
G/F The Centrium
60 Wyndham Street
Central

Tel: 3110 1222


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This is a continuation from my previous post on the first two temples (Banteay Srei and Preah Khan) I visited during the second day of my temple-hopping adventures in Siem Reap. After having seen five temples in the last 24-hours (I went to Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm the previous day), I had three more temples to tackle: Neak Pean, Ta Som, and Pre Rup. Despite being hot, hungry, and tired, I was looking forward to cramming in a few more temples before my Cambodian adventures were over.

Neak Pean

pre-rup-neak-pean-3-1024x683.jpgThe walk to get to Neak Pean

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Neak Pean was probably the most underwhelming “temple” I saw in Siem Reap. There was practically nothing to see at the temple sight, save for a small structure in the middle of a pond. Though Neak Pean didn’t impress me at first, the history behind this artificial island is quite interesting and different from the other temples I saw. Originally used for medicinal purposes, each body of water represented the Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. It was believed that going into these connected pools would stabilize the elements within you and rid you of disease (a bit of research can certainly make you appreciate something!).

Ta Som

pre-rup-ta-som-1024x683.jpgEntrance to Ta Som

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I found Ta Som to be quite similar to Ta Prohm; the design of these temples resembled one another, both have not had much restoration done, and there were massive trees growing throughout and on top of the structures. Built in the late 12th century, Ta Prohm was certainly beautiful to walk through and wasn’t as busy the further into the temple you walked. There was also a section inside the temple where locals were selling some interesting handiworks and quite a few lovely older females who sold fruit at the entrance (can’t beat a fresh pineapple cut up right in front of you for US$1).

Pre Rup

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Pre Rup, meaning “turn the body”, was one of my favorite temples in Siem Reap. This Hindu temple wasn’t exactly large, but it was certainly high and the views were great. I sat at the top for awhile, taking in the tall structures scattered about, and the contrast between the red brick and sandstone and the bright green trees in the distance. I also liked this temple because there weren’t many tourists around, which was basically a miracle given my experience at some of the other temples. In short, Pre Rup was the perfect spot to end my last day of temple visits.

For more information on hiring a driver, entrance fees, and appropriate dress, read my previous article on Exploring Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm: Day 1 temple tour in Siem Reap


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You’ll likely need at least two days set aside to tour the temples of Siem Reap. On the first day, I toured through Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm; the three main temples that most people know about. On the second day, I went to five different temples, the first of which (Banteay Srei) is about a 45 minute tuk tuk drive away from the city center. After spending two full days visiting eight different temples, I did feel deja vu on more than a few occasions, but overall I’m glad I chose the two day tour as opposed to only one day. The temples you see on the second day are quite different than the three main temples and, except for the first temple, they were much less crowded.

Banteay Srei

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As you can probably tell from the first two photos, this temple was absolutely swarming with tourists. However, despite getting frustrated with the hoards of people, I really liked Banteay Srei. The temple was surprisingly small, built out of red sandstone with plenty of carvings still visible, and the little reflection pond on the outskirts of the temple was a picture-perfect spot (and a great way to escape the crowds for a few moments). Given the chance to do this tour again, I would probably ask my driver to go to the other temples first and this one last in order to avoid the rush of tourists in the morning.

Preah Khan

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Preah Khan, meaning “Royal/Holy Sword” is a fairly large temple that hasn’t been heavily restored (though there was a section being restored when I was there, but I was told most of the restoration work here is to maintain the stability of the structures), hence the various large trees taking over some parts of the temple (as seen in the last photo above) and ruins scattered about. I really liked the stone coloring on the inner portion of Preah Khan; a mix of greens and pinks added a bit of spark to the otherwise grey surroundings. Built in 1191, this temple originally housed almost 100,000 officials and servants.. a bit hard to imagine today!

For more information on hiring a driver, entrance fees, and appropriate dress, read my previous article on Exploring Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm: Day 1 temple tour in Siem Reap


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Having just been to Pici Pasta Bar, another of Pirata Group’s newest restaurants, I was keen to try their other new concept: TokyoLima. I heard rave reviews from friends who had tried their Nikkei cuisine (a blend of Japanese and Peruvian food), I was ready for an evening of strong cocktails, unique fusion dishes created by Peruvian Chef Arturo Melendez (formerly of Chicha), and great vibes. All of which TokyoLima delivered.

Vibe at TokyoLima

I walked through the front door to find the bar buzzing with people sipping on cocktails and happily chatting away. The dining area is quite large and has an open kitchen in the back with seating around it, while the decor is simple, dark, and modern. Don’t expect a quiet night at TokyoLima, as the restaurant was filled with loud conversations, plenty of laughter, and all-around fun vibes.

Starters

tokyolima-la-causa-1024x683.jpgLa Causa (HK$140)tokyolima-raw-1024x683.jpgHamachi & Maguro (HK$130)tokyolima-chicken-1024x683.jpg“Ki-mo-chi” Fried Chicken (HK$110)

We began our meal with Chef Melendez’s take on a traditional Peruvian terrine: La Causa (HK$140). This dish came with three small separate bowls each with a beetroot causa, prawn tartar, and charred avocado with prawn tempura on top. I loved the texture of the causa (similar to dense mashed potatoes), and the light flavors of these ingredients complimented each other incredibly well. Moving into the ‘raw and seared’ section of the menu, we settled with the Hamachi & Maguro (HK$130). The soyu citrus amplified the flavour of the fresh fish in this tiradito dish; both a light and satisfying starter. Though we may have had a relatively healthy start, that changed when we were recommended the “Ki-mo-chi” Fried Chicken (HK$110) by our waiter.  The karaage chicken thighs were great on their own and even better dunked into the spicy soy tare sauce.

Mains

tokyolima-t3-salad-1024x683.jpgT-3 Salad (HK$120)tokyolima-mushroom-1024x683.jpgPortobello & Nasu Sticks (HK$80)tokyolima-peruvian-rice-1024x683.jpgTacu Tacu (HK$210)

Though the T-3 Salad (HK$120) was under the ‘small plates’ section, this triple textured mountain of veg was anything but tiny. Piled high with pumpkin, mixed leaves, grilled fennel, tomatoes, glass noodles, and poached quail eggs, all lightly tossed in a nikkei dressing, this was an easy favourite. From the ‘sticks’ section of the menu, we tried the Portobello & Nasu Sticks (HK$80). The combination of grilled portobello mushroom, eggplant, miso mayo, charred leek, and pickled ginger may not have looked great after we mixed everything in the bowl (you’re not meant to eat them off the sticks!), but it sure did taste good. To wrap things up, we tried the popular Tacu Tacu (HK$210) dish, which had a great variation in textures thanks to the chewy Peruvian rice and veg “pancake”, the crunchy stir-fried snow beans, and the red and yellow peppers. While I loved the flavours present, this dish was a bit oily at the bottom.

Dessert

tokyolima-matcha-tiramisu-1024x683.jpgGreen Tea Tiramisu (HK$80)tokyolima-cheesecake-1024x683.jpgCheesecake (HK$85)tokyolima-chocolate-1024x683.jpgOye Papi (HK$110)

Our waiter recommended the Green Tea Tiramisu (HK$80), which was moist and lovely to look at, but I found the matcha flavor was too dull. TokyoLima’s Cheesecake (HK$85) was more of a deconstructed cheesecake with guava coulis, raspberry sorbet, and crumble at the bottom. Though my true love will always be a New York cheesecake, I did enjoy Chef Melendez’s version. The comically named Oye Papi (HK$110) was specifically meant “for choco lovers”, so we of course had to try it. While I wasn’t such a fan of the plating, the chocolate ice cream, brownie, and mousse were all good, but could be a bit more rich.

Verdict

TokyoLima’s buzzing atmosphere is a great place to go if you’re looking for a fun night of cocktails and food. The drinks were solid (order the Smoking Gun if you like negronis), and the vibe was excellent. While I’m no expert on Japanese or Peruvian food, I really liked the nikkei cuisine here (though I’d potentially pass on dessert, and instead try more savory dishes).

TokyoLima
G/F Car Po Commercial Building
18-20 Lyndhurst Terrace
Central

Tel: 2811 1152


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Pirata Group is taking Hong Kong by storm this month with two new restaurant openings: TokyoLima and Pici Pasta Bar. After the sustained success of their other Italian restaurant, Pirata, their decision to open a pasta bar in an up-and-coming neighbourhood in Wan Chai was a smart move. Pici Hong Kong’s focus is on creating authentic, homemade pasta dishes in a cozy, modern dining space. What’s more, the price of each dish is around the HK$100 mark, making for exceptional value in a city where diners often pay a pretty penny for less-than-stellar food.

Vibe at Pici Hong Kong

As I was walking up towards St. Francis Yard (an up and coming foodie haven in Wan Chai), I noticed a crowd of people gathered on the street. Initially confused at what was happening on a seemingly quiet street during the week, I quickly realized all those people were actually waiting for a table. In terms of appearance and vibe, Pici is incredibly charming. The windows at the front and right side of the restaurant open up to allow for stool seating and the tables around the main floor are cozy. If you’re looking for a bit more space, there is a small upstairs dining area as well. The design throughout the entire restaurant is filled with warm, minimalist tones, and a bit of rustic decor (stacks of old books, and black and white framed pictures). Basically, love at first sight.

Starters

pici-burrata-1024x683.jpgBurrata (HK$95)pici-salad-1024x683.jpgRadicchio Salad (HK$65)pici-meatballs-1024x683.jpgHomemade Meatballs (HK$85)

What better way to start a carb-heavy meal than with a plate of beautiful Burrata (HK$95). A forkful of creamy burrata, tomato, and rocket in a light balsamic and olive oil dressing.. heaven. We continued to be healthy (before we sampled every single pasta dish on the menu) with the Radicchio Salad (HK$65). This mountain of red and green leaves came with a decent portion of goat’s cheese and hazelnuts, tossed in a balsamic dressing. The subtle flavors, and mix of smooth and crunchy textures made this salad a great choice if you’re looking for a light starter. Not wanting to miss a chance at ordering Pirata Group’s much-loved meatballs, we couldn’t resist ordering Pici’s pork and beef Homemade Meatballs (HK$85) with tomato sauce. I can honestly say these were some of the best meatballs I’ve ever had and are definitely a must-order.

Pasta

pici-gnocchi-1024x683.jpgOven Baked Gnocchi Gratin (HK$90)pici-carbonara-1024x683.jpgOrecchiette (HK$110)pici-pici-1024x683.jpgAmatriciana Pici (HK$ 85)

Moving onto the carb-heavy portion of our meal, we began with the Oven Baked Gnocchi Gratin (HK$90). Gnocchi is my favorite pasta, however, it’s hard to find a restaurant in Hong Kong that has it on the menu, let alone makes the gnocchi from scratch. To cut straight to the point, Pici’s gnocchi did not disappoint. The tomato dressing, basil, and mozzarella were the perfect light accompaniments to the fresh gnocchi. Also known as ‘little ear pasta’, I found the Orecchiette (HK$110) with Italian sausage and spicy n’duja to be a bit too salty, but would have been a stellar dish otherwise. Surprisingly, I had never tried pici (essentially a thicker version of spaghetti) before and I quickly fell in love with the Amatriciana Pici (HK$ 85), made with pork cheek, tomato sauce, and black pepper. Despite not having much sauce, this dish was full of flavor and is a must try for every pasta lover.

Dessert

pici-panna-cotta-1024x683.jpgRaspberry Panna Cotta (HK$55)

Since we were all spilling out of our pants at this point, we settled with the lighter choice of the two desserts on the menu: Raspberry Panna Cotta (HK$55). This cup of velvety panna cotta was hands-down the best I’ve ever had and even converted some panna cotta haters at our table into lovers with one bite.

Verdict

My expectations of Pici Hong Kong were quite high coming into the evening and were all met by the time we left. Pici is inviting, cute, and cozy; perfect as a casual date spot or to catch up with a few friends. All the dishes are great value; very reasonably priced without sacrificing quality of ingredients. If you haven’t already been to Pici, what are you waiting for?

Pici Hong Kong 
16 St. Francis Yard
Wan Chai 

Tel: 2755 5523


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Having never been to Kaum at Potato Head, I jumped on the chance to make a booking for their recently re-launched weekend brunch. The menu sounded great: a variety of small dishes to start, unlimited large dishes, a dessert, and the option to add on a free-flow package with an impressive variety of drinks options (including Veuve Clicquot, mimosa’s, bloody mary’s, and more). Needless to say, I was expecting an indulgent brunch that Saturday and made sure to leave my diary free for the rest of the day (because you just never know where daytime drinking can lead in this city). I thought that the Kaum brunch was great value, at HK$395 for food and an additional HK$195 for free-flow drinks, and would highly recommend giving it a try if you like Indonesian food.

Vibe during Kaum brunch

When you first walk down through Potato Head, you’ll pass a beautiful open-space bar, a very long bench-style dining table right in front of the kitchen, and then finally Kaum’s intimate dining area at the back. The restaurant is beautiful, with intricate patterns and designs on the walls. Though I did love the look of the restaurant, I found this area to be too dark for my liking during a brunch. I would have much preferred to sit in front of the kitchen where there was ample natural light and you could get a peak into the happenings behind the kitchen.

Small Plates

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Despite looking at the menu ahead of time, I didn’t realize they served one dish of each of the five small plates to start (after which I immediately wished I had worn stretchy pants). We began with a light Gohu Ikan Tuna; marinated fresh tuna with coconut oil, lime, chili, and green apple, served with rocket, rice crackers, and kenari nuts. Moving onto something more substantial, we tried the Batagor; Javanese fried prawn and mackerel dumplings, served on a roasted cashew nut sauce. Resembling the ever-popular Hong Kong wantons, this was one of my favourite small plates to start. The Ayam Kampung Berantakan; pan-fried free-range chicken topped with crispy garlic, shredded oyster mushrooms, chilli, and toasted coconut flakes, was another winner. The lively seasoning did wonders atop the crispy skin of the tender chicken. The other two dishes included as a starter were two peanut-flavoured curries (one meat, one veg) that were equally as good, however, we felt like there could have been a bit more diversity in flavour between the two.

Large Plates

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At this point, we were ready to dive into some carbs and lapped up the (massive) bowl of Nasi Goreng Udang; fried rice with fresh prawns. Our waitress told us that the green beans were actually referred to as “stinky beans” in Indonesia because, well, they’re a bit stinky. This was definitely the case when you ate them alone, but mixed in with the fragrant rice, they were actually quite tasty. We added a bit of meat to our mains with the Babi Guling; a roasted boneless quarter baby pig marinated with Balinese style spices. The pork was succulent, but the skin on the pieces in the middle weren’t crispy enough and were tough to chew, so we left them untouched. To balance things out, we had the Tumis Keciwis; wok-fried brussel sprouts with garlic and fermented bean paste. Healthy(ish) and seriously addictive, I had to stop myself from ordering seconds.

Dessert

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Despite pouring out of my pants at this point, we welcomed dessert with open arms and full bellies. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Lapis Surabaya. The layered butter cake with pineapple preserve was dry and bland, and the lemon curd was overpowering. The burnt pineapple and mango ice cream was good, but unfortunately not good enough to redeem this dessert.

Verdict

I think that the Kaum brunch is great value. The quality of food is excellent and they did a great job of using traditional Indonesian flavors to modernize various dishes. While it may not be my first choice when the weather outside is beautiful, I would recommend popping by on a cloudy day when your belly is empty, and ready for a plethora of South East Asian delights and delicious drinks.

Price

Brunch menu (includes one serving of small plates [5 dishes], unlimited servings of large plates [4 dishes], and one serving of dessert): HK$395

Optional free-flow package (including Veuve Clicquot, Bloody Mary’s, sangria, mimosas, soft drinks, and wine): HK$195

Kaum @ Potato Head
100 Third Street 
Sai Ying Pun 

Tel: 2858 6066


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Lily & Bloom is one of the few restaurants and bars in Hong Kong that I seem to frequent. Whether it’s to enjoy a hearty meal or after work cocktails (all hail happy hour!), I can count on Lily & Bloom for a satisfying and fun evening. My most recent dining experience at Lily & Bloom was for their new a la carte menu, put together by new Executive Chef Chris Grare, showcasing a selection of small, medium, and large dishes.

Small Plates

lily-and-bloom-tuna-1024x683.jpgCured Salmon (HK$115)

If you’re looking for a healthy way to start your meal that doesn’t skimp out on flavor, try the Cured Salmon (HK$115) with horseradish, pickled beets, and caviar. I loved the bold colors and fresh flavors of this dish, but if you’re looking for something slightly more substantial, I’d recommend the Pork Belly Bun (HK$95) with a sweet and sour sauce, pineapple, and pepper. The pork belly was so tender on the inside and had the perfect crunchy exterior. Coupled with a classic sweet and sour sauce, this bao was a winner.

Medium Plates

lily-and-bloom-tartar-1024x683.jpgSteak Tartare (HK$198)lily-and-bloom-foie-gras-1024x683.jpgFoie Gras Terrine (HK$210)

To share, we started with the Steak Tartare (HK$198), which used black truffle and a mild horseradish creme to add a different dimension of flavor without overpowering the freshness and subtlety of the meat. We also shared a Foie Gras Terrine (HK$210), which, despite looking a bit lackluster on the plate, was beautifully rich in texture. The celery root slaw, quail egg, whole grain mustard, and whole grain mustard creme made this classic dish much more unique and interesting. The only thing this dish could have used was some fresh baked bread to smear everything on.

Large Plates

lily-and-bloom-lamb-1024x683.jpgLamb Duo (HK$325)lily-and-bloom-fish-1024x683.jpgSteamed Grouper (HK$315)lily-and-bloom-steak-1024x683.jpg45-day Dry-Aged Cowboy Steak (HK$1400 for 35 oz.)

My favourite main of the evening was the Lamb Duo (HK$325), which consisted of a grilled lamb chop alongside a lamb shoulder that was hiding in kataify pastry. The mashed parsley potato, mushroom fricassee, and a bit of chimichuri sauce complimented the lamb. If red meat isn’t your thing, try the Steamed Grouper (HK$315) with sauteed water spinach and a few pieces of tempura prawn. I liked that the lemongrass broth was poured over the dish at the table, but I found that the fish itself lacked flavor and wasn’t worth the price. The most impressive main of the evening was hands-down the 45-day Dry-Aged Cowboy Steak (HK$1400 for 35 oz.) that came to the table in all its massive post-grill glory before being cut by Chef Chris Grare tableside.

Dessert

lily-and-bloom-cookie-1024x683.jpgGiant Chocolate Chip Cookie (advance order)

Sticking with the theme of unnecessarily large dishes, everyone’s jaw dropped when the oh-so Instagrammable Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie (advance order) with every topping imaginable was placed on our table. The 12 inch cookie was very chewy, but it didn’t have that crispy outer layer and gooey center that I love in a fresh baked cookie.

Verdict

I’ve always been a fan of Lily & Bloom, and this new menu didn’t disappoint. While there were some dishes I’d pass on next time around, overall you can tell the ingredients are of high quality and that Chef Chris Grare has put a fair bit of thought is put into each dish. Be sure to try one of their new mocktails as they might actually be just as good (or better) than their cocktails.

Lily & Bloom 
5/F, 33 Wyndham Street 
Central

Tel: 2810 6166

 


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65-peel-beer-150x150.jpg

If you’re looking for an easy going, low-key bar with good vibes and a wide selection of local craft beer, 65 Peel 何蘭正 is your answer. I’ve walked by this popular bar at the corner of Peel and Elgin St. dozens of times, and its minimalist decor and constant buzz have always intrigued me. Whether you’re with one friend or four, 65 Peel 何蘭正 is a great place to go after work or on the weekend for a few local beers while you tuck into a plate of some delicious fried chicken and fries.

Vibe at 65 Peel 何蘭正

From the street, 65 Peel 何蘭正 has two entrance ways; one where you can see into the bar and the other where you can peak into the dining area (so long as the crowds haven’t taken over the stools lining those entrances). The staff are friendly, and the decor is cool, modern, and hip. There is seating along the bar (which I preferred when there was just two of us), smaller tables to fit up to four people, and a large picnic-esque table in the middle. To sum it up in laymen’s terms, I really, really liked the atmosphere at 65 Peel 何蘭正.

Drinks

65-peel-beer-1024x683.jpgSignature Pale Ale from LionRock Brewery (HK$80)

65 Peel 何蘭正 has a wide variety of local craft beer on tap (they had 12 different kinds when I went) that apparently rotate every few months. I loved that they give the flavour points, ABV, IBU, and what brewery the beer is from on the menu, making the already tough decision on what to order a bit more simple. They also have a long list of bottled beers if what you’re looking for isn’t on tap. The Signature Pale Ale from LionRock Brewery (HK$80) was just what I was looking for that night; something light, fruity, and refreshing.

Food

65-peel-fries-1024x683.jpgFrench Fries (HK$70)65-peel-cheese-1024x683.jpgMolten Cheese (HK$85)65-peel-burger-1024x683.jpgMini Burgers: Beef & Lobster (HK$108)65-peel-chicken-1024x683.jpgHo L Jeng Crispy Chicken (HK$92)

I often have a hard time of not ordering french fries when I see them on the menu, especially if beer is involved. Unsurprisingly, I ordered the French Fries (HK$70) with sauce bravo and aioli. Not that it’s hard to mess up french fries, but these were addictive and had a light, slightly spicy seasoning. I wasn’t expecting the Molten Cheese (HK$85) with honey and apricot to come to our table looking quite as fancy considering 65 Peel 何蘭正 has much more of a bar vibe than a restaurant. Though I did like the cheese and apricot combination, I’m not sure the plating suited the restaurant’s style. One of their new menu items was the Mini Burgers: Beef & Lobster (HK$108), which was recommended by our waiter. I had the lobster slider, which I wasn’t a huge fan of, but my friend said the burger slider was really good (#thisiswhyidontsharefood). By far, our favourite dish of the night was the Ho L Jeng Crispy Chicken (HK$92). The chicken pieces were huge and tender (you could easily pull pieces of meat off), and it wasn’t oily at all. The fried chicken here is a must order and is easily some of the best I’ve ever had.

Verdict

If you’re looking for a bar in Central where you can enjoy a range of local craft beer in a fun, but laid-back setting, I couldn’t recommend 65 Peel 何蘭正 enough. Though I wasn’t in love with a few of the dishes, I would come back in a heartbeat to enjoy a pint of beer and a plate of dangerously good fried chicken, in the funky-friendly atmosphere that 65 Peel 何蘭正 has created.

65 Peel 何蘭正
65 Peel Street
Central

Tel: 2342 2224


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angkor-wat-16-150x150.jpg

Most of you have probably heard about Angkor Wat (in fact, it’s probably the only temple – aside from the one from the movie Tomb Raider – that most people know of) in Siem Reap, Cambodia, but there are actually hundreds of temples scattered throughout the area. It’s not surprising that one of the main reasons people flock to Siem Reap is to witness and walk through these temples first hand. I would recommend spending two days touring the temples – the first of which you’ll get to visit Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom (specifically, Bayon), and Ta Prohm (the temple from Tomb Raider). Below is a guide of what you can expect on this tour; everything from hiring a driver, paying for your entrance fee, what to wear, and what the three temples are like.

Angkor Wat

angkor wat 1Hoards of tourists outside the entranceangkor wat 2The outer wall of the templeangkor wat 3Inside Angkor Watangkor wat 4A tourist-free photo inside the templeangkor wat 5A moment of serenity and reflection amid the chaosangkor wat 6Stand-alone temples found around Angkor Watangkor wat 7View from the reflection pond

Given that Angkor Wat is one of the largest and most popular temples in Siem Reap, it’s no surprise that this temple is absolutely teeming with tourists (as you can clearly see from the first photo above) at every minute of the day. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, but I really had to try to block out all of the other tourists (going over Chinese New Year was a big mistake), both mentally and literally. It’ll likely take an hour or so to meander through Angkor Wat and longer if you plan on queuing to walk up to the tallest tower in the temple (the queue was at least an hour long when I was there). Many people want to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat to get that beautiful photo in the reflection pond, but I wasn’t up for it after hearing that you literally had to crawl your way through the crowds to the front of the pond so that the thousands of people behind you weren’t in your photos (click here to see what I’m talking about). I found the sheer size of Angkor Wat to be quite impressive, but I was actually more awe-struck by the next two temples.

Angkor Thom (Bayon)

angkor wat 8Entering Angkor Thomangkor wat 9Entrance to Bayonangkor wat 10Not many people on the outskirts of Bayonangkor wat 11Wanderings inside the templeangkor wat 12Literally hundreds of people flooding into the inner-part of the temple

Upon entering Angkor Thom, you’ll find a few ruins scattered about, but it’s Bayon that everyone goes to see. The outside of Bayon seems rather plain and surprisingly didn’t have many tourists around. That’ll all changed after you walk into the inner section of the temple where there are literally hundreds of people walking about and pushing their way through the small paths around the various structures. Needless to say, even though I really did love the temple, I didn’t last more than 20 minutes inside.

Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider Temple)

angkor wat 13Entering Ta Prohmangkor wat 14Walkway to the inner part of the templeangkor wat 15Massive spung trees found growing out of the ruinsangkor wat 16Colorings on the stone

The last temple we went to visit on our tour was Ta Prohm, otherwise known as the temple from the Tomb Raider movie. Surprisingly, it didn’t seem like there were as many tourists wandering about, but that might have been because there were quite a few nooks and cranny’s you could get lost in while wandering around. What sets this temple apart from the other two were all of the spung trees coming up from the ruins throughout the grounds. While they certainly give the temple an added wow-factor, we were told that they’re actually damaging the temples. You’ll likely leave Ta Prohm with a strong urge to (re-)watch Tomb Raider.

Hiring a driver, entrance fees, and appropriate dress

Hiring a driver:
There are quite a few options you have in terms of getting to and around the temples. First, you need to decide whether you want to go on an actual tour (usually organized by the hotel you’re staying at) or if you want a private driver. Given the reasonable price, I would recommend hiring a private driver, as it gives you the freedom to go at your own pace and to stop anywhere you may be interested in along the way. Next, you need to decide whether you want a taxi or a tuk tuk to take you around (the taxi being more expensive). I really enjoyed taking a tuk tuk around, and felt it added to the whole experience, though in some parts it was a bit bumpy and dusty. Prices were USD$15 for this tour on a private tuk tuk and USD$30 for a private taxi.

Entrance fees: 
When I went, the prices were USD$20 for one day or USD$40 for three days (there are no two-day passes). However, as of February 1st 2017, a one day entrance pass is USD$37 and a three-day pass is now USD$62. Your driver will take you to the building to buy your entrance fee before you head to the temples. Be warned; it’s crammed with tourists and you get your photo taken, which goes on your temple pass card.

Appropriate dress:
Be aware that there is a dress code when entering all of the temples in Siem Reap. Women must cover their shoulders and wear pants or a skirt that  covers their knees. Men are okay to wear shorts, and both females and males are allowed open-toe shoes. They are quite strict about peoples’ dress – I saw a woman wearing a skirt that was a bit above her knees and a security guard told her to pull it down. I also heard stories that wearing a tank top and draping a scarf around your shoulders or wearing shorts and tying a sarong around your waist was not okay.

Did you have a similar experience at these temples? Let me know what you liked or didn’t like when you went on this temple tour!


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bizou - cheese2

Admittedly, I walked into Bizou skeptical of how the evening would pan out. Primarily because I’m slightly skeptical of restaurants that are located inside malls (even really nice ones), Bizou’s claim to be an “American Brasserie” was confusing, and it’s yet another Dining Concepts venture. By the end of the evening, my wariness had long passed; the restaurant had a comfortable-sleek atmosphere, the majority of dishes were superb, and I would venture to say that Dining Concepts has certainly stepped up their game and attitude towards opening restaurants. Lesson learned: don’t judge a book (restaurant) by its cover.

Vibe at Bizou

Taking over the spot where Grappa’s used to be in Pacific Place, Bizou has spruced up the interior with a dark, minimal look through the wooden walls and sleek furniture. Bizou has also taken advantage of the large lobby space and used it to expand their “outdoor” dining area. Despite this, I still couldn’t help but feel a little odd sitting down to enjoy a nice dinner inside a mall (I’m sure the vibe during lunch is much more buzzy), so I’d recommend getting a table inside the actual restaurant and not out in the lobby area.

Starters

bizou - octopus1Grilled Octopus (HK$158)bizou - cheese2Fried Camembert Cheese (HK$148)bizou - salad2Brussel Sprout Salad (HK$108)

We were off to a good start when we ordered the Grilled Octopus (HK$158) with crispy potatoes and green Chile mint hummus. The octopus was firm, without being too chewy, and the hummus added a more complex flavour to the dish. Despite having every intention to have a healthy-ish dinner, I couldn’t resist ordering the Fried Camembert Cheese (HK$148), because who wouldn’t want to devour a block of oozing, warm cheese?! The unexpected addition of cloudberry preserves (still no clue what ‘cloudberry’ is) was the perfect slightly sweet pairing with the otherwise savoury cheese. To counteract the mega-calories in the fried Camembert, we ordered the Brussel Sprout Salad (HK$108), which wasn’t what we expected: the salad came out completely shredded (no whole brussel sprouts here). While I did enjoy the flavour combination of the parmigiano, lemon, olive oil, and oregano, I wished that the description on the menu was a little more clear.

Mains

bizou - steak29 oz Aged Grass-fed Filet (HK$288)bizou - chicken2Organic Crispy Flat Iron Chicken Breast (HK$188)

We ordered two different meat selections from the menu, the first of which was the recommended 9 oz Aged Grass-fed Filet (HK$288) with red miso butter, an apricot grain mustard marmalade, and a baked purple yam on the side. I actually found this steak to be seasoned and cooked so well that it really didn’t need the addition of a marmalade or any other sauce. The cut melted in your mouth and was cooked to a beautiful bloody medium-rare. Moving away from the red meat, we tried the Organic Crispy Flat Iron Chicken Breast (HK$188) on top of a bed of potato puree.  I really liked the addition of gailan (a Chinese vegetable), which gave the dish a bit of a local flare. The chicken was tender and juicy, and had me wishing my stomach was a bit bigger (note to self: lay off all the starters).

Dessert

bizou - chocolate2Gooey Chocolate Cake (HK$98)bizou - dessertt_Butterscotch Budino (HK$78)

Despite being utterly stuffed, the dishes on Bizou’s dessert menu looked far too good for us to pass up. We began with an indulgent Gooey Chocolate Cake (HK$98) with an interesting lemon-cumquat marmalade, whipped ricotta, and fried sage. These ingredients went surprisingly well together, helping to round out the richness of the chocolate. After seeing the Butterscotch Budino (HK$78) at another table, we had to try it. Though it looked quite small, the pudding was incredibly rich and creamy, and the salted caramel was absolute perfection; after only a few bites we were all completely satisfied.

Verdict

Though I had a few initial reservations about Bizou, I left the dinner absolutely stuffed and incredibly content. The atmosphere inside the restaurant was relaxed without being “mall casual”, and the complex and contrasting ingredients in each dish were executed with finesse and complimented each other surprisingly well.

Bizou
Shop 132, L1 Pacific Place,
88 Queensway
Admiralty 

Tel: 2871 0775


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ham and sherry - brunch

The newest brunch offering in Hong Kong is at Ham and Sherry; the quaint Spanish tapas restaurant in Wan Chai with a whole lot of personality. The a la carte menu is reasonably priced, with most dishes around HK$98, and the staff ensured my glass of bubbly was never empty. Trying to separate themselves from the plethora of other brunch spots in the city, Ham and Sherry offers diners a selection of Spanish tapas to share, alongside free-flow cava and Estrella, every Saturday and Sunday.

Tapas at Ham and Sherry

ham and sherry - migasMigas (HK$98)ham and sherry - toastieJamon Toastie (HK$88)ham and sherry - scotch eggsScotch Eggs (HK$88)ham and sherry - meatballsMeatballs (HK$128)

We began with a traditional Spanish dish called Migas (HK$98), comprised of croutons (typically it would be pieces of stale bread), chorizo, chili, scrambled eggs, and grapes. Having read this on the menu, I was certainly intrigued at how these ingredients would compliment each other (or not) as a whole. I’m glad I ended up trying it, as it was an interesting mix of flavours and textures. The Jamon Toastie (HK$88) with Spanish cheese and truffle honey was recommended by our waiter (even though our eyes were already all over that dish). Though it may not seem like much at first glance, the simplicity of the melted cheese and truffle honey was heavenly. Since I’ve never had scotch eggs before (you’re free to judge), I ordered the Scotch Eggs (HK$88) with chorizo and piquillo pepper. I found the sauce to be a bit overpowering, as I couldn’t taste much else. To finish up, we just couldn’t resist ordering the Meatballs (HK$128), which came in a bravas sauce with manchego cheese. These meatballs were great; juicy, saucy, and cheesy.

Dessert

ham and sherry - churrosChurros (HK$58)ham and sherry - creme bruleeCreme Catalan (HK$58)

In typical ‘thisgirlabroad’ fashion, I couldn’t end brunch without some dessert. First up, we tried the  Churros (HK$58) with a chocolate sauce. I really liked the churros by themselves, but surprisingly wasn’t a huge fan of the chocolate sauce. Everything about the Creme Catalan (HK$58)  was divine: a thick, creamy, and smooth custard with a crispy burnt-to-perfection top. I would venture to say this was probably one of the best creme brulee’s I’ve ever had.

Verdict

I really enjoyed the brunch dishes at Ham and Sherry and, of course, the free-flow cava. I felt the tapas were reasonably priced and the portions, although they appeared quite small, were very filling. That being said, the vibe and atmosphere during brunch wasn’t quite there; it feels like a place you would go to for dinner, not somewhere you’d go during the day.

Ham & Sherry 
1-7 Ship Street
Wan Chai 

Tel: 2555 0628


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rambutan resort siem reap - pool

Rambutan Resort Phnom Penh is located in the BKK1 district of the city; about 4 km south of the Night Market. The resort is gay-friendly, and exudes a mix of modern and local Khmer design with bright colors that really make the place pop. The staff are incredibly friendly and the rooms are large, equipped with beds so comfortable you’ll have difficulty getting up in the morning. Overall, the resort is quite quaint and there’s a certain charm about the whole place that I still can’t quite put my finger on.

First Impressions of Rambutan Resort Phnom Penh

rambutan resort phnom penh - lobbyLobbyrambutan resort phnom penh - diningLounge/Dining Area

The first thing I noticed when I was dropped off in front of the resort was how open the layout was; the lobby, restaurant, bar, and pool area are all attached without any dividing walls, giving Rambutan Resort Phnom Penh an immediate warm, welcoming vibe. Though the resort itself isn’t overly large, there’s a sweet charm about the place; almost as if you’re staying somewhere familiar. I loved the unique contrast between the concrete floors and walls, and the brightly colored decor that adorns the furniture. Rambutan Resort has a funky, minimalist vibe that really does appeal to all.

My Room

rambutan resort phnom penh - bedroomBedroomrambutan resort phnom penh - bathPrivate outdoor garden/bath

My room was located on the ground floor, nestled beside the restaurant, and had a secluded outdoor garden with a lovely large bathtub, which I certainly took advantage of (though be sure to bring bug spray, as there were quite a few mosquitoes at night). The bedroom itself was spacious and had a comfortable double bed with all the amenities you might need. I also really liked the separate spacious shower with a rain shower head (my favourite). The fun modern painting above the bed added a bit of spunk to the room while the cement flooring made for the perfect contrast in decor.

Facilities

rambutan resort phnom penh - restaurantView from the restaurantrambutan resort phnom penh - poolMain poolrambutan resort phnom penh - barBar

The layout of Rambutan Resort Phnom Penh was great; everything was within close quarters and I loved how open the design was. The restaurant and bar overlooked the pool, and was an ideal spot to enjoy breakfast in the morning and a cheeky cocktail as the sun began to set. The pool may look ordinary enough, but it’s actually a salt water pool (basically, god’s gift to blondes) with ample surrounding lounge chairs. Staff were always visible, were willing to help, and had smiles plastered on their faces.

Breakfast

rambutan resort phnom penh - breakfast

The breakfast menu was fairly large, with a variety of western and Asian dishes. Most hotel breakfasts I’ve been to serve up relatively small portions, so I would often order a number of dishes from the menu. Rambutan Resort, however, had insanely large portions, which I was actually warned about prior to ordering. I ordered one Asian dish and one western dish that were both beyond satisfying. The Banh Shung; fresh Vietnamese noodles with minced pork in a Khmer dressing, was absolutely delicious and I would highly recommend trying it if you don’t mind noodles for breakfast. I also tried the muesli with dried fruit bits, watermelon, banana, mango, and yogurt, which was huge and one of the best granola mixed breakfasts I’ve had in awhile.

Overall Thoughts on Rambutan Resort Phnom Penh

I walked into Rambutan Resort and immediately got the impression that it was fun, fresh, and welcoming.. and I left thinking the exact same thing. I really enjoyed my stay here and would recommend the resort for everyone; I saw families, couples, and singles while there. Though the location is a bit further out from the riverside and markets, it is close to other attractions, like the Prison Museum and the Russian Market, and offers visitors a glimpse into a less chaotic side of Phnom Penh.

Rambutan Resort Phnom Penh
#29, Street 71
BKK1
Phnom Penh 
Cambodia

My stay at Rambutan Resort Phnom Penh was on a complimentary basis thanks to the hotel, but rest assured, all views and opinions are sincerely my own. 


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templation siem reap - pool

Understated luxury might be the best way to describe Templation Hotel Siem Reap. This hotel sticks out among the hoards of accommodation choices in Siem Reap thanks to its unique and indulgent atmosphere without that feeling of pretentiousness you might get at other big name hotels.  From the moment you step into Templation Hotel Siem Reap, you’ll be surrounded by a sense of tranquility; a true escape from the noise and crowds of the city center and the perfect place to retreat to after a long day touring the temples around Angkor.

First Impressions of Templation Hotel Siem Reap

templation hotel siem reap - lobbyTemplation Lobbytemplation hotel siem reap - loungeLounge Areatemplation hotel siem reap - barTemplation Bar

My slight frustration at getting lost while trying to find Templation (which, to be fair, is a bit off the beaten path) immediately dissipated the second I walked into the lobby; from the smiles of the friendly staff to the beautiful minimalist decor, it was basically love at first sight. Templation Hotel Siem Reap exudes a wow-factor without being over the top and it’s clear that much attention to detail went into the overall design. The layout is all open space and welcoming, and the color choice in various furniture and art creatively highlight certain areas of the hotel. Within about one minute (and before laying eyes on my room) of being at Templation, I knew I was going to appreciate every second of my time here.

My Private Pool Villa

templation hotel siem reap - pool villaPrivate Pooltemplation hotel siem reap - roomBedroomtemplation hotel siem reap - living roomLiving Roomtemplation hotel siem reap - bathroomBathroom (from main bedroom)templation hotel siem reap - bathroom 2Bathroom (from main bedroom)

I’m not sure words can accurately describe how incredible my room(s!) was at Templation, so I’ll let the photos above do most of the talking. Needless to say, my private pool villa was over-the-top and completely exceeded any expectations I had before arriving. When I entered the door to my villa, I was graced with a stunning pool with two separate bedrooms on either side. The main bedroom itself was lovely and simple, but the bathroom was utterly unexpected. The design of the bathroom was open concept, had a massive bathtub (which could have been mistaken as a miniature pool), and a waterfall shower. The other room can be both a living/common area or a separate bedroom, which would be perfect for families, as the couch folds out into a bed and there is also another bathroom attached to this room. Need I say more?

Facilities

templation hotel siem reap - poolThe main pool at Templationtemplation hotel siem reap - poolsideSitting area by the main pool

The facilities at Templation Hotel Siem Reap are excellent, to say the least. If you’re staying in one of the villas that don’t have a private pool, the main pool is stunning and is shaped in such a way that it has plenty of areas where you can still be relatively secluded. The restaurant is large and open,  there is also a more casual sitting area right next to the pool, and the bar is simple but lovely (don’t forget to pop by for happy hour). If you’re looking to take relaxation to the next level, Templation has a spa on site and they offer a free 15-minute massage to each guest (yes, please!).

Breakfast

templation hotel siem reap - breakfastBreakfast spreadtemplation hotel siem reap - restaurantRestaurant

Breakfast was certainly plentiful. You’re able to choose one set (western, continental, Asian, or local) and then two specials which consisted of a variety of western and Asian dishes along with fruit, juice, and coffee. I sampled a mix of local and western cuisine and some of my favourites were the eggs benedict, and fresh spring rolls with a peanut sauce.

Overall Thoughts of Templation Hotel Siem Reap

Templation Hotel Siem Reap is the perfect getaway for couples and families who are looking for more of a secluded stay while still remaining within the heart of the city. The hotel is a great spot to spend a few nights (though you’ll certainly want to stay for more) relaxing and indulging in all that Templation has to offer. You’ll be in good hands at Templation with the caliber of service and facilities offered, and I promise you won’t regret choosing to stay at Templation when in Siem Reap.

Templation Hotel Siem Reap 
Rok Rak Street, Modul 3
Phum Sla Kram
Siem Reap
Cambodia 

My stay at Templation Hotel Siem Reap was on a complimentary basis thanks to the hotel, but rest assured, all views and opinions are sincerely my own. 


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pavilion hotel phnom penh - main pool

If you’re looking for a hotel that’s in the heart of Phnom Penh, but doesn’t come with the crowds and loud noise, The Pavilion Hotel is your perfect spot. Nestled just off a friendly street, this hotel exudes French colonial charm and an incredibly welcoming environment. The staff are wonderful, the value for money is exceptional, and the atmosphere is a whole is hard to beat. Overall, The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh was the perfect place for me to start my holidays in Cambodia; I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

First Impressions of The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh

pavilion hotel phnom penh - walkwayWalkway into the hotelpavilion hotel phnom penh - lobbyHotel lobby

Don’t expect a big sign with “The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh” written on it when you arrive. Instead, there’s a small door just to the right of their little storefront. The moment I stepped through the door, it was as if I had entered a new world; from the busy, dusty, and noisy city streets to a private, quiet oasis. Filled with greenery, the lush open front boasts a beautiful pool and a handful of surrounding private lounge areas. The service is exceptional and a welcome lime drink, sticky dessert rice, and a cold towel was served upon arrival. Every guest also received a complimentary 25-minute massage, which you should definitely take advantage of.

My Room

pavilion hotel phnom penh - bedroomBedroompavilion hotel phnom penh - balconyBalcony

I stayed near the front of the hotel in a suite that housed a common area with a sofa, a very large balcony with a small table, chairs, and a sofa lounge, and a quaint room with a TV and desk. In the bedroom, the bed was done up with lovely flower petals all on it, and there was some fruit and two complimentary bottles of water on the desk. The bathroom was fairly standard and came equipped with basic toiletries (shower gel, shampoo, and soap). Overall, I was more than happy with the room.

Facilities at The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh

pavilion hotel phnom penh - main poolMain Poolpavilion hotel phnom penh - pool 2Second pool at the back of the hotel

As mentioned, The Pavilion Hotel has a main pool at the front of the hotel where the restaurant and bar are, with a handful of private lounge areas (each one fits two lounge cushions) to the one side of the pool. If you head to the back of the hotel, you’ll find another pool with surrounding lounge chairs and a small bar where you can order food and drinks. The hotel has a lovely French colonial lobby area and a spa if you’re wanting to treat yourself. Be sure to catch the sun slowly setting by the pool with a drink in hand; it’s the perfect way to wind-down at the end of a long day exploring the city (or a day of being lazy by the pool).

Breakfast

pavilion hotel phnom penh - breakfast

It’s always a bonus when the hotel you’re staying at offers a decent complimentary breakfast, and The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh is no exception. Breakfast is served from 7:00 – 10:00 am and it literally says on the menu, “order anything, as many times as you like”, which just about won my food-loving heart over. My favourites from breakfast were the fresh passion fruit juice, and the muesli with banana, honey, and homemade yogurt.

Verdict

If it wasn’t already obvious, I loved my time at The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh (so much so, that I literally didn’t leave the hotel grounds while I was there!). The hotel offers guests a unique experience that other larger hotels just can’t. From the beautiful French colonial design and humble rooms, to the friendly service and well-rounded facilities, The Pavilion Hotel Phnom Penh made for the perfect stay in Cambodia.

Note: The Pavilion Hotel only allows adults 16 and above to stay there (three cheers for no children running and screaming around the pool!).

The Pavilion  
227, Street 19
Phnom Penh 
Cambodia 

My stay at The Pavilion Phnom Penh was on a complimentary basis thanks to the hotel, but rest assured, all views and opinions are sincerely my own. 


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dodam chicken

While I never got caught up in the KFC craze that took over Hong Kong, I figured it was about time to give it a try. Dodam Chicken, a popular restaurant in Korea, has recently opened up in Causeway Bay. Their chicken is meant to be healthier because it’s cooked in temperatures above 400 degrees, removing excess fat. Now, I’m not sure how true this actually is, but I’ll take just about any excuse to make myself feel better about eating excessive amounts of fried food.

Vibe at Dodam Chicken

I’m continuously fascinated by how many of Hong Kong’s restaurants are located on the numerous floors inside buildings, of which you would have no idea they existed unless someone told you. Dodam Chicken is no exception. Located on the 18th floor of restaurant-heavy Lee Theatre, the restaurant is very spacious with a casual atmosphere. The only thing I didn’t like about the dining area was the two large TVs in the restaurant, which gave it a bit of an American pub feel.

Starters

dodam chicken - saladDodam Salad (HK$128)dodam chicken - pizzaDodam Pizza (HK$148)

We started with the Dodam Salad (HK$128), which looked underwhelming, but ended up tasting great. Albeit an odd mix of ingredients that I still can’t quite wrap my head around (corn, pepper, pineapple chunks, and cashews in a creamy sauce akin to thousand island dressing), the combination worked perfectly. The Dodam Pizza (HK$148) was also recommended to us (there seemed to be a trend of incredibly vague names for their dishes). They may need to change the name of this dish, as this wasn’t exactly the pizza I was expecting. It’s more like two thin crispy flat breads with melted cheese inside and the rest of the ingredients piled on top. Though I had my initial reservations, I loved this bizarre “pizza” and ate more than my fair share of slices.

Mains

dodam chicken - sweet n spicyDodam Sweet & Spicy Chicken (HK$188)dodam chicken - white onion chickenBoneless White Onion Chicken (HK$188)dodam chicken - platterDodam Special Platter (HK$298)

Moving onto the main event, my expectations were quite high for their signature chicken, which is baked in a pizza oven, then roasted in an oven, and finally fried (seems like far too much effort, if you ask me). We got our gloves out (’cause apparently that’s how you eat fried chicken in Korea) and dug right into the Dodam Sweet & Spicy Chicken (HK$188). While I did like the flavour and tenderness of the chicken, the pieces were not consistent: some pieces had ample chicken, whereas others had far too much bone with only a little chicken. Everyone at our table agreed that their favourite was the boneless White Onion Chicken (HK$188). Again, I was skeptical because of the peculiar presentation (could do without all those onions on top), but the chicken pieces were juicy and soaked up all the delicious creamy sauce. Hands-down the strangest thing all evening was the Dodam Special Platter (HK$298), which was comprised of french fries (including those smiley fries I begged my mom to buy me as a kid [to which she blatantly refused]), fried chicken, melted pumpkin cheese, and garlic toast with cream. The fried chicken was sprinkled with sugar, giving it an interesting sweet/savory mix, and the garlic toast with cream was also an odd combination that worked. I’m almost embarrassed to admit, but everything on this platter was weirdly good.

Verdict

While I do think Dodam Chicken has a bit to improve upon, I was surprised with how much I enjoyed our somewhat strange dinner. Go to Dodam Chicken if you’re looking for no-frills comfort food with some funny ingredient combinations that actually work.

Dodam Chicken
18A Lee Theatre Plaza
99 Percival Street
Causeway Bay

Tel: 2333 8365


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cafes in sydney - lumiere

Sydney is a city known for its cafe culture; from pouring incredible flat whites to avocado and feta on sourdough, the cafes here will forever change your standards on brunch. Since there are endless cafes scattered throughout the city, you may be slightly overwhelmed with choice. Below is a list of my favourite cafes in Sydney after eating my way through the city for two weeks.

1. Cafe Mint

cafes in sydney - cafe mint

My favourite non-western cafe was Cafe Mint; an all-day tiny yet welcoming Middle Eastern spot in Surry Hills. I fell in love with the Baked Eggs with Chackchouka (AUD$15.90); a North African dish of eggs baked with onion and tomato (be sure to add the feta and eggplant), and za’atar toast to soak everything up. If you prefer eating outside, Cafe Mint only has two small tables, so try to go at an off-peak time.

Cafe Mint
579 Crown Street
Surry Hills

2. Lumiere Cafe & Patisserie

cafes in sydney - lumiere

Lumiere Cafe & Patisserie was my favourite western brunch spot while in Sydney that I just so happened to stumble upon. There is plenty of outdoor seating and the cafe is bright and open. If you like a slightly sweeter brunch, the melted provolone cheese, maple bacon, roast pumpkin, homemade bacon jam, and two poached eggs on soy & linseed bread (AUD$19) not only is your perfect #eggporn Instagram snap, but it was incredibly delicious and filling.

Lumiere Cafe & Patisserie 
425 Bourke Street
Surry Hills

3. Pioik Bakery

cafes in sydney - pioik bakery

Nestled on Harris Street in Pyrmont is where you’ll find Pioik Bakery, specializing in Egyptian breakfast and baked goods, as well as other popular bakery favourites. The brunch menu is short, but the must-order dish is their Egyptian Breakfast (AUD$13) consisting of a soft boiled egg, shanklish, tomato, parsley, and coriander with manoush bread. On your way out be sure to grab a dangerously good almond sugar-dusted croissant.

Pioik Bakery
176-178 Harris Street
Pyrmont 

4. Porch and Parlour

cafes in sydney - porch and parlour

Porch and Parlour is a well-known cafe in Bondi with a rustic feel to the restaurant and a fitting laid-back vibe. The menu offers your typical Australian healthy brunch fare, so naturally, I went for the least healthy option, the B.E.R.T.A: bacon, egg, rocket, tomato, and aioli sandwich (AUD$16). The grilled haloumi salad (AUD$20) is also a good choice if you would rather not be carrying a food baby around on the beach.

Porch and Parlour 
17-18/110 Ramsgate Ave.
Bondi

5. The Boathouse

cafes in sydney - the boathouse

The vibe at The Boathouse in Shelly Beach, Manly is fantastic; open-concept, plenty of outdoor seating, and decor to really suit their location just steps from the beach. I think I may have liked this brunch spot more because of its location as opposed to the food, but I do think it’s worth checking out. I ordered the avocado, tomato, and feta on sourdough (AUD$18) which was massive and satisfying, save for the burnt edges.

The Boathouse 
1 Marine Parade 
Manly (Shelly Beach)


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bondi-coastal-walk

Bondi is arguably Australia’s most popular, well-known beach, so paying a visit to this long stretch of golden sand and crystal blue water is a given when in Sydney. While spending the day basking in the sun on Bondi would be a day well spent, putting your walking shoes on and doing the Bondi coastal walk to Coogee should not be missed. This scenic walk takes you along the coast, past six beautiful beaches, and a number of other Instagram-worthy viewpoints. I did the Bondi coastal walk twice while in Sydney and would have done it again if I’d had the time.

Below is a list of all the beaches you’ll see as you make your way along the Bondi coastal walk to Coogee. The walk is around 5 km and takes about 1.5 hours one way, but I’d tack on a bit of extra time for photo-taking, simply enjoying the views, and swimming at some of the beaches. The walk is also incredibly easy to navigate; there are signs throughout and you literally just follow a paved path the entire way (meaning no chance of you getting lost).

Bondi Beach

bondi-coastal-walk-bondi bondi-coastal-walk-icebergs

Bondi Beach is your starting point for the Bondi coastal walk to Coogee. Make your way towards South Bondi and continue to follow the walking path past Icebergs (second photo above). You’ll likely see quite a few people decked out in the latest Lululemon attire and/or fellow tourists with cameras hanging off their neck.. Just follow this crowd if you think you’re lost.

Tamarama Beach

bondi-coastal-walk-tamarama

Tamarama is the second beach you’ll pass after about 15/20 minutes of walking from Bondi. The beach is quite small and has a cute cafe (where we stopped for a flat white to go) on the far side as well as a relatively large grassy park area behind it.

Bronte Beach

bondi-coastal-walk-bronte-beach bondi-coastal-walk-bronte

The next beach, Bronte, is right around the corner from Tamarama and is much more popular with locals and tourists alike. Though not as big as Bondi, it is bigger than Tamarama and has an ocean pool (second photo above) at the far end. One thing I do like about Bronte is that there is a section of water along the beach that is surrounded by rocks, which means no waves crashing into you as you’re wading out into the water.

Waverley Cemetery

bondi-coastal-walk-waverley-cemetery

Normally, the Bondi coastal walk would take you along the coast of the Waverley Cemetery, but because of storms this past June, the walkway is closed off. Instead, the detour takes you right through the cemetery, which is actually home to many important and prominent individuals, hence the intricate, unique, and large gravestones throughout.

Clovelly Beach

bondi-coastal-walk-clovelly-beach bondi-coastal-walk-clovelly

Clovelly Beach, despite being quite narrow, has ample pavement space along either side of the water to sunbathe on. Though maybe not the most comfortable, it certainly makes for much less of a sandy mess when you get home and you can just dive right into the water from the edge.

Gordons Bay

bondi-coastal-walk-gordons-bay

Halfway between Clovelly and Coogee is where you’ll find Gordons Bay. Though it may not look that nice in comparison to the other beaches, the waters are calm and there’s more of a chill no-kids vibe here.

Coogee Beach

bondi-coastal-walk-coogee

The last beach along the Bondi coastal walk is Coogee Beach, which I found to be quite similar to Bondi, just not as big. There are a few restaurants and cafes along the beach as you first walk in, as well as plenty more up and down the streets across the road. One thing I loved about Coogee Beach? You’re allowed to drink alcohol on the grass area behind the beach (just not on the actual beach). One thing I didn’t love about Coogee Beach? Because of this, there were tonnes of bottle caps and broken pieces of glass scattered along the grass area.


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