Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My Pre-Engagement Dinner at Amber

7/F, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental,
15 Queen's Road, Central
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2132.0066

Overall: 5/5

Hi everyone! Can't believe it's April already...I'm currently on my last day of Easter holiday and I just came back from a wonderful vacation in Sanya, Hainan Island. As you can guess from the title of this post - I am engaged! It happened in March - two days before my 27th birthday. With our birthdays being only a day apart, my fiance and I practically share the same b-days. SO, when Andy told me he had booked the two Michelin star restaurant, Amber, I was super excited and didn't think twice about the occasion...little did I know this was actually our pre-engagement dinner :-D. 

Amber is located in The Landmark Mandarin Oriental and serves a fusion of French and Japanese cuisine. The restaurant made headlines last year for being the only restaurant in China listed in the 2011 S. Pellegrino "World's 50 Best Restaurants." Their interior design reminds me of a mix between NYC's Le Bernardin and Per Se - simple yet classy. With waves of golden rods hanging from the high ceiling of the Amber's dining room, Andy and I joked that if an earthquake hit Hong Kong at that very moment, we would have nowhere to hide! With limited seating, 60 diners to be exact, this restaurant offers a sense of space to each guest. The service is attentive and very friendly. The best part? You don't have to be super dressed up to get in! There's no particular dress code. We were dressed semi-formally, but as we entered the dining area, we saw a man with just jeans and a college hoodie (okay, maybe that's a little too casual, but that man did get away with it alright!) 

The tasting began after a glass of wine and champagne. We started off with some crispy amuse bouche and croquette. The thin crispy mini rolls were warm and flavorful. Some had mousse emerging out while others had more of a heavy and creamy filling. We were also served a creamy pumpkin veloute with an airy chestnut foam. Next, came the famous and rich foie gras lollipop with beetroot and ginger bread. The foie gras was coated with raspberry jelly and served on a wooden stick. All in all, they were all perfect starters for what's to come...

One of our first main dishes was the Hokkaido Sea Urchin and Caviar - probably my favorite dish at Amber. The waiter introduced three types of crispy seaweed waffles to pair along with the sea urchin and caviar. The presentation made this dish memorable - a sea urchin shell elevated by a bowl of ice with a shiny caviar shell spoon on the side. Chef Ekkebus further enhanced this combination with a layer of lobster jello before crowning it with a quenelle of caviar and a gold leaf. Are you salivating yet?

Our next dish, the confit of salmon was enclosed by a globe of smoke! I watched in awe as the waiter removed the cover from my plate and immediately, I could smell the smokey aroma. It was the perfect smell to accompany the Tasmanian salmon, which was creamy and delectable. The dish came with avocado, horseradish and granny smith apple.

Next came the Brittany Divers Scallop seared over black truffle coulis, lardo & belotta ham tartines toasted hazelnut sabayon & kabocha pumpkin gnocchi. The Langoustines was seared with cauliflower, capers and langoustine reduction with brown butter. It was these complex yet beautifully balanced flavors that truly showed the style of Amber and its team of chefs.

My second favorite dish of the night was the Kagoshima Wagyu Beef along with oven roasted puree of shallots. Yummy!! The dish also came with a twist when they presented a similar side dish, but with a small amount of creamy soup mixed together. In addition to all the food, we also added another dish of pan seared foie gras - unfortunately, nothing too special, but yummy nonetheless! After all, there's nothing as to too much foie gras in my book :-) Not to mention, we had another bottle of sweet white wine to go with it!

For desserts, I opted for the pineapple and yogurt dessert while Andy chose the French Farmer Cheeses. He also got the Blood Orange Sorbet with florentine's & confit zest. While I ordered my Abinao 85% Chocolate, also a fancier name for chocolate souffle with cacao sorbet. The souffle was dark and rich...but remarkably not heavy at all! 

Just when I thought was the end of the meal, I looked up and saw a big chocolate cake topped with a piece of gold flake. On the plate said, "Happy Birthday Pam" Awwww :-). Another year older and another great meal to remember!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

VVG Bon Bon

VVG Bon Bon
No. 13, Lane 161, Dun-Hua North Road, Sec. 1
Taipei, Taiwan
Tel: (02) 2711-4505

Rating: 3/5

Cute and chic, VVG Bon Bon is your real life "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory." Filled with various kinds of sweets and rows of cakes on display, it's no wonder girls come here as a getaway from reality. VVG Bon Bon is the restaurant chain's third venue (aside from VVG Table and VVG Bistro). VVG Table offers more organic and "healthy" dining whereas VVG Bistro serves delectable brunches. However, they all serve more or less the same type of foods. 

VVG Bon Bon is the venue known for their desserts. While I was not nearly impressed with their cupcakes, I did think it was a nice place for a chit chat. The plating of course was all very well done and I did enjoy their drink menu, where I ordered a mixed berry soda. The marshmallow chocolate cake was moist and surprisingly not overly sweet! The white blob beside the cake (shown below) is vanilla ice-cream.

Overall, I would certainly recommend this girly dessert room. Perfect for families, girls, dates and birthday parties! There's more to just sweets here - they also sell other adorable and random items (i.e. candles and little bags). A short and sweet (pun intended) entry...hehe, see you next time!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Princess for a Day!

Victoria Garden Afternoon
2F, 49, Fuxing S. Road,
Sec. 1, Taipei City
Tel: (02) 2771-0998

Happy Thanksgiving!! Ever since I moved to HK, I have regretfully brushed aside this food blog of mine. I know it's mainly laziness on my part, but when you work six days a week...blogging (aka: sitting in front of the computer typing up about food you can't have) doesn't sound all that appealing anymore! However, with my upcoming trip back to the states, I have decided to get back into the swing of things! I've been dining here and there in the past few months and I can't wait to share my experiences with you! Not to mention, I can't believe my last update was in July?!

Today, I would like to share with you a hidden afternoon tea shop located in Taipei called: Victoria Garden. I first discovered this place over the summer where I spent a month of my time back home in Taipei. Before you continue, please note that the tea shop is a "girly girl" type place, so don't be shocked by the pink girly colors and decorations around the room. Once you step in, there's no doubt that every girl becomes brainwashed to thinking they've stepped into dreamland. Everything from the decor to their silverware look like something a fairytale princess would use.

Those princess bar chairs were my absolute favorite!

We dined here on a weekday (early dinner) and even so, there was a small group of people lined up outside the tea shop. Luckily, I made reservations so no wait time for us! The food and cake was nothing spectacular though, so if you are looking for some gourmet food, do not come here.

Dinner Tea Set

We ordered the dinner tea set and it came with assorted cookies, cakes and fruits on the first layer, with sandwiches and simple h'orderves on the second layer. The last layer included fresh green salad and two huge Chinese pork ribs. I thought the tea set was only OK. I also ordered their rose cappuccino and the only complaint there was that the coffee was warm, not hot!

The iconic Princess Strawberry Tart

For desserts we had their famous "princess strawberry tart". The custard in between was soft and not too sweet. I really liked it with the strawberries. Did I also mention the gorgeous presentation for their desserts?!

Overall, the service was good and the food wasn't too bad. It's a fun place to dine and if you're up for a unique experience, I would highly recommend this place! I would come here again just because it is such a getaway from reality! 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lau Pa Sat (Singapore)

Lau Pa Sat
18 Raffles Quay
Singapore 048582

Rating: 4.5/5

Black Pepper Crab
One of the oldest hawkers in Singapore, Lau Pa Sat (formerly known as Telok Ayer Market), is another tourist hot spot you do not want to miss. Along the entrance of Lau Pa Sat are numerous stalls selling BBQ chicken wings, BBQ prawns, and Satay. It's quite impossible to pass through these stalls without ordering a plate or two of their satay or BBQ - the smell alone will make you salivate! For snacking purposes, one can choose to eat one's way from stall to stall or grab a seat inside the victorian-shaped dome for more options. For us, we took the easy way out and went straight for the restaurant, Ming Yen, located right at the entrance of Lau Pa Sat (aka: a one stop shop). Since it was our last night in Singapore, we wanted to review a few of our favorite dishes as well as try out some new plates.
Our first dish was the Black Pepper Crab: very similar to the chili crab, but the black pepper crab is cooked in a thick gravy of black pepper. It is also a little spicier than the chili crab.
Delicious Butter Prawn
Butter Prawn: prawn dipped in egg yolk and butter and then fried to a golden yellow color. For someone who doesn't like shrimp, it tasted delectable!
Next, we went for our favorite Stingray - delicious as usual. The stingray comes in different sizes of $10, $12, and $15.

The oyster omelette was "meh". This time they added a hot sauce paste on top of the omelette. It tasted very normal, but was probably also the least oily plate on our table.

After our meal, we stopped by one of the stalls for a plate of satay. Be sure to order some rice cake along with the peanut sauce to go with your satay! For drinks, one must try Singapore's teh tarik - there's a famous stall at Lau Pa Sat that sells teh tarik right along the street (it is the only drink stall so just follow the long line - it will lead you to the right direction).

Food in Singapore can get pretty heavy. Many of their dishes are cooked with a lot of oil. A week long vacation was perfect for my belly. This concludes the trip of my Singapore eating adventures (phew...that took awhile to update). I hope you are living vicariously through my blog :) Taiwan and Thailand eats are next!
The Satay Man doing his thing!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Maxwell Food Centre

Maxwell Food Centre
Cnr South Bridge Rd. and Maxwell Road
Maxwell Road  Singapore 06000

Rating: 5/5 
If I've learned anything from my time in Singapore, I've learned that shabby-looking hawker centers = ridiculously amazing food. Even without the extra frills such as nice silverwares, air conditioner, and fancy decor...Maxwell Food Centre is worth every sweat (especially in the 90+ degrees weather) and minute of your time. Besides the great variety of food stalls available, Maxwell is conveniently located in the heart of Chinatown. A wide selection of Chinese goods and touristy gifts are placed around the area; and not to mention, a big Indian temple that is right across the hawker center. The food quality at Maxwell is great, and the service is surprisingly fast and friendly!
Even Bourdain loves his chicken rice!
Hainanese Chicken Rice is a dish of Chinese origin. Immigrants from Hainan Island brought chicken rice to Singapore many decades ago, and over the years it has become a national icon! Silky smooth poached chicken on top of fluffy rice infused with chicken stock -- a Singapore signature. The fragrant rice is cooked in chicken broth with ginger and garlic, accompanied by three different sauces: chili sauce, ginger puree, and dark soy sauce. There's no rule as to which sauce goes with what, dip them however you'd like!

There's noway you can survive an entire meal without some refreshments! We tried the usual: sugar cane w/ lime and lychee drink. Both tasted great, but I would still stick to sugar cane. I definitely reached my sugar cane drink quota that week in SG :-P. The Singaporeans are also quite clever with their packaging - plastic bags are used to their fullest potential! Talk about saving money and the environment.
Bak Kut Teh is a herbal pork-based soup chock full of pork ribs, garlic, and spices. The soup can also be accompanied by you tiao, or deep-fried dough. When you dip the you tiao into the soup, it soaks up the pork-based soup -- giving foodies a different experience / taste. Personally, I like the soup without the you tiao.
 Oyster Omelette (Singaporean Style): Mixed with eggs, small oysters, chopped spring onions and chives, the oyster omelette is slightly crispy, but not too oily. While also a popular dish in Taiwan, the Taiwanese version is a bit more slimy, where starch is mixed into the egg batter, giving the resulting egg wrap a thicker consistency.

Overall, prices are extremely affordable (approximately $3 ~ $4 per dish). The service is quick at most stalls and the cleaning staff are consistently on top of their jobs. Overwhelmed by the amount of decisions at Maxwell? Here's a rule of thumb: head to the stall with the longest line.

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