Archive for November, 2012

Home Style Dinner – A Plus Kitchen 讚記廚房

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

After a mediocre lunch at Lan Fong Yuen in Tsimshatsui (尖沙嘴), the FoodLover took a walk down to Mongkok (旺角), then to Shamshuipo (深水埗) where he used to live many years ago. The old streets had changed a bit but he had no problem finding his way around while taking some pictures. It was 7pm when he got back to Tsimshatsui trying to decide what to have for dinner. When he was going through the menu at the door of a Hong Kong style cafe (茶餐廳), someone tapped on his shoulder. It was Peter the Japanese again! He was on his way to join his wife for dinner at A Plus Kitchen 讚記廚房 across the street. Of course, the FoodLover went with him.

The Chans live just a couple of blocks from A Plus Kitchen and they have been coming here to dinner regular – it’s their dining hall (食堂). The traditional Cantonese dishes looked and tasted great. Service was excellent. Prices were reasonable too but that was none of my business because Mrs. Chan insisted on paying again. Thanks.

A Plus Kitchen 讚記廚房
香港九龍尖沙咀寶勒巷6-8號盈豐商業大廈地下B舖
電話: +852-2311-6833

Here are some of the pictures taken in the afternoon:

The FoodLover used to live on the 5th floor of this building on Fuk Wing Street 福榮街 about half a century ago.

Another view of Fuk Wing Street.

Tack Ching 德貞 – a school with long history.

Precious Blood Convent 寶血會女修院 – a convent in inner city.

Kweilin Street 桂林街 where one can find many good traditional eateries.

Can’t Always Trust a Name – 蘭芳園(重慶大廈店)

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

20121128 Lan Fong Yuen ALan Fong Yuen 蘭芳園 in Tsimshatsui is a branch (分店) of that famous Hong Kong style cafe in Central that specializes in milk tea 港式奶茶. It was still raining outside; Peter the Japanese and the FoodLover went there for a light lunch.

The specialty at this shop are instant noodle dishes (撈丁). We ordered pork chop and char siu and the food tasted as bad as it looked. I was most disappointed to find the milk tea so bland that the only taste was milk. The original Lan Fong Yuen in Central might be overrated but as least the tea there was good with strong tea flavor (茶有茶味).

This restaurant might bear the same name as the one in Central, the tea was obviously prepared with a totally different formula and process. Forget about this place. There are so many better eateries in Tsimshatsui.

20121128 Lan Fong Yuen B20121128 Lan Fong Yuen C

Lan Fong Yuen 蘭芳園
香港九龍尖沙咀彌敦道36-44號重慶大廈活方地庫26號舖
電話: +852-2316-2311

 

TST to Hunghom – 生記粥店

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

20121128 Sang Kee CIt was cool and drizzling but the FoodLover and Peter the Japanese stuck to their plan of walking from Tsimshatsui to Hunghom. It only took a liitle over half an hour.

Peter used to live in Hunghom and had no problem finding one of the better congee shops in that district – Sun Kee Congee 生記粥店. This Sun Kee had nothing to do with the Sang Kee in Sheung Wan. He ordered Plain Congee with Fried Rice Noodle, I had the Pork Bone Congee with Dry Vegetable and my favorite Ox-Tongue Pastry.

For some reason, not many congee shops serve the Pork Bone Congee anymore. I liked it. Ox-tongue Pastry was freshly prepared at the front of the shop. Yummy. I am glad to see old style Cantonese food still surviving, in old districts at least.

20121128 Sang Kee A20121128 Sang Kee B

Sun Kee Congee 生記粥店
香港九龍紅磡差館里3號
電話: +852-2365-1160

Old style butcher shop that is disappearing in Hong Kong.

A noodle shop that has been around for a long, long time.

Starred Jiangnan Cuisine – 浙江軒

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Zhe Jiang Heen 浙江軒 – a Michelin One-Star restaurant – is not a private club but does offer certain benefits to its members who are willing to pay a one-time fee of HK$3,000. Being one of the privileged members, Lincoln was so kind to arrange a dinner there for the FoodLover with some old friends.

Frankly speaking, we were so busy catching up with each other and discussing various social economic issues, not enough attention was paid to the wonderful food at the table. The dinner started with a few traditional Jiangsu/Zhejiang cold dishes.

Fried Eels were really crispy and delicious.

20121127 Zhe Jiang Heen A20121127 Zhe Jiang Heen B

This Sliced Gelatin Ham looked good and tasted so.

20121127 Zhe Jiang Heen C

Jelly Fish was crunchy but not tough. Smoked Eggs had this fragrant smoke aroma with really soft yolk.

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Braised Pork Leg is a dish you see all over Jiangnan 江南. The chef there definitely knew how to make it tender and tasty.

20121127 Zhe Jiang Heen F

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This crab meat with roe (蟹粉) was much, much better than what I had in Shanghai in the previous week. The FoodLover will seriously consider moving the Annual Crab Banquet from Shanghai to Hong Kong next year.

20121127 Zhe Jiang Heen I

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Just a look at this picture of Sauteed Eels would get one’s saliva dripping.

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Little yellow croakers were crispy. The Deep Fried Egg Whites with Red Bean Paste was a little cool so the captain gave up a complimentary fruit platter.

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Obviously, this restaurant is highly recommended, especially for those who come from overseas and only have limited time to taste good food. Thanks, Lincoln and friends.

Zhe Jiang Heen 浙江軒
香港灣仔駱克道300至306號僑阜商業大廈2至3樓
電話: +852-2877-9011

Corn Congee – Sea View Congee Shop 海景粥店

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

It was early in the morning; the FoodLover went out again to find congee for breakfast, this time with Peter the Japanese who happened to live just a few blocks from the hotel in Tsimshatsui. It was drizzling so we took the subway instead of walking down to Mongkok. When we came out of the MTR station, we found the rain pouring down. A little congee shop nearby – Sea View Congee Shop 海景粥店 – looked OK and we were happy just to be able to sit down somewhere dry.

On the wall poster, I saw that congee with corn base cost HK$6 more and decided to give that a try. Ingredients of my congee were good. Unfortunately, the corn based congee was just too sweet and too thick for my taste. This congee shop is probably worth visiting again; just won’t have corn in the congee next time.

20121127 Sea View Congee

海景粥店
香港九龍旺角弼街72號地下
電話: +852-2787-7003

Unbeatable Harbor View – Above & Beyond 天外天

Monday, November 26th, 2012

20121126 Above & BeyondAfter an enjoyable lunch at Yixin Restaurant with Eric and Connie, the FoodLover went back to rest at the hotel for a couple of hours before walking over to Tsimshatsui East to have dinner with Janet and friends at Above & Beyond 天外天 on the top floor of Hotel ICON.

Janet and her friend were already there when I arrived. Lincoln and KY showed up shortly after. Janet had to have great relationship with the restaurant as our window-side table probably had the best view of the Hong Kong Harbor. The harbor surely looked stunning with Xmas lighting – 無敵海景.

Looking at the pictures below, one might wonder how the five of us could finish all these dishes. We did. Everything tasted so good there wasn’t much left. There are many restaurants that can present good looking dishes while others can serve good tasting food. This place achieved both goals. While I could not pinpoint any one dish that really stood out, all of them were delicious and ingredients were fresh. The well thought-out menu also gave us a balanced meal of beef, pork, lamb, poultry, fish and vegetables.

20121126 Above & Beyond A20121126 Above & Beyond B20121126 Above & Beyond C20121126 Above & Beyond D20121126 Above & Beyond E20121126 Above & Beyond F20121126 Above & Beyond G20121126 Above & Beyond H20121126 Above & Beyond I20121126 Above & Beyond J20121126 Above & Beyond K

I trust that most of my readers will be tempted to try this restaurant. Make sure you call ahead to reserve a window-side table or you will be missing half the deal.

Above & Beyond 天外天
28/F, Hotel ICON, 17 Science Museum Road, Tsimshatsui 尖沙咀科學館道17號唯港薈28樓
Tel:+852-3400 1318

20121126 Above & Beyond Menu

Traditional Cantonese Cooking is Not Dead – 益新美食館

Monday, November 26th, 2012

20121126 Yixin AEric (明哥) couldn’t make it to the crab banquet in Shanghai this year but was so kind to invite the FoodLover to lunch at a traditional Cantonese restaurant in Wanchai near his office – Yixin Restaurant 益新美食館. He also brought along his colleague Connie whom the FoodLover hadn’t seen for over twenty years. She hadn’t changed much.

Dim sums were really good, especially Shrimp Dumplings (蝦餃) and Dumplings with Soup (灌湯餃). In the Shrimp Dumplings, there were just enough pork and bamboo shoot to add flavor and texture to the shrimp. The Dumplings in Soup was prepared correctly, i.e. having delicious soup inside the dumplings. These days, many restaurants take the short cut of simply serving the dumplings in a bowl of soup.

20121126 Yixin B20121126 Yixin E20121126 Yixin F20121126 Yixin G

Specialties at Yixin were Pipa Duck and Home Town rice Noodle and Eric of course had ordered these dishes. Taking the first bite, the duck might taste a little bit heavy; it did go very well with the rice noodle. Flavors of the ingredients totally penetrate the duck meat that every bite was delicious (入味). I know a guy who can definitely finish at least four bowls of rice with this dish alone. Rice noodle was cooked with unbeatable fish soup – a must-have in this restaurant.

20121126 Yixin C20121126 Yixin D

I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who is willing to pay a little more to enjoy life. Will definitely come back myself.

Yixin Restaurant 益新美食館
香港灣仔軒尼斯道48-62號上海實業大廈地下
電話: +852-2834-9963

 

Enjoy Congee with the Birds – Mui Kee 妹記

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Back to Hong Kong, the FoodLover could have congee every morning again. The first one to have was of course good old Mui Kee 妹記 in Mongkok. I have not been disappointed there yet.

20121126 Mui Kee A

妹記生滾粥品
香港九龍花園街市政大廈4樓熟食中心11-12舖
電話: +852-2789-0198

In the old days, morning tea goers usually took their birds to tea houses (茶居) and enjoyed the birds’ singing with tea and dim sum. Now most tea houses do not allow that because of bird flu. Fortunate for these traditional friends of birds, nobody in this market (街市) was enforcing the no-bird and no-smoking rules, not at 7am anyway.

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This kind of large billboards advertising after-school tutors is nothing new in Hong Kong and maybe Taiwan. For teachers everywhere else, they can only dream of such star-status.

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新天地歎 High-Tea – COVA

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

The FoodLover’s sister had visited Shanghai several times but still had no sense of direction. On her last day in Shanghai before leaving for Macau, I bought her a Transportation Card (交通卡) and showed her that the subway in Shanghai was much safer than that in Guangzhou. After having a light lunch at 鼎泰豐 at 港匯廣場 in 徐家匯, we took the subway back to Xin Tian Di (新天地) to have dessert.

Starbucks was full with a long line in front, so we walked in this little pastry shop COVA across the alley. This was a nice cozy place where the servers were pleasant. The tea set looked interesting so we went for that. The pastry tasted as good as they looked and the coffee was not bad.

As my sister was looking out of the window, she saw a familiar face and rushed out. That was Richard from Toronto who happened to be in Shanghai on business. He joined us for a cup of coffee and talked about the old time.

At the strategic moment, I excused myself to pay a visit to the restroom in the nearby hotel (this restaurant does not have the facilities). When I returned, Richard had already paid the bill as expected. That was my lucky day as this high-tea wasn’t cheap.

20121124 COVA

COVA(新天地北里店)
上海盧灣區太倉路181弄新天地北里內(近馬當路)
電話:+86-21-3376-3810

Leaving Xin Tian Di, we walked along Huaihai Road (淮海路) and ended up in Fuxing Park (復興公園) where I took some pictures of old folks enjoying life.

Dancing is supposed to be fun but all these folks were trying hard not to show any sign of happiness.

Karaoke in the park.

Another singer.

What’s she doing?

She was sad.

Just seeing what was in the park, you could not help but to believe that Shanghai should be the best place for retirement. All these seniors were enjoying life in the middle of this big city – playing chess, singing karaoke, and dancing – 捉棋,唱歌,跳老舞,重想點?

Demise of Another Favorite – 成隆行蟹王府

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

The 13th Annual FoodLover’s Crab Banquet was again held at the FoodLover’s favorite Cheng Long Hang 成隆行蟹王府. This year, in addition to the regulars around Shanghai, we also had several guests coming all the way from Toronto, Canada. Our Shanghai Banquet Organizer, Vivian, was so kind to coordinate with the restaurant a couple of months ahead so we could have the best room at the center of this place (陽澄湖廳) overlooking the stage where musician were playing traditional Chinese music. (We later noticed that these musicians had a really easy job; they played for 5 minutes and took a half-hour break before coming back to play another 5 minutes.)

As usual, we started with a few appetizer dishes. The Crabs in Wine Sauce (醉蟹) were as good as before with firm meat, plenty of roe and adequate wine marinating. Smoke Fish was slightly dry but acceptable. Braised Salt Meat with Crab Meat (蟹粉淆肉) was disappointing. Ideal, there should be 80% meat with 20% of jello-like oil; what we saw this time was more like 50/50. Needless to say, there wasn’t the slightest trace of crab meat or flavor in the meat. Goose Liver with Sake (清酒鵝肝) was OK but there was absence of any sake flavor; the presentation of this dish was much better in previous years too.

20121123 Cheng Long Hang A20121123 Cheng Long Hang B20121123 Cheng Long Hang C20121123 Cheng Long Hang D

Before we were even half done with the appetizers, the servers put a few more dishes of main courses on the table. I had to ask the “manager” whether they were trying to rush us out of the restaurant. She apologized and said that the kitchen might be a little confused because of the full-house. Whether they were doing that intentionally or not, that was a strong sign of poor management.

While the price of the main dishes were generally about 20% to 30% than last year, portions were significantly smaller. Worst of all, quality of these dishes was infinitely worse. Take the Stir-fried Crab Meat (清炒蟹粉) as example. A good dish of 蟹粉 should have meat with enough roe to give that fatty but tasty flavor. What we had this time was just DRY CRAB MEAT! The 蟹柳蘆筍 had more celery than asparagus and more crab-leg-shaped mushroom than crab legs. The Braised Bean Curd with Crab Meat (蟹粉豆腐) was all tofu – it was difficult to find any crab roe in it.

You can click to see what was had at this same place just three years ago to see the difference in food quality.

20121123 Cheng Long Hang E20121123 Cheng Long Hang F20121123 Cheng Long Hang G20121123 Cheng Long Hang H20121123 Cheng Long Hang I20121123 Cheng Long Hang J

We then had a couple of vegetable dishes to cleanse our palate before tasting what we came here for – the Crab!

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To be fair to Cheng Long Hang, the crabs were pretty good. Meat was firm and there was a lot of fat, translucent roe inside.

20121123 Cheng Long Hang M

As in any proper Chinese banquet, we finished with rice and noodle. Crab Meat Fried Rice had always been our favorite but this time was another cause of frustration. At this point, I wasn’t even expecting reasonable quantity of crab-like substance in the dish; I was amazed why the restaurant would use cheap rice (米碎) in this expensive dish. The rice was hard like sand and this was the first time in over ten years that we did not finish all the fried rice. The restaurant charged us over 100 yuan for this dish of fried rice and decided to shave less than one yuan by using substandard rice. Management there either was stupid or believed that the FoodLover and friends were stupid.

20121123 Cheng Long Hang N20121123 Cheng Long Hang O

As I was walking out of the restaurant, I was puzzled by the full house at this high price and poor food quality. It was good and worth the price a few years ago but not any more. I found the answer when I was checking customer feedback on “dianping.com” (大眾點評).

20121123 Cheng Long Hang P

On dianping, I saw a “Groupon” (團購) ad selling set dinner at Cheng Long Hang at 47% discount! That means somebody at the next table was probably effectively paying only RMB232 for that dish of Stir-fried Crab Meat (清炒蟹粉) that cost me RMB438. The chef was of course preparing the dish based on a price of RMB232 regardless of what I paid. That also explained why the quality went down while the price in general went up by 20-30% from last year.

I thought this restaurant had become a joke but the joke was actually on me! The deep discount on the internet was a sign that the decrease in number of Japanese customers who were willing to pay high price for good food was hurting business so much that they had no choice but to give discount to the price sensitive crowd that might not demand as high a standard.

Will the FoodLover host dinner at Cheng Long Hang again. I am old enough to know never to say never. The simple answer is “unlikely”.

Cheng Long Hang Crab Restaurant 成隆行蟹王府
上海黃浦區九江路216號
電話: +86-21-6321-2010

Reading this post to this point, readers may think that we had a miserable dinner, right? Of course not! This annual event is an opportunity for the FoodLover to catch up with old friends and meet new friends. We had a great time as in all previous years. My only regret is that I could not give my guests a better crab-tasting experience, especially those who came to this event the first time. We drank so many bottles of Chinese wine that I lost count of the number. From the picture below, can you tell who drank the most?