Macau Eats

August 28, 2013 § 2 Comments

Macau-eatsCredits:  Paper by Haynay Designs from the Scrapmatters’ Life Little Surprises kit

On board the TurboJet catamaran en route to Macau, I mentally planned our next few days in a city best known today as a high-rolling-casino-lover’s haven.  Not by any means my cup of tea, but there is more to this glitzy casino city than just the sin and the bling.  Although heavily dependent on gambling, Macau’s real attraction (in my opinion) has always been the food.  As an ex-Portuguese colony, Macau has married Asian and Mediterranean in its culture, architecture and even in its cuisine.

grand-lisboaThe Grand Lisboa

The flavors of Portugal intermingled with the Chinese and strongly influenced by the Southeast Asians, Africans, and South Americans has brought out a real fusion between East and West and has evolved to what is known today as Macanese cuisine.  The result is earthy and rich in texture, flavor, and aroma.

Macanese food aside, the presence of raved about, quality establishments worthy of a Michelin star or two scatter around this peninsula making Macau a dining spectacle it is today.

First off our agenda: Dim sum

roasted-mushroom-goose-liver-pateRoasted Mushroom topped with goose liver pate

On the 2nd floor of the east wing of Hotel Lisboa is Portas do Sol.  Contrary to its name, it is a “typical” Chinese restaurant, well-lit with a lively atmosphere, serving dim sum dishes as well as Chinese haute cuisine with season specialties.  The extensive dim sum list reveals familiar and unfamiliar but exciting dishes.  Mostly from the Chef’s recommendation, the dishes we chose were as ambrosial as its presentation.

portas-do-solClockwise:  Steamed rice flour with preserved vegetables and barbecued pork, Steamed river shrimp dumplings flavored with basil, Deep fried wonton in sweet and sour sauce, Deep fried spare ribs with garlic and honey sauce, Deep fried diced garoupa in mustard sauce

Margaret

Margaret's-Cafe-e-Nata

Then we walked down the street to a small alley.  Tucked away in that alley is a small café selling the much talked about egg tarts.  Creamy custard centers, slightly burnt caramel, buttery flaky crust – no wonder Margaret’s Cafe e Nata has queues any day of the week… well except Wednesdays, which was when we first found this hole-in-the-wall, darn!  I found myself walking the same route from Hotel Lisboa the next day.  I walked down Avenida Infante D. Henrique, passed the Grand Lisboa, crossed Avenida de Joao IV and veered right on that street until I saw a small (Margaret’s Café) sign pointing into an alley.  I followed that sign and joined the others in the queue and in less than 30 minutes, I was skipping my way back to the hotel with four pieces of exquisite Portuguese egg tarts to be devoured at the comfort of our room with some leftovers, which held up well for breakfast the next day.

pastel-e-nata

A Crossover from Hong Kong

This upscale restaurant has branches in Hong Kong, Macau and Shanghai. Chef and owner Tao Hwa Yan, once an apprentice to a legendary Cantonese Chef, Master Lee Choi, opened Tim’s Kitchen in a quiet street in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong in 2000.  Bringing with him the techniques he learned with the master, the restaurant started as an on-site private dining serving traditional Cantonese cuisine.  In 2007, Stanley Ho invited him to open a branch in Hotel Lisboa in Macau.  With both HK and Macau branches currently given a Michelin star, Tim’s is not cheap but worth a visit.

roasted-pigeon

The waiters know their menu, and although we failed to order their (pre-ordered) signature dishes, the recommended succulent baked pigeon with preserved veggies wrapped in lotus leaves had us licking our fingers.

Tim's-kitchen

Other just as good dishes recommended to us were: Sautéed scallops with fungus and chives with XO sauce, Fried rice with minced beef, onions and shallots, and Pan fried pork pie with salted fish.

Antonio

Trade in the gilded casino floor at the Venetian for a quaint cobblestone lane lined with Portuguese styled pastel townhouses in Old Taipa Village.  In one of these houses, at the corner of Rua dos Clerigos is Antonio.

Antonio-facade

Not easy to find, we wandered around way before lunch hoping to get a table.  And in a small Alley, we chanced on some Filipino restaurant staff who happened to be taking their breaks from THE Antonio’s kitchen.  With their help, we managed to get ourselves a table.  Antonio Coelho has been preparing authentic Portuguese food in Macau since he relocated in 1997.

baked-duck-rice

Arroz de Pato – shredded duck, rice, and preserved sausage baked into a flavorful, aromatic dish.  A signature dish not to be missed.

AntonioFrom Left:  Clams in white wine and olive oil, Pork Tenderloin steak, Portuguese style served with fried egg, a pitcher of Sangria.

Following the hearty meal, we wandered around the old village.

pork-bun-line

In a corner, near the Pak Tai Temple, we see a line forming but much as we would love to try Tai Lei Loi Kei’s famous Pork Chop bun, dessert appeals more than the bun.  This will have to wait.  So we walked back to Antonio to where he opened a café across.

casa-do-antonio

We found our corner and ordered 2 amazing desserts to die for.

Antonio-desserts

The Serradura is as velvety as this one and the orange roll is a perfect combination of moist cake, orange liqueur and caramel.  Did I say to die for?

 
Portas do Sol
2/F East wing of Hotel Lisboa,
Avenida de Lisboa, Macau
For reservations call: (853) 8803-3100
 
Margaret’s Café e Nata
Edificio Kam Loi
Rua Almirante Costa Cabral, Macau
 
Tim’s Kitchen
Lobby Level East wing of Hotel Lisboa
Avenida de Lisboa, Macau
For reservations call: (853) 8803-3682
 
Antonio
Rua dos Clerigos No. 7
Old Taipa Village, Macau
For reservations call: (853) 2899-9998

Where to eat in Kyoto: Jo Jo Izakaya

April 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

IzakayaCredits: Papers by Sarah Bennett; Hearts element by Happy Scrap Girl and Designs by Tater; Journaling Snippet by Crystal Wilkerson

“Irashaimase!” they called out in unison as soon as they spotted us at the door.  We were led to a low table, chairs sans the legs with tatami mats underneath.  We took off our shoes as we are supposed to.  We chose to order from the menu in Japanese over the English version.  Kiang, our Korean server, helped us decide on the meal.  She spoke a little English, and we ordered almost all of what she proposed, even the sake.

We are in an “izakaya” after all – a type of Japanese drinking establishment that serve food and as Wikipedia puts it:  the name izakaya is a compound word consisting of “I” (to stay) and “sakaya” (sake shop), indicating that izakaya began from sake shops that allow customers to sit and drink on the premise.  So how can you not have sake, right?

chilled-sake

The sake, fruity and refreshing, paired well with the meal, which I must say is quite excellent – the Agedashi Tofu winning hands down.

agedashi-tofu

Jo Jo is within walking distance to the JR Kyoto Station, so if you find yourself in the area, do drop by and see if Kiang is still around to help you.  We owe this wonderful meal to her.

Though more complex cuisine exists, none comes close to matching Japan’s culinary aesthetics.  ~ Howard Hillman

Jõ Jõ
Shimogyo-ku, Nishinotoin
Shichijo-sagaru
+85 75 371-2010

Where to Eat in Kyoto: Suien

February 5, 2013 § 9 Comments

What do you do when you’re on holiday, exploring the neighborhood and it starts to rain?  We had lunch.  Sometimes when the hassles of life make you stop and change course just go with the flow.  You never know what lies ahead.

drizzle

Preserved historic street of Higashiyama.

It was a choice between getting drenched and an early lunch.  Albeit not on our list of many restaurants to try in Kyoto, it was an easy choice.  We decided that looking for a restaurant on our list was not worth getting wet for.  Suien will have to do.  Great decision ever.

The Zen-like interior has splashes of neutral subtle shades, pale wooden furniture and shoji screens.  The only other customers were 2 well-dressed women seated in a quiet corner, deep in conversation.  But as soon as we entered, I had a good feeling about the place.  We will be fed well, I thought.  We chose a table opposite the ladies, the server in a kimono, gave us the only English menu they have.  It was short and sweet, a set menu.  Worth ¥2,500 ($26), it comes with 2 appetizers, noodle soup, a choice of 4 main course and Japanese sweets for dessert.  We’re having a kaiseki-style lunch.

kiyomizudera

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

As Japan’s former capital and seat of the imperial court for over a thousand years, Kyoto is renowned for its rich culinary tradition.  Diverse, its local cuisine ranges from aristocratic kaiseki ryori course to the smallest izakaya (pub).  Kaiseki is Japanese haute cuisine served in carefully designed courses meant to please the emperors.  Kyoto-style kaiseki puts importance on seasonal ingredients and is largely vegetarian, though fish is often served while meat never appears in a kaiseki menu.

Apple-walnut-beancurd

scallops

Walnut Bean Curd and Roast (adducter muscles) Scallop.  A great start to a wonderful meal.  The bean curd silky and smooth, sweet and salty (from the soy).

fried-sea-bream-noodle-soup

Fried Sea Bream in Hot Noodle Soup.  The light broth with a hint of lemon makes this rice noodle soup light and refreshing.  The fish, similar to a sea bass, adds to the flavor.  A delightful change to the usual miso soup.

donburi-with-seam-bream-preserved-in-miso

For the main course, I chose Donburi with Sea Bream marinated in Miso.  It tastes as good as it looks.  Also called Japan’s king of fish, the sea bream is very flavorful, meat firm similar to sea bass.  The miso delicately seasoning the fresh flavor of the fish.

brown-sugar-rice-cake,

And finally… the dessert.  Brown Sugar Rice Cake.  What a way to end the meal.  This melt in the mouth mochi is smooth and creamy, not at all starchy.  Unlike any I’ve tasted.

The price of a kaiseki meal can be steep but many establishments offer set menus at lunchtime at a considerably lower price.  Whether lunch or dinner, it is an experience not to be missed.

Suien
Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
446 Le Kamibenten Town
Under Torii Yasaka Shimogawaradori
About 15 minutes walk from Hanky Kawaramochi Station / 7 minutes walk from Gion Shijo Station
Contact: 075 551-0035

Batanes Eats

December 16, 2012 § 3 Comments

Batanes – a more off the beaten destination that offers a unique combination of natural beauty and cultural heritage.

Batanes-EatsCredits:  Papers and elements taken from ScrapMatters Life’s Little Surprises kit.  Papers by Denise Beatty Originals and Designs by  Sarah Bennett; Elements by Scrapmuss Designs and Gwenipooh Designs.

Not as easy to get to as many other destinations in the Philippines but the journey is worth it.

batanes

The place is undeniably charming with breathtaking landscapes and seascapes, old stone houses and despite the remoteness, an abundance of good food, my kind of food.

My first meals in Batanes go a long way back, at Mama Lily’s in 1997.  There were no restaurants to speak off then so she serves meals at her guesthouse.  Simple dishes cooked the Ivatan way left an impression to this day.  I remember flying fish cooked every way – fried, dried, sinigang, with soy… simple yet memorable.  I also remember fish roe sautéed in tomatoes, onions and garlic.  It was the first time I had bihod and every bihod dish thereafter reminds me of Mama Lily.

Fast-forward to 2012, Mama Lily has long migrated to the US, her children no longer accepts visitors and a few eating places have emerged.  I have likewise found a new Mama Lily in another mother, Nanay Laura.  Laura Larez lives in the farthest inhabited island of Batanes called Itbayat.

plane-in-Itbayat

It’s a 4-hour grueling boat ride from the main island or an easier 12-minute ride on an 8-seater plane.  Both only operate if weather permits.

Larez-Carinderia

A grandmother to 13 kids, a craftswoman and a hell of a good cook, Nanay Laura runs a carinderia (canteen) beside her house in front of the town plaza.

turmeric-rice

She makes the best Turmeric Rice in Batanes, in my opinion at least.  This yellow rice is a specialty of Batanes and is popularly served all over the islands.

The rice is cooked with garlic, onion and ground turmeric delivering a subtle ginger flavor that is meant to complement rather than clash with any viand.  What makes Nanay Laura’s special is the addition of pork, not too much, just to flavor.

She serves her dishes on leaves of the fruit bread tree, which shades and decorates the outside of her canteen.

breadfruit-leaves-2

It is widely used in Batanes in place of the usual banana leaf used in other parts of the Philippines.

Breadfruit-leaves

The way Nanay Laura uses these leaves however conveys her eye for detail and beauty.  A simple root crop made more appetizing by her talent in styling.  With a canteen so well maintained in Itbayat, Larez Carinderia is a force to reckon with.

While Nanay Laura reigns in her small little corner (for now at least), the competition in the main island is stiffer.  Once Mama Lily’s territory, Batan has since seen a sprouting of places worth trying, some even going out-of-the-way for.

While going around Southern Batan last May, I was pleased to find a nice restaurant in Vatang.

vatang-grill-and-restaurant

I remember 6 years ago, we hung around a small canteen waiting for our ride (for more than half a day) to nearby island Sabtang, had lunch there as well.  Gone were the days of watered down sweet spaghetti (sans the tomato sauce) meals because Vatang Grill and Restaurant serves delightful Ivatan dishes.

food-in-Vatang-Grill

Not far from the port of Ivana but a bit out-of-the-way if not touring so it is a good stop when in the area.

Much of the island’s terrains are rolling hills – excelletnt for raising livestock and Batanes has become a major producer of cattle.

cattles-grazing

So a burger joint is not so far-fetched, is it?  No it isn’t.  Not so far from where we stayed, in fact just right beside Shanedel’s Inn is where you can find good organic Basco burgers – a pretty good burger that will hold up on its own in any big city.

Organic-Basco-Burger

Juicy and slightly seasoned, this burger with (sweet potato) fries and a soda goes for P100.00 (roughly US$2) at Zantan’s Canteen – not really a burger joint but their burgers are bestsellers.

If good burgers have started to impress, in nearby La Fuerte St., is an unlikely place to find good pizza – dough baked fresh upon order, ingredients consisting of mozzarella cheese, anchovies, pepperoni, fresh homegrown herbs, etc.  Yes, excellent pizza in the northernmost island of the Philippines.  I first learned of Casa Napoli in 2006, it was a newly opened pizzeria found on the 2nd level of a grocery (if my memory serves me right) in Abad St.  Wary (after the sweet spaghetti experience), we entered the place out of curiosity.  It was a simple room with a few tables inside and 2 more at the balcony with a view of the town.  When the pizza came, we were pleasantly surprised.

pizza

Baked on a pizza stone, the crust was crispy with a bit of a bite.   Not too thin but not bread-like thick as well.  A nice change from the local cuisine.

casa-napoli-interior

The new place in La Fuerte St. is not much bigger

Casa-Napoli

but has its own identity in a white Mediterranean inspired establishment.  They deliver too.

bunker-cafe

But if lobsters and other local fares is what you are after, try trekking to Bunker Café in Naidi Hills one evening.

naidi-hills

Open only for dinner as the owners have day jobs, this place is the perfect end to the day.  They start serving at 5, and the first night we were there,

turon

I had this lovely turon with my coffee.

lighthouse

Naido Hills with the lighthouse in the background is magical at night.  The owners couldn’t have chosen a better spot.

latavenAn impressive dish of Lataven — Ivatan’s version of kilawin.

Enchanted, we went back the next evening to an enjoyable dinner of lobster and other local fare.  It did not disappoint.

bunker-cafe-feasting

Great ambience and wonderful company is a winning combination in my books.

Ivatan Cuisine is characterized by a variety of seafood.  During summer, dorado and flying fish are abundant.  So are lobsters and cuttlefish.

coconut-crabs

The threatened coconut crabs can still be found and devoured but only in the island.  To protect the species, a regulation prohibits it from being transported out of the island, live or cooked.  Coconut crabs (locally known as Tatus)is a priced delicacy and is widely hunted, its population dwindling.  The crab is said to climb coconut trees and husk coconuts with their powerful claws hence the name although not a significant part of their diet.  When cooked, the claws are hard and needs a good bashing to break.  The meat is sweet and firm but in all honesty, Alimango (mud crabs) and Alimasag (blue crabs) are still my front-runners.

We simply didn’t have enough days to sample all the good places, which means that a next time is likely to happen.  In a few years perhaps, I have a sneaking suspicion that more interesting restaurants would come to light and I want to be there to try them out myself.

Eating is not merely a material pleasure.  Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship.  It is of great importance to the morale.

Elsa Schiaparelli

What To Eat in Laos: Luang Prabang Pork Sausages

September 3, 2012 § 1 Comment

I have a thing about sausages.  It is my comfort food.  Growing up, my brother and I would make hotdogs with caramelized onion rings cooked in ketchup.  It was my brother’s idea, I think.  We grew up on that and once in a while, I’d still make these for old time’s sake.  But I’ve come a long way with my sausages.  I’ve soon learned to love all kinds of sausages from chorizo to kielbasa to our local longganisa.

Credits:  Kaboks’ SFJ Christmas Treasure papers.

So when I saw sausages drying on a sidewalk in Luang Prabang, I knew I had to get my hands on some of those and ordered the first sausage I spotted on the menu.  Luang Prabang has exceptionally good sausages.  Sweet and herby with a hint of heat from the chili peppers.  The lemongrass and the juice from Kaffir lime delivered a flavor that is so distinctly indochina.

That and sticky red rice, add the casual, cozy open-air ambience of Mango Tree and it was pure bliss.

Mango Tree
Ban Vat Nong, Sakkarine Road,
Luang Prabang, Laos
+856 71 253-888 / 253-750

Where to Eat in Luang Prabang: L’Elephant

August 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” —  George Bernard Shaw

Have you ever been instantly charmed by a place, its food, that all you want is to share it with everyone that matters to you?  Luang Prabang has that effect on me that I was back in no time with Anton in tow.

Set in the confluence of two rivers that almost surround the town, Luang Prabang is a medley of traditional wooden houses and European architecture, one of those cities oozing with charm.  A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the pressures of mass tourism development have been held at bay, which lends to its allure.

Along with its culture and tradition, one of its greatest attractions is its food.  Restaurants line Sisavangvong Road and the roads along the two rivers.

Options include traditional Lao dishes to fine French cooking.  A remnant of the country’s colonial era – centuries of occupation and colonial rule by the French, Luang Prabang boasts of some good French restaurants.  And this, my friends, is one major reason for a revisit.  Four years is long enough.

I went back to relish once again a satisfying gastronomic delight.  L’Elephant is a long-standing restaurant pioneering a culinary renaissance in Luang Prabang, serving mainly French food although menu includes local options too.  It is housed in a typical 1960’s colonial building, a stone’s throw away from the Mekong.  Twirling fans, high ceiling, and wooden chairs look like a set straight out of “Casablanca”.  Wonderful ambience paired with good food leaves a lasting impression and so there we had our first leisurely meal.

The owners, French-Lao Yannick and Frenchman Gilles, first opened L’Elephant Restaurant in 1999 when Yannick’s grandmother proposed that he come back from France and open a business in her building.  Tourism was on the rise then so he agreed.  What was originally supposed to be a guesthouse became a restaurant instead.  Three more restaurants around Luang Prabang followed after.

They use fresh local produce grown in their own garden, which is probably why most of what comes out of their kitchen are remarkably delicious.

We had for our starter Carrots from their garden with Orange, Lime and Fresh Basil Vinaigrette.  Most refreshing.

Escargots de Bourgogne – French snails baked in parsley and garlic butter.  So simple yet it possesses such amazing flavors – a favorite.

For our main:  Roasted Boneless Quail stuffed with Luang Prabang mushrooms for Anton.  Superb if you like strong flavors.

Fillet of Mekong Perch in Coriander Sauce for me.  Laos being land locked and has only rivers flowing through, river fish are almost always on menus.  Although they tend to taste muddy, this dish has a clean taste, the coriander sauce adding a nice citrus-herb tang.

An indulgence no doubt as this could probably be the most expensive meal we had in Laos but the splurge was worth it.

L’Elephant Restaurant
Ban Vat Nong, Luang Prabang,
Lao P.D.R
For reservations: +856 71 252-482

What to Eat in Laos: Laotian BBQ

June 19, 2012 § 4 Comments

In a sidewalk eatery, a man brings to our table hot coals on a brazier where he affixes a dome shape griddle similar but not quite the ones used for Korean BBQ.

This one has an annulus around the bottom of the griddle, where he poured some broth.

He then came out with a plate of thinly sliced meat of beef, pork and chicken.  And a basket of vegetables, tofu, mushrooms and some glass noodles.

It is a cross between shabu-shabu and Korean BBQ – the veggies, noodles et al. goes into the soup while meats are grilled on the dome-shaped griddle.  The meat I dip into a sauce that I customize to my liking – on a base of peanut sauce, I add some chopped garlic, a bit of fresh chilies and a squeeze of lime juice – beautiful complement to the grilled meats.

The key ingredient, me thinks, is the pork fat provided to grease the griddle as the meat cooks.  This plus all the drippings of the meat goes straight to the soup, making one glorious soup by the end of the meal.

This BBQ meal known locally as Sin Dat is best devoured on a cool evening as the heat of the hot coals can zap the energy out of you on a hot day.  Although I extremely enjoyed both occasions (once in the middle of summer and more recently in January, the coolest month in Laos), I realized that the hot coals, not to mention the hot, flavorful soup can soothe ones senses on a cold, rainy evening.

One can’t possibly call a trip to Laos complete without experiencing this wonderful Laotian BBQ.  Make sure not to miss this.

Satisfaction guaranteed.   🙂

Where to Eat in Vientiane

June 4, 2012 § 1 Comment

Credits: Quickpage by Shabby Mis Jenn’s Design: Kayla’s Tin Album  

Armed only with a list of restaurants and a map, we walked the streets of Vientiane one January morning not quite aimlessly but with very loose plans.  We inquired at Papaya Spa on their treatments (we might want a massage later in the day), appreciated beautiful art pieces at a gallery (which we can’t afford space-wise and pocket-wise), admired some beautiful houses/guesthouses along the way… then we spotted 2 of the restaurants at the top of our list right beside each other.  Divine providence, I say, so we pushed our luck and actually got a table where reservations are usually required.

Makphet

Makphet is a charitable establishment that trains street children to acquire marketable skills – to cook and to wait tables.  Friends International, which also operates in Phnom Penh, teaches them the skills of the restaurant trade in trying to bring a sustainable improvement in their lives.  A good cause and more importantly, excellent modern Lao dishes is definitely a formula for success.

The server-students who enthusiastically served and replied to our queries charmed us so that we went for their recommendations.  Red Hibiscus & Lime Breeze caught my eye.  We call it gumamela where I come from.  The tangy, fruity drink is wonderful to quench off the spiciness of the dishes.

Sharing borders with Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, China and Cambodia, Lao food has strongly influenced (and vise versa) the neighboring cuisine of Thailand and Vietnam.

Their Grilled Beef Fillet wrapped in betel leaves is their take on a typical Vietnamese dish.  Seasoned beef wrapped in betel leaves and then grilled.  The slight peppery aroma of the betel leaves is a wonderful complement to the beef.

Next to arrive was a Crispy Fried Mekong Fish they call Ancient Fish.  It went really well with the Sweet and Sour Tamarind sauce (as fried fish always do) and the side of Green Mango Salad that came with the dish.

A winner in my books, the kaffir leaves and the side salad set it apart from all the fried fish dishes I’ve tasted.

Have you ever tasted sticky rice not as a dessert but just as rice?  A staple in Laotian cuisine – everything tastes so much better with it.  I’m actually missing it now.

The hibiscus (a favorite of the day, I swear) sorbet and coconut ice cream was the way to go to clean the palate after a medley of strong flavors.  Topped with delicious meringue, this baby had sweet, sour, cool and crunchy goodness all in one.  Love.

Reservations are recommended or like us, be there early and you might get lucky if all you need is a corner table for 2.

L’Adresse Cuisine by Tinay

Being a former French colony, the legacy is apparent in Laos such that French restaurants are common and popular.  L’Adresse de Tinay next door is the new kid on the block, so to speak. The French-Lao chef Tinay and French wife Delphine Inthavong are the couple behind this casual French bistro.  When we walked over to make our reservations for dinner, Delphine asked us to pick our table.

We were so looking forward to indulge in French food after a tiring afternoon.  We walked in at exactly 7pm; we were shown to our table.

Unbeknownst to us, this young gentleman in black who was taking our order was actually Chef Tinay who trained in France and came back home to open his restaurant.

Goat Cheese Rolls: Tinay’s Specialty has 7 crispy Goat Cheese rolls with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Tapenade, Pesto, Thyme, Honey, Cherry Confitures, and Sweet Chili Peppers

He has a seasonal menu, which might include his signature goat cheese rolls.

The restaurant is well-lit and has a modern yet welcoming feel; his seasonal menu is written on a huge blackboard on the wall.  A small room houses a selection of wines.   The seating outside is more casual and dark with only the light from inside and some candles lighting each table.

We were wowed from start to finish.  I thought that the bread with the tomato sauce dip was clever – simple yet divine.

We were ecstatic to see escargot on the menu – it has 6 snails on 3 bruschettas with scrambled eggs and topped with parsley cream.

I had Grandma Lydie’s Special cassoulet with home-made duck confit.  The cassoulet is made up of haricot beans, a superb tasting Toulouse sausage and simmered in a sweet garlic cream.  Thank you Grandma Lydie, your cassoulet was sublime.

The rack of lamb was juicy, tender, crusty and perfectly pink.  Herbs were not overpowering but rather complemented this beautiful piece of fatty goodness.

Need I say more?

And for dessert, we shared a crème brulee with vanilla from Madagascar.  I’m not sure now if both crème brulee and ice cream had vanilla from Madagascar.  Whichever the case, it was heavenly.

Anyone who serves Limoncello will always have a place in my heart and this one in particular came with the bill with their compliments– homemade by Delphine.  Beautiful restaurant, lovely personal service, excellent food, reasonable prices, a nice wine selection – I’m willing to bet that this neighborhood French bistro will go a long way.

Suffice to say that our day in Vientiane went really well particularly in the food department.  Only on our first day and we were already wowed.

Makphet
Parallel to Sethathirat Rd, Chanthabouly District (behind Wat Ong Teu)
Opens Mon-Sat 11am-2pm and 6pm-9pm only
+856 (21) 260-586
 
L’Adresse de Tinay
Parallel to Sethathirat Rd, Chanthabouly District (behind Wat Ong Teu)
+856 (20) 5691-3434

Hong Kong Eats

May 5, 2012 § 1 Comment

Trips with the family always involve a lot of eating.  On our (not so) recent trip to Hong Kong, it was with no surprise that the entire itinerary focused on where to eat.  A few good ones picked out from a 2-page list and reservations made even before we boarded.  Yes, if there is such a thing as food geeks, that’s us.

First stop was Hutong in Tsim Sha Tsui.  The restaurant was set out to impress not only in the food department.  It starts with a stylish old China interior and a view to die for from the 28th floor overlooking Victoria Harbor and the Hong Kong skyline.  The dim interior creates drama and intends to highlight the city’s colorfully lit nightscape, particularly the nightly light show at 8pm.  So try to get a table by the window for the best view.

Clockwise:  Floor to ceiling windows overlooking the harbor / dim interior, Cod fish tossed with fermented bean and chilies, Red Lantern, various desserts, the light show, Crispy De-boned Lamb Ribs

Specializing in traditional northern Chinese cuisine, the food is can be quite spicy.  Make sure to order the Crispy De-boned Lamb Ribs, it is their house specialty and never disappoints.  Its crispness resembles that of Peking duck skin and the meat slow-cooked to tenderness but still retaining the flavor of lamb.  If you can handle the heat, their Red Lantern is a must try.  Crispy chicken with Sichuan pepper bursts with great flavor and intense heat if you bite into the chilies.  Even without touching the chilies, I can only eat so much.  Another favorite is the Cod fish tossed with fermented bean and chilies.

Clockwise:  Grilled Zucchini, Green Tea Banana Cake, the sushi counter, Hamachi Roll, Tuna Tartare with Miso, Grilled Chicken Wings

A friend invited for dinner at a different time I was in Hong Kong, we met at the Mandarin for drinks and walked over to The Landmark for what she said would be Japanese tapas.  Given the prestigious address, I knew that it wasn’t going to be a cramped sushi bar but the interior still blew me away.  Zuma has 2 levels with a grand spiral staircase that greets as one step out of the elevator.  We took a table at the terrace where a garden surrounds.  Memorable dishes include Seared Beef with a Yuzu-Ponzu dressing, Tuna Tartare with Miso, a Chicken Yakitori and a very yummy Green Tea Banana Cake with coconut ice cream.  Authentic Japanese cuisine prepared non-traditionally and served Izakaya style – small dishes designed for sharing.  Zuma boasts of a pretty good selection with a robota grill and a sushi counter.  Second time around with the family registers the same satisfaction if not better.

Clockwise: Flan con Dulce de Leche, Provoleta Cheese with Olive Oil and Herbs, Grilled Beef Tenderloin Steak (250g), the street of Soho in Central.

Steak – is always on our radar.  Our usual haunt is Morton of Chicago but this time around, we felt like a change.  At the heart of SOHO in Central is a place where carnivores find pleasure.  La Pampas specializes in Argentinean cuisine, particularly in steaks and grilled meats.  Flown fresh from Argentina, the organic beef is tender and tasty.  Other Argentinean dishes worth ordering from their menu include sausages, chorizo, and cheeses.  And speaking of cheese, their Provoleta cheese with olive oil and herbs is a delightful starter and the Flan con Dulce de Leche, a divine cap to the scrumptious meal.

Clockwise:  Noodle and congee counter, stylish interior, my fish congee, Stir-fried Chinese Broccoli, The chef behind the counter, fried Beef Noodle.

With the excessive feasting, it is just proper to take a rest and end with some congee.  Tasty Congee and Noodle Wanton Shop should be your last stop to somewhat clean the system.  Before taking the train to the airport, spare some time to go to the IFC Mall for some really good congee or noodles on level 3.  If you prefer to head straight to the airport, head out to the food court of Departure east hall of the Hong Kong International Airport.  This one Michelin star restaurant definitely does not disappoint.  So good, it even got listed on the premier edition of the Miele Guide.  So even if you don’t really need to “cleanse”, head out to one of their establishments for some “tasty” comfort food.  Outside of their congee, we loved their Fried Beef Noodle, which we spotted from the table beside us.  Dimsums and wantons are excellent too.

Zuma
Levels 5 & 6, The Landmark
15 Queen’s Road, Central. HK
(852) 3657-6388 (reservations recommended)
 
Hutong
1 Peking Road,
28th Floor, Tsim Sha Tsui, HK
(852) 3428-8342 (reservations a must)
 
Tasty Congee & Noodle Wanton Shop
Shop 3016 Podium 3, IFC Mall
8 Finance Street, Central, HK
(852) 2295-0101 / 2295-0505 (reservations recommended)
 
La Pampas
G/F 32 B & C, Staunton Street,
SOHO, Central
(852) 2868-6959 (reservations a must)

Where to Eat in Macau: Wong Chi Kei Congee & Noodle

March 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Famous for their hand-made noodles, we searched for it and found it at the left side, sitting opposite McDonald’s as you enter Senado Square.

Many, my dad included, claim that they make the best Cantonese noodles in Macau.

Dark wooden interior make up what seemed like a tiny noodle shop until you walk in and realize that it has a mezzanine and a 2nd floor.

The menu was extensive but most of us went for the Wanton Noodle Soup while my brother decided to go for the one with Roasted Duck.

The bowls arrives from a dumb-waiter with noodles and in our case, wanton sans the soup.  The waiter adds into the bowl piping hot soup from a big pot before serving.  That simple.

The soup and the wanton were excellent; the hero however is the noodle.  Cantonese noodles were (obviously) originally from Canton and became popular in the 1920s.   Traditional noodles were made by hand using a long bamboo stick, producing some very smooth, springy noodles that yield a good bite.

Wong Chi Kei’s noodles deliver the same springy noodles as its founder started his business in Guangzhou and Dongguan before he moved his shop to Macau.  This noodle shop has made customers happy with its noodles since 1946 and the family had a satisfying lunch of noodles after a good work-out walking to and from the Ruins of St. Paul’s with a bit of window shopping on the side.

A simple noodle or congee dish was the best neutralizer to the scrumptious Macanese dinner we had the night before.

Wong Chi Kei Congee & Noodle

Macau Old Shop:
Rua Cinco de Outubro, No. 51 r/c
Tel:  +853-2892-2271
 
Macau Main shop:
Largo do Senado, No. 17
Tel: +853-2833-1313

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