Chez Dré – South Melbourne

I went back home for a short trip and for RX to finally experience Australia. It was a long 2 year wait before I went back; partly because my parents are no longer there, but also because there are so many other new holiday destinations near Singapore that I wanted to save my limited annual leave and hard-earned moolah for.

We went on a whirlwind trip around the east coast; from Sydney to Canberra to Melbourne to Brisbane; and other towns in-transit. This wasn’t an easy feat to achieve in just 2.5 weeks without a car to adequately cover everywhere I wanted to go!

I didn’t really like Melbourne when I went there 5 years ago; maybe it was something to do with the fact I went in the middle of the bitter winter temperatures?! And I didn’t really get to do much tourist/foodie exploring that time as I was only visiting family. So I was a bit of a Melbourne snob, dismissing it as just a pretentious hippy city… I had always liked Sydney more: the temperatures are nicer, there’s more of a metropolitan buzz, and my grandma is there so it’s always been like my home base in Australia (even before I migrated over).

IMG_0333

My second trip back to Melbourne and I have officially found my ideal foodie paradise. I am being serious, the food there is ah-ma-zing. I only had a few days there but I stuffed myself silly… and I came across my favourite brunch place in the whole world (no kidding). Chez Dré came as a recommendation from many of my Melbournite friends so I knew I had to try it, and boy am I glad I did. It’s a Francophile atmosphere with ingenious sweet and savouries inspired from France and made with local produce. Opened by patisserie chef Andrea Reiss, their pastries are excellent, with a huge variety of tarts, madeleines, gateaux and macarons. Come early if you don’t want to miss out on the best ones though as they may sell out quickly!

IMG_0470

After a short trip on the tram from the CBD, we reached the quaint area famous for the South Melbourne Markets. Chez Dré is immensely popular and we had to wait for about 15 minutes before we got a seat (it was a weekend morning…).

IMG_0471

The interior is grand and classy chic yet with a warm cosy feel and inviting breezy atmosphere. There is a curved design of the open kitchen for all of its patrons to stare in amazement, and beautiful window displays of the dainty desserts it is well-known for.

IMG_0475

My friends and I (all of them who were formerly Brisbanites; my old high school friends 🙂 ) decided to choose from the dizzying array of desserts staring at us as we were waiting for our friend to arrive. All the petits gateaux (small cakes in French) are priced at $9.50.

IMG_0472

Our first pick is the pretty strawberry & vanilla fraisier: orange financier, vanilla mousse, basil-olive oil biscuit, strawberry jelly. It was a great juxtaposition of textures and flavours, with the contrasting tang of strawberry and orange layers and sweet creamy goodness of the vanilla and crunchy biscuit.

IMG_0477

Sacher Torte is a chocolate mousse and apricot gelee on a chocolate sponge base, fresh apricot, gold leaf with a white chocolate curl on top. This was good quality chocolate mousse, light and airy yet creamy, with a pleasant apricot fragrance.

IMG_0480

GREEN TEA CHEESECAKE: RASPBERRY CRÉMEUX, ADZUKI BEANS, GREEN TEA MOUSSE, GIANDUJA SABLÉ

I have found my favourite dessert ever, it is the green tea cheesecake here. Absolutely amazeballs. The base is addictive, being extra crunchy and nutty compared to your typical buttery graham crackers. The cheesecake itself was not like any other cheesecake I had; it was not the firm cheesy type that I usually like, yet it was not the mediocre creamy mousse types that I don’t like; it was luscious and light with a rich matcha taste. The core embraced a cluster of the speciality hazelnut chocolate (gianduja) and adzuki red beans, and the dollops of raspberry cremeux just worked together so well to create a sublime dessert. I just can’t get over it!

IMG_0482

The pastries on the wooden board it was supposed to be presented on 🙂 My friend wanted it packed in the cardboard takeaway box for some reason haha. IMG_0484

Roasted eggplant and buckwheat salad ($18.50): Smoked eggplant puree, wild rocket, pomegranate molasses & rose water vinaigrette, dukkah and spelt flat bread. I loved this breakfast item I had. They may not have it anymore as it was seasonal special, but it tasted delightful, with the smokey undertones of the moreish eggplant contrasting against the clean cut and tangy pomegranate and vinegar. I loved their spelt flatbread too, being much thinner and airier than a typical pita and a more wholesome taste too (I love breads that use grains other than the typical wheat). It may have been vegetarian, but it was very satisfying.

IMG_0489

?Persian spiced tomato soup with fish – I honestly forgot what it was called haha and can’t find it on the menu. But it tasted like assam… trust the Singaporean to choose this! It was basically fresh fish fillets cooked in a hot stew with onions, garlic, parsley, turmeric, chilli, tamarind, coriander and tomato (similar to the ingredients of assam). Clean and fresh tasting with a twist of sourness from the tamarind/tomato, RX enjoyed this stew more than I did.

IMG_0488

The peach and mint house-made iced tea ($6.50) is also recommended, being refreshingly light, natural peach and minty fragrance and just the right amount of sweet. I got the last order as they had run out of ingredients to make anymore! And the ice cubes were cute big spheres. 

IMG_0492

Yep, I think Chez Dré is the best brunch I’ve ever had in my life.

Chez Dré
Rear of 285-287 Coventry St, South Melbourne, Australia
Tel: +61 3 9690 2688
Opening hours: Mon to Sun 7:30 am – 4:30 pm
Website: http://www.chezdre.com.au

Advertisements

Feast in Hong Kong (Feb 2009) III – Restaurants Part 3

Here is the long-awaited (not that I am implying anybody is waiting for it!) second half of the restaurant series in Hong Kong. This is 2623 words long, over the word limit for my current assignment on privatisation of health services. (seriously, how do they expect me to discuss such a complex issue indepth with such a constraint of word limit, when I can easily write so much about something as simple as eating!??)

Lamma Mandarin Seafood Restaurant (Peach Garden Seafood Restaurant 世外桃源海鮮酒家) (Lamma Island)

If you’re a nature lover in need of a respite from the metropolitan buzz of downtown Hong Kong, the outlying archipelago are the perfect sanctuaries. Only a short boat cruise away, peaceful scenery, meandering hiking trails, quaint villages, traditional farming fields, charming fishing boats, with not a car in sight and fresh seafood awaits you. Enchanting historical remnants of Hong Kong have been preserved in these isolated old-world islands.

Pretty ain't it?

Pretty ain't it?

One such island is Lamma Island 南丫島. Departing the ferry, you are greeted with a continuous strip of seafood restaurants, all overlooking the harbour with plastic dining tables and fluorescent lighting. Rows of fish tanks piled one on top of the other cover the shopfronts forming square mosaics, some even have underground pools, and I wonder if there have been anybody careless enough to step into them?! Competition is fierce among the restaurants, and the waiters always advertise (pester) passers-by.

The Rainbow Seafood Restaurant is traditionally the most eminent, with their windows adorned with a photo entourage of celebrities ranging from Joey Yung to Martin Yan, and I do remember last year, the meal I had was very delicious. However, my dad insisted that it was overpriced and so went to this restaurant instead, which has a very interesting name: (translated) Otherworldly Peach Garden Restaurant. We were lucky enough to procure a seaview table, and despite the discouragement of the waiter, we got the set meal for three (I didn’t know why they said the set meal isn’t good: later my aunty explained that of course they wanted us to order separately since they would make more profit!).

lammaislandseafood1

lammaisland2The whole meal costed around $HK300+ from what I remember. It had several dishes, some of which I have forgotten. There was garlic and chilli prawns (prawns were so flavoursome!), deep-fried garoupa (amazing: super crispy batter with a tender meat), fried rice (most people can make fried rice, but only the skilled can make it taste really good), whole crab (sauce wasn’t anything special, but crab was fresh… I don’t like poking, prodding, cracking and sucking the meat out of the shell though!), and the standard dish of vegetables (lettuce I think). In the end, we finished off by ordering an abalone dish: $HK30 each abalone, which came in its shell with a simple sauce and dried tangerine peel. I didn’t think I would like it, but it was

Abalone

Abalone

so succulent yet chewy textured, and a wonderfully light seafood sweetness, complemented perfectly with dried peel (even though I usually hate that!). So if you’re looking for a fresh, exquisite seafood dinner, look no further than Lamma Island.

Food Republic (Tsim Sha Tsui and Taikoo Shing)

(another review)

A chain of food courts that originates from Singapore, Food Republic is inspired by local hawker fare (Wikpedia, 2009): an impressive variety of ‘fast food’ stalls from a wide array of cuisines. Not surprisingly, there is HK cuisine and other regional varieties of Chinese cuisine, but also Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Indian…  Typically, I spend over 30 minutes walking around trying to make a decision from the abundance of choices, especially because it seems like all the outlets are of high quality and relatively cheap.

Amos and I had been walking around the Art Museum in TST and figured this place would be great for a cheap feed. This time, I had Japanese pancake and foodrepublicomusoba, around $HK25-40 (the price has completely slipped out my mind). It was very tasty, but the Japanese pancake was pre-made and not hot, and consequently not soft enough, but filled with tasty cabbage and other fillings. I love the cute bonito flakes that squirm around like a gymnast’s cloth swirling around over the lingering warmth, and one must admit it is hard to go wrong with something as deliciously simple as omusoba (ketchup and Kewpie mayonaise helps too 😉 ).

Le Petit Bistro (Sham Shui Po)

Escargot

Escargot

Tucked into a street that gives an industrial atmosphere, this French restaurant is owned by my aunty’s relatives (again!). Not exactly authentic French food, but I hear that some of the ingredients are sourced from France, and the cosy atmosphere makes it a pleasure to dine in. The set menus are the best value: soup, entree, main and dessert for $HK80?, with cream of spinach (not cornstarchy, but made with real cream!)/tomato boullion (I do remember eating a mussel broth last year which was fantastic), pan-fried duck breast salad/escargot atop mashed potato for entree (not the most photogenic of foods, but it’s tasty, and not slimy at all!), a large range of hearty mains (many pastas, I ordered a creamy fettucine), and dessert of which I highly recommend the baked chocolate mousse: slightly charred, chewy layer that cracks to reveal a hot, creamy and airy sighs of chocolate mousse within; it’s a delightfully enchanting treat. Other picks include butter-sauteed button mushrooms (butter and herb go together like (wait.. thinking of a witty analogy here… yes…still thinking…), okay.. you know what I mean…

lepetit2

Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 (Tsim Sha Tsui)

dintaifung

As a sequel to my trip to this acclaimed restaurant chain in Sydney, my foodie aunt brought me to Din Tai Fung in Tsim Sha Tsui, the only one store in Hong Kong. The decor was not as embellished as Sydney’s, being less modern and more traditional, and it was located on the top floor of the shopping centre which they exploited with a continuous wide window offering a panorama of the multi-storeyed building from above.

A word of advice: come early to avoid the rush! We arrived at 12 or so, and it must have been a slow day, because there were actually seats remaining the hour later when we left, unlike Sydney where there was a long queue (the restaurant here was, smart of them, much larger than Sydney’s). Browsing the menu, we decided to (of course) order the signature xiao long bao, as well as some other dishes. Xiao long bao was just as good as Sydney’s standards (if not better… I don’t know, that’s what you can probably assume considering Hong Kong is supposed to be more expert when it comes to food?), but the highlights for me were the other foods.

din-tai-fung

A very distinctive entree was the ‘shredded special vegetable and tofu’ (translation is probably off), which wasn’t offered in Sydney’s branch. Tiny pieces of minced firm tofu and the ‘special vegetable’ (don’t even know the name in English! Must be a rather rare plant) flavoured with sesame oil and adorably moulded as a dome. The taste was very unique, resembling the dintaifung3taste of spinach, but with a slightly crisp texture rather than gooey (it’s not raw), the mouthfeel was great: cold and refreshing with a big surface area to savour the sensation. Taiwanese-style dan dan noodles came next: a neat bundle of lai mein (拉麵) surrounded with a rich, spicy peanut sauce sprinkled with ground peanuts. It was a lovely explosion of intense peanut flavour, with sweet, spicy, savoury and nutty notes playing together. I really lked the smoothness of the springy noodles and the silky, sticky sauce that coated it. One thing I recommend though, don’t ask for ‘less spicy’ unless dintaifung41you can’t tolerate any heat, because there was hardly any hotness to it. The cute coral-shaped dumplings in the picture are “Sticky rice and pork mince siu mai”, which were very interesting, but because we had so much to eat we had left it to cool for a few minutes, which made the skin a little tough. I thought it was nice anyway, a very novel dish. We also had a hot and sour soup which I didn’t take a picture of, which tasted very authentic (spicy!). Lastly, we ended with a sweet note of black sesame dumpling, which was recommended over the red bean dumpling that my aunty said wasn’t good. The black sesame dumpling was cut into three (as we were all stuffed after finishing the savoury), exposing the hot, molten black sesame paste enclosed in the bun. The paste was just right: rich, smooth yet slightly gritty with finely ground black sesame, with a very aromatic black sesame kick.

dintaifung5

Presentation was impeccable, as would be expected with an award-winning restaurant, food is of a consistently high standard (no matter which country you visit!), and price is reasonable.

Tsui Wah Restaurant 翠華餐廳 (Central, Causeway Bay, Aberdeen, Tsuen Wan, Tsim Sha Tsui)

(another review)

tsuiwahThis chain of restaurants is perhaps the epitome of typical no-frills chain of cha chan teng in HK. The menu is very extensive, exemplified by the countless sheets of different menus scattered haphazardly underneath the glass slide of the table, with lots of set meals of rice and noodles. My second aunty brought me here to sample their signature pork chop crispy bun and crispy bun with condensed milk ($20? and $12 respectively). Made tsuiwah2with extra large dome-shaped halves of a bun very similar to the “English muffins” you’d find in Australian supermarkets or McMuffins (slightly chewy bread dusted with a little powder) enhanced with toasting it to a lovely crunch with browned edges, and sandwiched with flavourful pan-fried pork chop, mayo and lettuce, or slathered with generous pools of butter and condensed milk. Cut in half, they make for a nice shared lunch with a friend, the ‘main’ and the ‘dessert’ made from the same base!

Super Star Seafood Restaurant 鴻星海鮮酒家 (Wan Chai, Causeway Bay)

This chain of restaurants is quite famous in Hong Kong as serving high-class fine Chinese food, winning many local culinary awards. I have been to the Causeway Bay (Times Square) and Wan Chai restaurants, both of which have the highly embellished theme characteristic of fancy Chinese restaurants. Excuse the lack of photos; the presentation of the dishes were very winsome, but I was with a large group of family and thought it might be strange if I took pictures of the 15+ dishes we ordered!

We were greeted with their iconic appetiser of crispy deep-fried whitebait fish, while the menu boasts a dazzling array of bizarre, exotic, decadent delights, including this (warning: picture may frighten!), like shark fin, abalone, fish maw, sea cucumber and stone fish. Perhaps feeling not so adventerous, my dining companions ordered more down-to-earth dishes that seemingly never-endingly came in a banquet-like fashion, like a claypot stew with vegetables and beancurd sheets (so tasty! I love beancurd sheets), deep-fried fish soaked in thick sauce (a bit too much batter for my liking), scrambled egg whites with large succulent prawns (smooth and light-tasting), yi mein (Chinese E-Fu egg noodles 伊麵) (just the right texture), and the star of the night (for me anyway): braised pomelo skin with scallops or some other sort of seafood. I say ‘some other sort of seafood’ because it was the pomelo skin that shined through! It is oh-so-nice, with an amazingly melt-in-mouth tenderness, flavoured with an oyster sauce that gives some savoury to the otherwise bland taste of pomelo skin. I tried to look up a recipe on the net, and apparently it involves scraping the yellow rind off, soaking in water for a few days, occasionally squeezing it to render the spongey  toughness to a more pulpy texture, and then braising with oyster sauce.

Each main dish costs around $HK75-$170. The banquet was concluded with yet another banquet of desserts: a sweet soup of glutinous red rice and coconut milk, the usual platter of fresh cut fruits, New York cheesecake (creamy and cheesy) and steamed creamy (molten) egg custard bun. The custard bun was lovely, hot and truly had a molten liquid core of smooth creamy, eggy custard, enclosed in a soft bun (that was yellow! usually it’s white).

custard-bun

I even had the honour of having a souvenir to take home: my aunty gave me 5 packets of their crispy whitebait, with various flavours of original, curry, tomato, spicy, and seaweed (my favourite), bulked with super crunchy peanuts. I later saw that they sold it in supermarkets too! Best of all, this is not considered contraband by customs, despite being an animal product.

Kowloon Tong Club Cafe (Kowloon Tong)

View from another part of building

View from another part of building

Apparently Bruce Lee used to live in this wealthy, expat-dominated classy suburb. The buildings here are considerably shorter and classier than the tall, homogenous skyscrapers in the less wealthy areas, with only 2-4 storeys high. This modern, exclusive club reflects the prestige of the suburb, with beautiful fountains on the side of the entrance, and swanky, hotel-like decor, which (I think) only membership would permit entry to. Walking along the corridor adorned with framed paintings leads to the restaurant/cafe.

tuna-kowloon

I heard that the Hainan chicken rice here is very good, but I ordered a set menu (around $HK100?) of entree with grilled tuna salad and fettuccine with cream sauce and cured salmon. The tuna was a bit dry and the edible bones maybe increased its throat-tickling factor, but maybe tuna itself is a fairly dry fish especially when grilled. The pasta was nice, cooked al dente (unlike the soggy cream-pasta-kowloonstuff that Canto restaurants make) with lots of cream sauce (look at the pool!), capsicum, mushrooms, and the cured salmon, although very salty, gave a nice texture and contrasting piquancy cut the richness of the sauce. I also ate some wonton noodles which tasted excellent, the wontons filled with plump juicy prawn and meat, and the noodles sufficiently springy, and a cake which was light-textured.

Jade Leaf Desserts 玉葉甜品 (Soho, Central)

(other reviews)

jade-dessert1

One of the few remaining truly authentic dai pai dongs (大牌檔) in Hong Kong, this adorably unpretentious sidestreet food stall is on one of Soho’s many steep slopes, making the seating uncomfortably slanted. This place would probably be a local’s secret, as I’m sure any tourist may be a bit put off by the scruffiness, and indeed it was my cousin who brought me here. The little ‘shed’ is located adjacent to the outdoor no-frills dining area with fold-up stools and tables barely shielded from the elements by an overhanging fabric canopy.

jade-dessert

The stall sells a range of quintessential Hong Kong goodies like sweet soup and noodles, all priced at a bargain of $HK7 (hot) sweet soup, $7.50 (cold) sweet soup (thought it was strange that the nicer one would be more expensive, but figured that refrigeration costs money), and less than $20 for other savoury meals (which the shop is also quite popular for).

海帶綠豆沙 (seaweed green bean soup) was very nice, the thick strips of smooth seaweed imparting a gentle flavour and slippery texture to the soup. 香草綠豆沙 (herb green bean soup) which was served cold, tasted a bit weird to me, maybe because I don’t particularly like herby tastes in sweet food, and I also think that sweet soup tastes better hot since the sweetness and flavour is jadedessertmore strongly detectable. My cousin found a piece of newspaper in the soup, but a waiter was happy to replace. I think they use newspaper somehow in the preparation process, like they did in the old days before food sanitation was a worry, but I’m not too alarmed, since everything is made the traditional, home-style method; there are much worse things that could have come into contact with food! 芝麻糊 (black sesame soup) tasted as if the black sesame had been a little burnt, but not too much so, and the texture of the gritty black sesame was just right, not watered down. The 糖不甩 (“sugar won’t come off’ literally translated) ($HK8) hot, chewy, plump glutinous rice flour balls coated with desiccated coconut, sugar and white sesame seeds, tastes so good, but then this is also something easily emulated at home. The tong sui (sweet soup) were a little on the sweet side, and they are made in a crude manner, probably resulting in many inconsistencies in the cooking, but that’s what sets it apart as authentic from the generic ‘dessert food stalls’ in shopping centres. It’s also a lot in part to do with the experience of eating at a traditional HK stall with all the old-world charm: my cousin said that by the next time I visit Hong Kong, this stall may have closed down already (because ownership can’t be transferred to other family’s hands. or something along those lines)!

Feast in Hong Kong (Feb 2009) II – Restaurants : 四點金潮州料理 Four Golds Chiu Chow Cuisine Restaurant

Answer to previous post’s question: compressed dried wood ear 木耳.

My dining companion was my aunty, whose husband’s relatives own this restaurant. Like I said before, my mother’s family’s heritage is Chiu Chow, and I don’t know if it’s because it’s ingrained in my genes, or because anybody with a tongue would concur, but Chiu Chow cuisine is awesome. It seems like most Chiu Chow people have still remained connected to their roots: of the many of my Chinese friends, I only know the heritage of those who hail from this region (even if the ancestry was a hundred years ago!)! And indeed, why wouldn’t you be proud of such heritage, especially when it boasts subtle and delectable food that is also espoused as being one of the healthiest of Chinese cuisines ?

You’d expect that with two dining companions, there wouldn’t be much variety, yeah? We actually ordered, in much excess, six dishes and, amazingly, we managed to stuff more than half of that into our stomachs. Located a distant walk from the MTR station, in an unassuming street of Yau Ma Tei, this small restaurant has a cosy feel with warm-tinted decor. The menu is filled with an extensive array of authentic Chiu Chow dishes, and we sampled the most famous ones.

First up were the appetisers, which technically speaking, aren’t really Chiu Chow exclusively: jellyfish and chicken salad, and goose liver. Very tasty and light as they were cold, and the goose liver was, fortunately, not as pungent as I had remembered; perhaps the slight tang of the sauce countered the richness (which would usually be overemphasised in a dish like foie gras). Then came the deep-fried tofu, which I don’t think words can do justice. I don’t know what the batter they used was, but it was so crisp and crunchy, unlike any other ordinary batter I’ve tasted that goes soggy after a while. Have a look at the picture, the patterning is so cute, it’s like a coral! The dish came with a bowl of ‘broth’ (maybe it’s just salty water with spring onions) with which the tofu is dipped in, much like tempura; probably to reduce the 熱氣 (‘yit hei’: heatiness). Even after dipping the tofu in the stock, the batter retained its unique crunchy, ridgey texture, and actually made it taste nicer since the tofu itself was quite bland, and the salty spring onion broth gave it more body (the juices exude out from the crunchy skin that gave depth to the taste and mouthfeel). This was my favourite dish, and even though it’s a well-established fact that anything deep-fried will taste great, this version puts all other batters in the world to shame.

Next came the congee (潮州糜 Chiu Chow mue). I’m very familiar with this since my mum often created her own rendition by putting rice into Chinese soup, and I sometimes liked to do that too. Chiu Chow mue is different from Cantonese congee in that the rice still maintains their integrity and the soup is not as viscous: basically, just like putting cooked rice into soup, as apparently many Chiu Chow families do!  But the soup that was served was much more full-bodied and flavourful with a delightful combination of meaty baby mussels, gobbets (oh my gosh, don’t accuse me of being the bio nerd I am, but I accidentally typed in ‘goblet’, as in the goblet cells of the respiratory tract that secrete mucus…yeah, just ignore all that 😉 ) of mince pork, dried salty fish, some kind of preserved vegetable and spring onion, all of which infused flavour throughout the soup while the character of each still remaining intact and not boiled to death like many Cantonese people like. I do not like congee, but this delicious dish might just make me a convert.

And yes, the most well-known and integral dish of any Chiu Chow banquet, oyster omelette (蠔烙). I had actually tried it before, in Brisbane! I also really like this dish, but I can’t really put my finger on what was missing in this one, maybe not enough herb? Nevertheless, with the texture of the omelette and generous servings of succulent oysters, I still loved it.

The last dish we had doesn’t quite share the same acclaim as the oyster omelette, but not deservingly so! 潮州糖醋麵 (Chiu Chow sugar vinegar noodle) are orange-coloured Chinese egg noodles (伊麵 yi mein) pan-fried to crisp perfection and sliced much like a pizza, then topped with dark vinegar and granules of sugar (very typical Chiu Chow idiosyncrasy: a friend of mine also of this heritage said her family also sprinkles sugar onto everything! (eg. toast, bread, yam…)). The flavours don’t sound right but it complements each other in a strangely appetising way, and the sugar granules gives an extra nice crunch to the crispy noodles. This is probably a dish that could be easily made at home (and I will!)

Some other samples from the menu which looked enticing include 韭菜餜 chive dumpling, which are chopped garlic chives enclosed in wrapping shaped like a disk and always cutely stamped with a pink dot, other varieties include radish or peanuts: steamed and sauteed for crispiness. I believe this was my mum’s family’s favourite childhood snack, and my uncle still goes back to Hong Kong to buy these from markets to bring back to Australia. Google searching this (as I do), I was surprised to find no pictures so I decided to upload this from my Sydney trip (after my uncle transported them, of course). I never knew this was such a rare delicacy!guo

A dessert dish I remember is the taro coated in sugar (very nice, and it is easy enough to be cooked yourself). And the cost? Honestly I don’t remember, but it ranged somewhere between $HK30-$70 per dish.

This may not be the most renowned Chiu Chow restaurant in Hong Kong, but if you’re just craving for a little pecking for this wonderfully delicate and hearty cuisine at reasonable prices, I would recommend it (but then again, I’ve never given a bad review. If you’re a picky eater, you’d know by now I make a terrible food critic :D).

Feast in Hong Kong (Feb 2009) I – Restaurants

Can you guess what this is? Answer will be revealed in later post.

funny1

As per usual, my holiday in Hong Kong involved eating. Lots of it. I was only there for 1.5 weeks, but here are reviews of some of my dining out experiences for February 2009 (13 restaurants: and this excludes snacks! which will be in a separate post). Okay, I’ve decided to separate this restaurant section into two posts, because I’m too lazy to write so many reviews in one go.

Café Royce- SOGO Causeway Bay

This is my second visit to this elegant little restaurant located on the bottom floor of the icoic SOGO department store. It is a little expensive (a meal with drink and dessert over $HK100), but the quality is well worth the value. From memory, there’s a selection from Japanese and Western cuisines, bento boxes, unagi fried rice and pastas. I ordered a spaghetti with salmon and roe in cream

royce1

sauce, which was a unique combination of Japanese and Western ingredients, and I love how the tangy, flavourful juices that squirt out the tiny roe mixes with the rich, equally flavourful cream. And unlike other many other HK Western restaurants, the sauce wasn’t forming a pool under the spaghetti. Their signature dessert dish is the bread and butter pudding, which has a crispy top with a moist interior with raisins.

breadandbutter1

Café de Coral 大家樂, Maxim’s MX 美心MX and Fairwood 大快活

I write all three rival stores because they are all popular ‘fast food’ chain restaurants that sell cheap, generic HK meals (and also because I forgot which one I went to :P). Fairwood used to have a clown logo and green design back when I was still living in HK, but they’ve redesigned it so it’s more aesthetically appealing, and I only just realised that they are the same stores while looking it up on Wikipedia!

The stores are dotted all along the commercially-dense areas in HK. The price range of the dishes are from $HK25-$40. The restaurants sell a variety of cuisines, Chinese being the main one and also Western and Japanese. I used to (and still am!) a little confused how the system of ordering works, but I think I’ve figured it out. You look at the menu board and choose a dish, go to the counter and order (hoping very badly you won’t say it wrong in Chinese!), where they will give you a receipt. Take the receipt to the other obscure counter inside the store (usually located adjacent to where the roast meats and meals are prepared), and then you wait with a bunch of fellow diners for the display screen to flash your number/waiters shouting the number on the receipt (note: there are many numbers on the receipt. See why I say it’s confusing for a non-HK local!!??). I think that if you order the Chinese roast meats, you have to line up separately in another queue. Then you pick up the dish on the counter that is much deserved after all that befuddlement.

cafedecoral1
The restaurants are good for the Chinese roast meats (duck, char siu, soy sauce chicken) with rice and boiled choy sum. Other dishes include ma po tofu, curry, spaghetti bolognaise (while searching for their menu, I found it amusing that the Cafe de Coral and Fairwood websites are filled with corporate and business-related topics rather than their food) etc. I was really craving Baked Pork Chop over Fried Rice, and that familiar taste did not disappoint, of crumbed deep-fried pork chop over a bed of egg fried rice with a sweet tomato sauce slightly charred in the oven.

Pokka Café

pokka1
A sophisticated chain of restaurants serving Japanese and French inspired fare. I fondly recall coming here often with my mother as a child, but I didn’t actually eat there this time round. They are located in the trendy and upmarket shopping precincts. Their windows always display enticing miniature plastic renditions of the dishes. I remember their cube toast dessert was very luscious and pretty (yes, even 8 years after, I have good long-term memory).

Café MED – Langham Place, Mong Kok

I only just noticed that HK Western cuisine restaurants really like to exploit the word “Café”. Anyway, I’m not even sure if this is the correct name of the restaurant, but it is located in the upper floors of the massive Langham Place. cafemed1The food was really good with a modern atmosphere. I had squid ink spaghetti with grilled chicken breast fillet and tomato sauce (look how black it is!! Usually it’s grey-ish.. I wonder if it’s because of food colouring or generosity in putting in more ink?). The chicken was so nice and very smooth (smoothest chicken breast I’ve tasted), the tomato sauce complemented the chicken well, the spaghetti was coated in lots of oil and cafemedfish1garlic. I don’t think ink spaghetti tastes much different to normal spaghetti, it just looks adorable, and a bit rich and creamy. My friend had a baked fish fillet in spinach cream sauce over rice, it looks really tasty and probably something that could be re-created at home.

四點金潮州料理 Four Golds Chiu Chow Cuisine Restaurant – Yau Ma Tei (Review)

My aunty’s husband’s relative owns this restaurant so we went here for lunch. I must say I absolutely loved everything, and it’s much cheaper than those Chiu Chow gold-class restaurants in HK. Call it bias, but because Chiu Chow is my heritage (on my mother’s side) and because we had so many delicious dishes, I want to reserve an individual post for this. 🙂

Australia Dairy Co. 澳洲牛奶公司 – Jordan

australiadairyco
This is a very famous tourist spot of HK. Funny to say but I’ve never actually been there even having lived in HK for 11 years. What is even more funny to say is that I leave Australia to go to HK to eat at an “Australian” dairy place (whether it really is Australian dairy is another issue). After stuffing ourselves silly in the Chiu Chow restaurant, my aunty decided I need to stuff even more food into me during my short stay. My aunty and I waited outside in a long queue (which is, apparently, always present), but the amazingly efficient service of the pacing waiters meant we only had to be patient for a few minutes. We went to a small table which we shared with two other patrons. The place is positively bustling with hordes of customers and waiters whom probably get more of a workout in their shift than going to a gym. I hear that their scrambled eggs are amazing, but we had steamed egg custard instead. There are two varieties: the plain egg white pudding or the whole egg almond juice pudding. Even though I thought the whole egg one (with egg yolks included) would taste richer and therefore, nicer, I actually preferred the egg white pudding; the light texture is delicious and lets the subtle flavours of egg white and milk shine through, but the whole egg pudding is quite interesting too, with notes of almond essence and is very creamy.  According to my aunty, the pudding has been watered (or milked) down a bit from the last time she came, but I couldn’t tell, and even though it is quite a ‘watery’ pudding, it’s good because it melts in your mouth and is super velvety. Australia Dairy Co. is cramped, their service is abrupt, but their food is wonderful. Oh, and according to my Aunty, a HK celebrity was eating there right next to us, I don’t know his name, but he’s a middle-aged TV actor, a little on the plump side… Pretty famous, for a celebrity to frequent.

australiadairy

Sydney Eats

After having indulgently splurged on eating out everyday during my holidays, I made a note of all the restaurants/places I ate at while in Sydney.

Australian fare

Pancakes on The Rocks

pancakes21The Rocks is a suburb (with a funny name, if you ask me) in inner Sydney that is a historical and tourist hub. I heard about this restaurant from my mum, who lived in Sydney while she was studying university. It’s a lot like the Pancake Manor (or Parlour, or whatever the perpetual name-changing has resulted in), but I’m guessing this is the original Pancake restaurant chain of Australia. The food there was quite good, I ordered a pancake stack with syrup and ice cream, and the cakes were thick and fluffy. pancakes1Interestingly, a friend commented it tastes like there’s custard in it. We also ate a pizza which tastes much better than the fast food version, and I tried the BBQ pork ribs, which wasn’t spectacular, I think it was just marinated with the bottled BBQ sauce. However, I think people go there more for the atmosphere than anything. It’s housed in a beautiful historic building, but without the dingy atmosphere of Brisbane’s Pancake Manor. The top level was busy with modern subdued lighting and the rush of waiters, but downstairs was an alarming contrast, with homey decor and lighting, without the commotion upstairs.

Establishment (CBD)

establishmen1

Overlooking the business precinct of George St, classy businesspeople in suits come here for an upmarket meal. Reflecting the clientele, the interior is elegant, glamarous and grandeur; with a see-through ceiling (like that awesome room in Hey Arnold!), majestic columns, and spacious tables. The food is beautifully presented and a culinary delight. I had a Thai grilled chicken with sweet chilli sauce with salad and rice. It was a generous and a splendid meal for $16. My cousin had a chicken schnitzel which was crispy and freshly fried.

establishment

Hurstville RSL Chinese Bistro

Very good quality food. Only in Sydney have I seen the cuisine of Asian-Western fusion (“international”), that serve Western food staffed by Chinese people. This is one of them. For $20, you get a very generous set meal of soup (the cream of mushroom soup was very nice, no doubt they used real cream rather than cornstarch), salad (sun-dried tomatoes, greens, olives, chicken), a main (I chose grilled chicken or something), and a dessert (unfortunately, the ‘dessert of the day’ was only a simple fruit salad) and drink (Chinese milk tea please). Very good quality food, attentive service, and a nice casual atmosphere to boot.

Pavillion Hotel (CBD)

Apparently the Thai food here is good. They advertised on a sign outside “$6 lunch special” which is a good deal if you ask me!

Excelsior International Cuisine (Kogarah)

This is another one of those restaurants like the above. Probably not quite up to the standards of Hurstville RSL club, but very good nevertheless. For $18, you also get a soup (their cream soup was nowhere near as creamy as the RSL club), an appetiser (deep-fried prawn with a salad… it was crispy and fresh), a main (I chose Thai Green Curry with chicken, which was good, and served with a choice of rice or potato gratin), and dessert (Chinese people really haven’t mastered the art of Western dessert-making… it was a weird ‘chocolate jelly’ which just didn’t taste right), as well as a drink (milk tea as usual… when I ordered the waiter asked “Chinese or Western style?” and I was like.. what’s the difference? Apparently, Chinese milk tea contains evaporated milk rather than ordinary milk. No wonder I like it so much better!)

Japanese

Kagaya (Hurstville)

Japanese restaurants owned by non-Japanese people have a bad rap. And I must admit I had this sentiment, but after coming here, I was a convert. On arrival we got some complimentary ‘noodle salad’ which was nice. Most people order the set menus for two as it’s the best value and a huge array of food. Dinner sets include teriyaki, tempura, and.. well I forgot the rest. 😛 An approximately $35 meal sample consists of: Sashimi or Sushi, Agedashi tofu or chawan mushi, Beef tataki or yakitori (3 pieces), Chicken teriyaki or beef teriyaki, Miso soup, rice, Green tea ice cream and Japanese tea. As you may suspect by now, it could feed three or four people. The food was very good: the sushi and sashimi was very fresh, the steamed egg was silky soft, the tempura was light and airy (the sweet potato was particularly good)…it is very good value!

Sushi-Ya (Artarmon)

Located right next to a train station, this little arcade is surprisingly tranquil and probably a hidden gem. You can tell it’s a Japanese hub: two Japanese supermarkets and two big Japanese restaurants. Earthy and unpretentious, we were seated in a little deck with plastic sheets to shield the elements. We went on a rainy day and didn’t get wet, but there was a little gap in one little corner and if there had been someone sitting there they would have been soaked! Luckily a waiter resolved the problem. The sushi was very fresh, and had a very large variety. The hot dishes were also pretty good, I ordered an una-don which was absolutely humungous, and for the first time (in a long time) I actually didn’t clean my plate. The fillet was about 25cm long and on a bed of rice 30cm long 10cm wide, this could feed two or even three people. Anyway, the eel was very nice, grilled perfectly without much burning. It was served with yellow, soft, sweet-sour tasting little shreds of curiosity. It’s a very good and down-to-earth restaurant. But the tempura isn’t their specialty, it was a little stiff and oily; as the name suggests, the sushi and sashimi are probably a better choice.

unagi

Takeya Japanese Sushi Bar + BBQ (Coogee)

Located in the beautiful beach Coogee Bay (much undervalued when compared with iconic Bondi, its “award-winning hotel” infamous for the faeces-contaminated ice cream!), this Japanese/Korean restaurant offers a cosy refuge from the wind and rustic sand. My uncle and I tried the Bento Boxbento-box at $20. We both ordered teriyaki, chicken for him and fish for me. It was a good sampling of everything: gyoza dumplings deep-fried, sashimi and sushi, miso soup and teriyaki fish. It’s not spectacular, but delicious nevertheless. The tea there uses real green tea leaves (gasp!) and some roasted brown rice, lending an oily film on top and a slightly burnt nutty fragrance (I’ve tasted them before, it’s called “genmaicha” it must be an acquired taste), it was funny because with my uncle’s wacky sense of humour, he was saying how we were drinking the leftover rice from other diners’ meals. haha.

Ichiban Boshi Japanese Noodle Shop (CBD, The Galleries Victoria)

This is popular with Asian locals looking for a cheap meal. The ramen is very good and very generous, with a simple fast-food style interior. Their neighbour is a very good Japanese bookstore Kinokunya. Apparently they have a sister store in The Gold Coast (the restaurant that is).

Yoshinoya (CBD)

I walked past this shop and reminisced about last year’s holiday in HK. Super cheap Japanese fast-food style, better than Brisbane’s popular Hanaichi. Their gyudon bowl was only $5.35.

Aijen Ramen 千味拉面 (CBD)

Sydney is lucky to always be the first Australian city to get all the new stores. This is one of them, a chain restaurant that I often see in Hong Kong. I have been told the soup is laden with MSG, but hey, that’s not surprising for an enterprising Asian food shop is it? *update* There is a store now in George St, Brisbane City.

Pepper Lunch (CBD)

Located right in the hustle and bustle of George St, I passed this numerous times, but never had the chance to try it. It is another chain restaurant serving Japanese-style steak meals.

Chinese

Din Tai Fung (CBD)

dintaifung1din-tai-fung

This chain restaurant is famous worldwide for their xiao long bao, but most of the other dishes were delicious. The interior decor is very ingenious: walls that were filled with plates and steaming baskets (behind perspex of course!), and ambience was contemporary. Most impressive was the glass walls of the kitchen, where you could peep in to see masked and gowned dumpling-makers swiftly and diligently creating the dumplings to painstaking precision. The menu had pretty pictures and recommendations starred, and there were instructions on how to eat a xiao long bao! When they arrived, I cautiously picked them up with chopsticks, wary that the delicately thin skin would burst and a whole explosion of soup and pork would ensue. But it stayed intact until I bit into it and the sweet soup came flooding out. It was tasty, but after my mum left a bit of the soup on her spoon, it was kind of scary to see a whole layer of fat hardening on the surface. We could also detect some MSG. Well, this isn’t exactly the sort of place you’d come to if you were going to be pedantic about health. Some underrated dishes that I thoroughly enjoyed were the cucumber salad (the sour-spicy dressing suited the coolness of cucumber), the vegetarian delight (a mix of seaweed, dintai-fung1with tofu strips, bean sprouts and glass noodles drenched in sesame oil, the crunchy and chewy balanced well, and the flavour was delicate), the fried rice (distinctively delectable; short grain rice, buttery with morsels of egg, prawns and capsicum), drunken chicken (I didn’t particularly like it because it tasted like rose-essence wine which I don’t like), century egg with tofu and pork floss (really unique, the flavours melded beautifully; the egg was perfect with a rich, creamy yolk), hot and sour soup… While it’s pricey, the food is great, and probably more to do with the experience of going to one of the “Top 10 restaurants of the world”.

Sunny BBQ Restaurant (Hurstville)

Typical cha chaan teng style, with the usual Chinese menu scribbled over the hurstvillewall and Chinese roast hanging intimidatingly for the world to see. Grandma and I ordered hot and sour soup (good, but a little too thick with cornstarch), udon stir-fried with chicken and black pepper (saw it several times in Sydney, must be all the rage. It was light and tasty, but something you could make with equal success at home.), and deep-fried dough sticks wrapped in rice noodle rolls (The dough sticks were a little chewy (as expected since it would have been softened by the moist rice noodle roll, but I liked it. Maybe because I’ve been deprived of dough sticks in Brisbane, such tasty fluffy things!). Best of all, it’s cheap!

Delight Dim Sim (Hurstville)

I ate here a long time ago, and was surprised to see it was recommended as a good Chinese restaurant in a Sydney foodie book. I ate the usual stir-fried noodles: char kway teow, dry-fried beef noodle.. and it was delicious, with good ‘wok hei’ and not too greasy, just as good as Hong Kong’s standards. They also sell frozen dim sim to cook at home. The shop is small and simple, but the food is great.

BBQ King (CBD)

Sadly, I’ve never actually eaten here, but I was told that my dad really liked this place when he was studying at University of Sydney. It is also renowned as a good place to buy Chinese roasts.

Palace Chinese Restaurant (CBD)

Leaving the best to the last, this has to be the best Chinese food I’ve eaten in Australia. Such an outrageous claim, you would only believe if you went there and had a taste yourself. It is truly mind-blowingly exquisite. The Chinese soup scallopwas nice, without any MSG taste, and full of fresh melons and meat. Entrees came, scallop placed on top of its shell in a light sauce, beautifully tender and flavourful. Then came Pork Ribs in Special Peking Sauce, tender pork coated in a sticky film of slightly numbing sweet and sour sauce. The beef fillet was also very tender, without a tinge of tenderiser/baking soda aftertaste, which the waiter boasted was because they use a special cut of beef (probably the most expensive). Dessert was the usual sweet soup and Chinese pastries/cakes. The interior design has all the trimmings that one going to an acclaimed Chinese restaurant would expect. Apparently their Yum Cha is award-winning, but I’m sure whatever comes out of this kitchen would be good enough to impress any gourmet.

Other Asian

Satang Thai (Haymarket)

This is the sort of place that only locals would know about. I went there with A.F. while we were in search of lunch. Its setup is quite interesting: the kitchen is about double the size of the eating area, and I have heard this saying that the bigger the kitchen:eating area ratio, the better the food. We ordered a Pad Thai (to share, because we weren’t hungry), and all the choices are very inexpensive. We were seated in the very cramped table with two seats, but it was good and cosy service: chopsticks and condiments were on the table free to use as many as you liked, and when asked for an extra bowl we weren’t met with scorn. Halfway into eating the waiters seemed to have realised the patrons would be thirsty and poured us glasses of water. The food is good and authentic.

Sweet Treat

lindt1

Lindt Cafe (CBD)

Facing competition from Max Brenner, I decided to go here with my friend C.H. since we are both such chocoholics. This would be the more classic chocolate restaurant, with Max Brenner being trendier. Apparently Lindt Cafe only exists in Australia! Heading into the immaculate and grand Martin Place restaurant, I was so happy to be seeing chocolate everywhere! After a long time of indecision (who can choose from so many different chocolate foods?!), we decided on trying the iced chocolate, dark chocolate cake and Lindt chocolate cake. Next time I’m going for the degustation plate. The iced chocolate was good, although a little too sweet. The cakes were luscious: the dark chocolate one was 50cents cheaper and quality commensurated; it was sweeter and had crunchier edges, but not as moist and chocolatey as the original chocolate cake. Apparently they’re famous for hot chocolate. It has a grand interior and is the perfect place for a treat (both tongue and mind).

Baby Cakes by Renee

I have been told that cupcakes are now the new Krispy Kreme in Sydney. A few years ago, Sydneysiders would bring a box of KKs for their deprived friends interstate (outside of NSW), but now it seems cupcakes are the rage now, and my mum’s friend from Sydney even brought a box of these baby cupcakes instead of the usual doughnuts. Moist, fine-crumbed and buttery, these golf ball-sized cupcakes are mainly eye rather than tongue candy. Ate the flavours white chocolate mud, hokey pokey (toffee) and strawberry Christmas special (with an adorable Christmas tree icing).

85° Coffee-Cake Shop (CBD)

Located adjacent to Pepper Lunch, their tantalising array of enticing cakes beam out of the window. Apparently this store was created by some creative businessmen who were indulging in some desserts in a five-star hotel and thought that the less affluent also deserve to afford such quality cakes. What I find funny is the bad English that features on the captions next to the cakes, despite how they’ve been in Australia for 2 years now.

Bread Top (CBD)

I hear it’s a good place to buy Chinese bread.

Sugar Cane Juice

This isn’t exactly a restaurant but it’s a drink that I often come across while in Asian fruit stores, and not yet discovered in any other Australin city. I’d see the vendors pushing green sticks of sugar cane into the juicer, extracting just a meagre drop for every push, and all with their bare hands (cringing in the hope they had washed it before). The taste isn’t just sugary water as one would expect: cloyingly sweet, but with a refreshing, almost grassy, fragrance.

I just proved to everyone what a crappy food critic I’d make, since everything tastes good to me!! I also proved that I can waste a lot of time writing up restaurant reviews, and also failed in thinking I could be succinct. Who would ever stuff in 22 restaurant reviews in one post? To sum it all up, yes, the food in Sydney is so much better than Brisbane, and boy am I jealous how they always get the good chain stores first!

(P.S. Merry Christmas to everyone! Today we ate spaghetti bolognaise for lunch and going to eat fried rice for dinner. How very traditional of us!)