Friday, August 27, 2010

Small Eats @ Kwan Kee

Kwan Kee
Shop 1, Wo Yick Mansion,
263 Queen's Road West
(Kwai Heung Street), Sai Wan

Welcome to another HK series of Small Eats! After craving for some authentic Cantonese experience and Clay Pot Rice, I was excited to search for a piece of "real deal HK". Today, I'll be introducing an established small shop that is secretly tucked around the corner of Kwai Heung Street. The long lines and amount of chatters infront of Kwan Kee already shows the popularity of this establishment of 16 years. Even before 7pm, every table inside the restaurant is filled. While that will most likely happen, there's around five-seven extra tables situated outside of the restaurant (for those who are lucky!). Now, we are not talking about nice seatings and clean tables. Dining etiquette is unnecessary here! Similar to Taiwan's night market and Hong Kong's Temple Street, the shop is mainly focused on good and cheap food (without the frills of nice seats, ambiance, and a/c). The staff here is pretty local, which means they don't speak any English. Since dinner hours are especially busy, it is recommended that you know exactly what you want before you call the server over.

Their signature dish is their Clay Pot Rice, and is available everyday after 6pm. The toppings come with a choice of ingredients such as lean pork sausage, eel, pork rib, salty fish, duck and chicken. We chose to try the lean pork sausage but unfortunately, was accidentally given the chicken instead :( The chicken was tasty too, but I have a feeling the sausages might be tastier. The Clay Pot Rice is added with toppings and recooked on the coal stove until all the juices from the ingredients seep and blend into the flavor of the rice. Taste: 3.5/5

Another notable dish is their Steamed Fish sprinkled with black beans, scallions, and spices. So delicious looking that two other tables next to ours wanted to know the name of the dish! The meat of the fish is very tender and juicy; and although it looks very salty from the sauce, it wasn't salty at all! Taste: 4/5

We also asked for their Cold Steamed Chicken, which seems to be so popular that it was sold out! I would recommend going to Kwan Kee thirty minutes before their opening time (6:00 pm) just so you can sit inside the shop and be able to try all their signature dishes before they run out. Your wouldn't want to miss out on this very inexpensive and authentic Cantonese shop!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Spanish Restaurant in HK: Fofo

Fofo by el Willy (Hong Kong)
20/F M88, 2-8 Wellington Street,
Central, Hong Kong
(852) 2900-2009

Fofo by el Willy isn't your typical Spanish restaurant especially with its all-white decor and figures of pigs, birds, and penguins as restaurant decorations. If one takes a closer look at the animals, one will also notice that they are all exceptionally "chubby", which also represents the name of the restaurant, as well as the Spanish word, fofo! I loved their dazzling white interior, which was a good change from HK's hustling scene. Prior to coming, I had diligently and thoroughly done my foodie research; and had already prepped by epicurious tastebuds for an orgasmic meal. To start off, everyone was presented with a slice of complimentary bruschetta. Not my favorite bruschetta in the world, the mashed up tomatoes made the base of the bread too soggy in my opinion. Andy and I each ordered a glass of sangria: he had white and I had my usual red - for how can we call it a "Spanish" meal without sangria?! Oh, and before I go further, I just want to note that my experience at Fofo has led me to realize that it is better to stick to tapas rather than their full-blown entrees. A useful tip for myself and future newcomers!
Our first tapa, and one of Fofo's signature dishes, was the Scallop ceviche, avocado & crispy shallots. The creamy avocado hidden on the bottom of the scallop was such a bonus! The crispy shallots also helped bring out a saltier and stronger flavor between the scallop and avocado. Our next dish, Organic leaves sauté in raspberry vinegar, was only ordered because of guilt (and health consciousness). The word organic and leaves provided me with enough evidence that it's a healthy choice, given that everything else I ordered were either high in cholesterol or "heart-attackable".
The veggie dish came with a variety of vegetables, mushrooms, cucumbers, and edible flowers. While Andy and I expected a cold salad, the dish was surprisingly cooked and warm! I couldn't really taste the raspberry vinegar, but that was probably a good thing because I wouldn't want the sauce to overpower the veggies.

Our next tapa, Balic style Salmon, Sour Cream & Black Truffle Honey is ranked #2 on my NOM list. As soon as the dish was placed on our table, the truffle smell filled the air. I swear I could practically taste the truffle with my nose! The sour cream did not play a huge role for this dish as only a small dab of it was used underneath each salmon hors d'oeuvres (to keep them in place). The Salmon and mint leaf, paired with the crostini and black truffle honey was heaven in my mouth. The sweet and salty combination made me!
Our third tapa, Seared foie gras, scallop, beetroot, kumquat & popcorn powder is currently holding its place in the #1 spot of my NOM list at Fofo thus far. The taste of this dish was orgasmic...I immediately perked up after my first bite. I loved how the chefs at Fofo were daring with their ingredients. Once again, I was in awe of the mix between sweet and salty...this time with kumquat jam and foie gras. Sprinkled on top were pieces of popcorn nicely done! I highly recommend this dish (along with the salmon tapa).

The well-known Crispy suckling pig was our fourth tapa dish and another Fofo signature dish. The juices from the meat gushed out at first bite. The top of the skin was a little too dry and crispy for me, but the tenderness of the meat saved me and this dish from total disappointment. I would still recommend it!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Small Eats @ Tsui Wah

Tsui Wah Restaurant
15D/19D Wellington Street,
Hong Kong Island
(852) 2525-6338

The food at Tsui Wah is good and inexpensive. A popular HK diner located on Wellington Street, Central, Tsui Wah's menu is diverse and caters to a variety of eaters. You'll find anything you want from sweet pastries to hot dog, spaghetti, wonton soup, curry and so on! The Hong Kong "cha tsan ting" is very similar to diners in the U.S. (think Denny's) but with Chinese chefs in the kitchen and way more variety of food choices.

One of the most popular dishes at Tsui Wah is their bread bun with condensed milk and butter - so delicious! While not exactly the healthiest snack, you will begin to find yourself craving for more just after the first bite. Other notable small eats to consider are the fish ball soup and beef curry dish w/ rice. The service is very quick and the food is usually served to your table within less than 5 minutes. Simply efficient and awesome for the fast-paced culture in Hong Kong. Tsui Wah is a great place to grab a quick bite and at an affordable price. Next time you're in HK and craving for some comfort food, why not head over to Tsui Wah and order that slab of airy white bread toast slathered with butter and condensed milk! Taste: 3/5

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Small Eats @ IFC

The Tasty Congee & Noodle Wantun Shop
(Located on Podium Level 3 of IFC Mall)
1 Harbour View Street
Central, Hong Kong
(852) 2295-0101

Taste: 4.5/5

I know what you are thinking, "Why does she have pictures of buns posted when the store's name clearly says: Tasty Congee and Wonton Soup?" On this series of Small Eats, I would like to introduce yet another HK dessert called, Liu Sha Bao (流沙包). The dessert is common in many dim sum restaurants (even in the United States). However, please note that these are not your average egg custard buns! The custard inside a liu sha bao is more watery/creamy and comprises a grainy/sandy texture. It's a white fluffy bun that enrobes a liquidy, molten lava-esque creamy mixture of egg custard and salted egg yolk. Depending on your personal taste, some might like the insides more watery than others. I prefer a happy medium where it isn't dry like a bone or wet like soup because that can get pretty messy (not to mention it'll give you a lip burn). Different restaurants have different versions of liu sha bao. While the ones served at IFC are white on the outside, I've had ones where the dough is darker and more tanned in color.

The liu sha baos we had were perfect. As you can see from the picture on the right, the sweet salted egg paste is practically oozing out of the bun - yums! No doubt do these buns belong to the domain of dim sum artistry. Thanks to my friend who showed me the exact place to get these!

The eatery is situated in IFC, and is also popular for its congee (as stated in its name). Delicious, but pretty expensive for congee. I'd still prefer Congee Village in New York's Chinatown where it's tasty and cheap! :D

Monday, August 16, 2010

Small Eats @ Zen

(Located inside Pacific Place mall - Lower Ground)
88 Queensway
Hong Kong Island
(852) 2845-4555

Since my week long stay in Hong Kong, I've been trying a lot of "small eats" or as we say in mandarin, "小吃" around HK island. Food stalls and finger food are prevalent and extremely popular in Asia. Thus, for the month of August (and for the remainder of my vacation days in HK), I will be blogging as a mini-guide to some notable small eats and food stalls around Hong Kong. Instead of reviewing an entire restaurant menu as a whole, I will be selecting one or two of my favorite dishes and reviewing it for you all instead. Hence, the category "HK small eats"!

My very first notable eat would be HK's Steamed Whole Papaya with South Almond Milk. This is absolutely one of my most favorite desserts ever. Surprisingly, it is not something that is offered in many restaurants and therefore, looking for this was like a scavenger hunt! Although not your typical food stall, I finally found this dish at the restaurant "Zen" located in Pacific Place. There's two ways of serving this dish, one with bird's nest mixed with almond milk and one without the bird's nest. It goes without saying that the one with bird's nest is much more expensive than the one without the bird's nest. For those who are unfamiliar with the term "bird's nest", it is where birds lay their eggs and hatch their young...........kidding! Bird's nest is a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. Edible bird's nest is one of the widely used health foods in Chinese communities. Edible bird's nest is rich in mineral salts, and contains high content of sodium and calcium. The source of edible bird's nest is derived from saliva. In other words, to put it bluntly, bird's nest = bird's spit. Yummy, right? But in all honesty, bird's nest tastes great in soup, sugared water, and is great for the skin!

The dish is usually served warm/hot. It is not the most refreshing dessert to eat on a hot humid day in HK, but very good nonetheless (also great for the skin - did I say that already?). The steamed papaya makes the skin and insides of the papaya very soft. The taste of the papaya also blends in very well with the stronger taste of the almond milk. Personally, I prefer the dish without bird's nest..plainly because I like the sweet and simple combination of papaya and almond milk.
Taste: 4.5/5

Another notable dish at Zen is the chicken drumstick stuffed with glutinous rice. A very delicious dish that is also great for kids because there's no bones in the chicken whatsoever! The taste is quite similar to "beggar's chicken", but the skin of the chicken drumstick is crunchier on the outside. The dish is a cross between beggar's chicken and Taiwanese "zong zi" (粽子). The glutinous rice is mixed with chinese mushrooms and chopped up chicken meat. This dish is served at many other local HK restaurants too, but incase you are ever shopping around Pacific Place, don't hesitate to try the chicken drumstick and papaya dishes at Zen! Taste: 3.5/5

Friday, August 13, 2010

JW's California

Pacific Place, 88 Queensway
Admiralty, Hong Kong
(JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong - 5th floor)
(852) 2810-8366

Voted by Luxe Dining as one of Hong Kong's best restaurants of 2010, JW California is your ultimate one-stop-shop to fine dining for a good price (buffet style!). Lobster, sashimi, oyster, lamb chop, wagyu beef, and foie gras are a few but top signature dishes that the restaurant offers. Even though it is on the pricey side, approximately $60-$70 usd per person, you will soon realize that $60 is a small price to pay for the quality of food you get! There was no doubt that I stacked up on the lobsters, wagyu beef, and foie gras...which easily turned out to be more than $70 per person. The beef was very good, but make sure you order a level down your usual steak "doneness" since they tend to overcook the meat. The abolone and scallops were also very fresh, and came by paper orders (with no extra cost). A good suggestion is to order by the bulk instead of a few pieces.

The juice bar was one of my favorite stations. I managed to try all of the drinks offered. My top list would be the mango juice and white sangria. The placement of the food and stands were cute and modern, and the waiters were all very attentive. The manager on the floor that day also looked like some model from a GQ magazine. What's a little disappointing was the lighting of the area, which was purple. Even though purple is my favorite color, it really made the place look like a cheap diner.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to try all the desserts that were available on the display stand (by that point I had already used up my dessert stomach). However, I still managed to take a few bites out of the wide selections of pastries that were available. Some of the more interesting ones were the green tea s'mores and taro cake. yumO!

I can't say too much about their set meals, which are also offered, but I can tell you that their buffet is well worth the price! I wouldn't say I was impressed by the food per se, but more so at the variety of high end food they offered at an all-you-can-eat-buffet. If you are a value eater who enjoys good food then I would definitely recommend this place! Below are a few snapshots I managed to capture from my plate. :)

Overall: 4/5

Saturday, August 7, 2010


241 Church St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 925-0202

 On the second week of Restaurant Week, my friend proposed to dine at Jean-Georges' newly opened Japanese Restaurant Matsugen. Although I really shouldn't judge an establishment by its restaurant week menu, I was semi-disappointed with the entire experience. When one goes to a fancy restaurant, it is usually expected that everything from the food to the service are to grow exponentially. Well, this wasn't entirely the case at Matsugen - the appetizers were wonderful and great until we were led to our main course: Hot-soba with chicken...that was when everything went downhill. The dish completely lacked flavor and had way too much noodles. The service at Matsugen however, was great so nothing to complain about there :o)

To start off - my friend and I ordered some champagne for a 'double celebration'. A very much needed splurge to end our crazy Spring semester.

Before we even ordered, our waiter served complimentary fried soba and edamame - something I would totally take over bread and butter. Our first 'bento-like' appetizer: uni in yuzu jelly appetizer. Oh yum. I have never been a huge fan of uni due to its strong 'sea taste', but the jelly really complemented super well with the uni. On the bottom left of the plate: tofu with wasabi was very light and refreshing. Other plates included fried shrimp with a very distinct and creamy sauce; and steamed vegetables with peanut sauce. Not bad at all!

Tuna sushi was the second appetizer - nothing too special about this dish. It was good and served on a stone, An A- for the display! Our third appetizer: black cod with miso. This was the best dish of the night. The fish was steamed thoroughly; and the skin of the fish was basically melted into the fish meat. In addition, the miso sauce wasn't overpowering...a really good dish! Lastly, our final course: (Kashiwa nanban soba) hot soba with chicken. Before I begin, I must add that Matsugen is renownedly known for its soba. Like I said earlier in my post, the bowl had way too much noodles...and because of it, the flour of the noodle killed the flavor of the broth and chicken. Not to mention, the broth was oily from the chicken. No bueno :(

We ended the night with our dessert - Vanilla Caramel Pudding - a flan-like pudding with vanilla extract. The caramel part was bitter and tasted kind of strange, but other than that it was acceptable. To comment on the decor of the restaurant: very original and modern. We sat next to a wall aquarium with tons of different fishies swimming in it. Very nice for pictures :)

I would give this restaurant another shot, but would probably avoid their restaurant week menu the next time around. The taste of the food (although nicely plated) was definitely not up to par with its price!

Overall: 3/5
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