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Ramen Manichi (Little Tokyo): A Pictorial Essay

Yes! And the addicting self help pickled crunchy sweet and sour daikon in the jars on the tables, to aid in digestion of the noodles (made with alkali water), stroke of old school genius! Not to mention the baseline lard added to the bottom of the noodle bowls and that whacky looking tasty orange chili sauce that is so classic Cantonese noodle shop.

Jan 18, 2015
K K in Los Angeles Area

Ramen Manichi (Little Tokyo): A Pictorial Essay

It's typically "QQ" which is a Taiwanese slang term. JL explained it better. I have seen/heard it described by Taiwanese food/travel documentaries for other food items like boba/tapioca, squid sashimi in addition to noodles. The Cantonese term similar to it may be 彈牙 ("bounces off the tooth") which was overused by food show hosts a decade back to describe perfectly cooked instant noodles and bamboo pole kneaded egg noodles...

By the way the chahan and yaki gyoza looks damn legit. Reminded me of some of the killer Chuka Ryori and gyoza specialist places during my most recent trip to Osaka.

Jan 17, 2015
K K in Los Angeles Area

Hong Kong trip report (thus far)

That I don't know but Urban Bakery has several croissants to choose from. Bottom line still is that these two places make some of the better renditions compared to other places in town. Then it is just a matter of personal preference as there are camps of people who like one over the other.

Kansai trip report (Kyoto/Osaka)

Just being lazy!

It's not just the price to quality ratio, the level of cooking talent (just a higher standard), ridiculous competition and density of restaurants (and variety) contribute to what is perceived value for us as vistors and outsiders. In a way Hong Kong is like that for Cantonese food vs in the States, but it is a completely different food culture in Japan. I don't like ramen in the States, but had Kinguemon 3 times downstairs from the condo.

I just learned that one of the izakayas I went to near Awaza station is a chain, yet I enjoyed the meal very much. The average rating in tabelog was 3.02, but yet easily better than most places back home.

At Kuromon market, the most popular stalls were the fish markets also offering sashimi and kaisendon (I heard too much Cantonese and Mandarin just within one shop). The wild toro vendor hardly had any customers in the same hour. So close to Nipponbashi station, it's a no brainer for Asian tourists. For us we really enjoyed looking at everything and appreciating the freshness and quality of local produce (particularly the fruit and vegetables). I think I enjoyed exploring Nishiki Market in Kyoto more for some specialized items, though Kuromon had a more local feel to it.

Jan 14, 2015
K K in Japan

Kansai trip report (Kyoto/Osaka)

You can explore Dontobori, Shinsaibashi-suhi, Ebi-suji and surrounding areas inclusive of the alleyways. There isn't any set formula...I'm sure if you stumble around and see something interesting, chances are it will blow away whatever you have access to normally. We went somewhere that was very close to Osaka Takashimaya (which is very near Namba station's Nankai line which goes to the airport), I think it was Okonomiyaki Yukari. Not busy past 11 am, but we were extremely pleased with our okonomiyaki (the Hiroshima yaki was damn good, though the Mentaiko yaki wasn't bad either). It makes me sad remembering the Monja yaki I had from a visiting LA vendor at SF Japantown for some festival...they couldn't even get the batter consistency down, and that version was considered better than Izumiya in SF J-town...

There is a cafe in Shinsabashi called Dalloyau that does macarons and has French names for menu dishes and drinks (instead of English). I do not recommend that place as service is spotty and the quality is not very good. I do highly recommend Patisserie Gregory Collet in the Kitashinchi area. Really solid cappuccino that reminded me of Italy.

For Dotonbori, despite how touristy it can be, even the places Anthony Bourdain went to are very good. Don't eat inside of Kani Doraku, but feel free to spend a few coins and try the charcoal grilled crab legs (out of this world) and buy a few food souvenirs. I tasted the crab paste (kani miso) and found it to be very good. Wish I bought the crab crackers and senbei. Takoyaki....just go to the places where the lines are longest (if you don't mind waiting). My favorite was one that was actually a stand (takoyaki juuhachiban たこ焼十八番 • タコヤキジュウハチバン) and they sell either in 6 or 10 pieces. Do not pass up the stomach quota for yaki gyoza, 大阪王将 道頓堀本店 (Osaka Osho) flagship is also right there on Dotonbori, look for the big giant gyoza icon hanging from the front. If you are really hungry try their Japanese Chinese stir fry, fantastic beer food. Also Kushi Katsu Daruma is very very good (Bourdain went there too). Ask for the English menu and just sample a few skewers (signature is beef). I loved the scallops and wild prawn.

There is a subway station called Tsuruhashi, and right outside is an alleyway (yokocho) that has nothing but a ton of Korean BBQ and yakiniku shops that cater to locals, and has this really amazing vibe from the outside. Had a deja vu from researching a trip to Southern California and I believe there is a yakiniku restaurant in Fountain Valley (Orange County) also called Tsuruhashi, so maybe that is where the eatery got its name from.

Jan 14, 2015
K K in Japan

Kansai trip report (Kyoto/Osaka)

Everything about Kichisen stood out, and extremely enjoyable

The small sample of house sake poured into the small dish was outstanding. We also had the Kokuryu Daiginjo that was really good, but found the Bisuikosen from Hyogo Prefecture to be more refreshing.

The first course had a killer preparation of black beans, of which the liquid that it was soaked in was addicting. Chef Yoshimi Tanigawa presented the small bowl of dashi to us (course #2) which you can taste the difference in quality between Kichisen's dashi vs Hana Kitcho. Now I know what good dashi should taste like.

The sashimi course was sublime. The otoro was ridiculously good, from Amami Oshimi 奄美大島 (such a blessing that I got to try this, and the kama toro which was much less fattening from Oma Aomori Prefecture a day or two later at Kuromon market, on this trip), and a small portion of delectable engawa slices with ikura and daikon oroshi. I think there was also a piece of kuruma ebi sashimi (no head) and madai.

The gohan course that followed was equally interesting, where it tasted like glutinous rice with some red beans, a seasoning containing crushed nori and sesame seeds, along with a piece of roasted chestnut. My friends and I laughed as we saw a significantly cheaper variant at the local 7-Eleven.

For the nimono course, it was a stewed piece of fish (forgot what it was) with finely sliced yuzu peel. Very enjoyable. At the bottom was a "sausage" slice that was tarako. Surreal.

The yakimono course was one of the highlights. A stone grilled fish (I think it was mutsu), saikyo yaki (white miso sake marinated). A very thin slice of pineapple lined the stone grill.

There was one other course, then followed by a claypot rice where there was a layer of shirasu on top. Very simple and delicious

Next was a green citrus fruit (sous chef introduced it as sanpokan or sampokan) with patches of orange, where a section of the top was removed and acted as the "lid". The insides of the bottom half acting as the container were removed, and the skin served as a container. The contents were made into a jello, bursting with flavor. Sous chef poured a little brandy over the jello for us to taste, and asked us to squeeze the "lid" over. So delicious!

Then a plate of 3 Japanese strawberries, followed by a room temperature/warm piece of wagashi (forgot the name) where it had to be picked up with the cherry blossom leaf and eaten together.

There were a party of two Malaysian visitors to our right at the counter, they paid for the more expensive courses where better ingredients were used. They had a beautiful osechi course, and another course with Matsuba gani (snow crab), where the legs were arranged in way that looked like a bamboo plant or forest. Absolutely stunning.

Jan 14, 2015
K K in Japan
1

Hong Kong trip report (thus far)

That's the problem, not good and fresh to begin with. Heating it up lightly should not affect the taste and texture in any way. Urban Bakery toasted without asking and this was not an issue at all. When you do this taste test comparison side by side, you can tell the difference. HK Foodie knows exactly what I am talking about.

Jan 14, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Hong Kong trip report (thus far)

Some more mini reviews:

Vasco - upstairs at the PMQ on Aberdeen Street. The same folks also own Isono which is a more casual eatery with Pata Negra, paella etc that looks quite fab from various blog pictures online. Vasco was extremely expensive with a major markup during New Year's Eve, but other than that, the food was spectacular. For a barely 7 month old restaurant they are trying really hard and the effort shows. It's pretty much like a Ferran style restaurant incorporating modern cuisine, technique, and interesting ingredients. For HK I'd say it's very good to excellent depending on your perspective. Instead of the tried and true pan fried foie gras, they served it chilled and the texture was fantastic. I am glad they didn't resort to using A5 Japanese beef for the red meat course (which would have been prevalent in San Francisco fine dining Michelin star places), and instead did a really tender venison. Some of the highlights included the house made brioche, the various butter tastings (mushroom butter was awesome) and the various fine Spanish olive oil tastings. We requested a tour of the kitchen and met with the young executive chef and it was an interesting experience. Robert was a very gracious host (manager) and answered all of our questions.

Fat Sis (Mongkok) - the legendary Fei Jie innards skewers! Usually get these once every visit to HK, and the consistency is always spot on.

Mui Kee congee (Mongkok) - 3rd or 4th visit in the last 2 years, and even though the older balding chef is not there anymore, I still found the congee very enjoyable, considering what is available in North America. This time managed to try century egg and pork congee, and the century egg was so smooth and melty. Grass carp belly always hits the spot. Still loving the smokey flavors of the fish broth congee. The hot milk tea still needs work, but still better than most places in San Francisco Bay Area.

Sushi Mori Tomoaki - Mori-san has a small loyal local following and he worked at Sushi Mori before in Causeway Bay before leaving (due to business partner disputes) and finally setting up his own place in North Point (nearer Fortress Hill). Gorgeous interior, with now enough space for two sushi counters. Mori-san only serves on one side, and is best to sit in front of him. His fish selection is very decent for HK, though the quality is not necessarily the tip top best, but he does wonders with it, modified take on Edo-style sushi, but done in a way that complements the food and enhances it, rather than style over substance. For this place, aim high with your wallet ($1600 omakase) and the experience will far surpass the lower costs omakase, or the lunch versions. Mori-san's mom is HK Cantonese, and his dad is Kansai Japanese (trained in kaiseki), so he speaks fluent Japanese and Cantonese. Loved his cold smoked shirako, Nagasaki oysters. Kohada he served marinated in apple vinegar which is unusual, but it worked very well. The chawanmushi starter was also really good (I'm appalled at how I can't get half decent chawan mushi where I live!)

Salon De The de Robuchon (Landmark) - the cakes were ok to very decent (a few selection I think on par with B Patisserie in SF) but the croissant was super disappointing compared to Urban Bakery Works on the same floor. There was somewhat of an air of snobbery with the waitstaff, couldn't put my finger on it. The croissant is made locally, and was far too buttery. Plus they didn't even toast it until we requested them to. I liked my ice mocha, though my friend wasn't pleased with his macchiato.

Ser Wong Fun - conch chicken feet double boiled soup is also very excellent.

Central Dai Pai Dong crawl - Shui Kee's signature beef tripe is too good for words. Ridiculously clean and crisp flavors without any gritty, slimey, or weird tasting textures...even the beef pancreas which I dislike normally, is so wicked. Sing Kee's stir fry is a bit of a hit and miss...yes it is a tad touristy, but the vibe is good. Salt pepper squid does not use any batter. Sweet & Sour spareribs is very textbook but works due to no excess saucing. Man Yuen's sweet and spicy pork strip ho fun (lo mein style) is not bad, though they are really not a dai pai dong anymore (but started off as one). Leaf Desserts across the street is an awesome experience...really like their green bean soups (particularly with kelp). Peanut mochi with shaved coconuts also very good, though skip the red beans.

Yue Hing (Dai Pai Dong on Stanley Street) - Peech and many other local bloggers love this place, as do I. Husband and wife team where husband took over his dad's duties. Husband does all the cooking and drinks. Basically sandwiches or instant noodles, all done with a lot of care and attention. Who knew that cabbage and peanut butter in a sandwich would taste so interesting? Who cares, it works.

For Kee - This was breakfast #2 after Yue Hing. Arguably Hong Kong's best marinated pork chop. But to me the best item was the satay onions fresh beef toast (really a sandwich). Even the owner recommended this over the pork chop (which I got one side order anyway). Easily better pork chop than So Kee (Sham Shui Po dai pai dong) and Wah Heung Yuen (inside TST Hai Pong Rd market).

Taiwan Beef Noodles (airport) - jack of all trades (past international terminal 1 security, nearer gates 60 something) that includes roasties, HK cafe fare, dim sum. Beef noodles not bad but it's like paying $12 to $13 for a bowl of average ramen. My friend was almost weeping when he saw the bill. Skip the roasties, skinny roast goose!

Coffee Academics (Causeway Bay) - almost hipster like in nature. Maybe great for HK, but the specialty coffees taste weaker in comparison to say the brand names in San Francisco that are considered "hipster". The cakes are great though.

Café Causette (Mandarin Hotel Central) - The ricotta pancake is very nicely done. Simple western breakfasts, but quite satisfying (despite the hotel markup)

Tai O - the food is always fantastic on the busier streets. No need to overstate the obvious of the Tai O donut (Sa Yung) or charcoal grilled eggettes/egg puffs. The 蝦豬餅 which is the food stall belonging to the adjacent shrimp paste shop (Cheung Choy Kee) is one of the best street foods in the area where they cook ground pork with their shrimp paste and cooked shrimp block (also the consistency of sauce), some shredded lettuce in a scallion free pancake wrap. Incredible umami flavors. Also loaded up on several chili sauces from Yick Cheong Ho, particularly the crispy shrimp chili sauce, and their signature salted fish sauce (made with local threadfin), as well as their clams chili sauce.

Jan 13, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Kansai trip report (Kyoto/Osaka)

Yes that is exactly the vendor! Its name is まぐろや黑銀 and is somewhere further along in the market. They are a toro specialist and just so happens is the only vendor there that also offers Aomori prefecture bluefin (Oma) which I was surprised was available in this part of Japan. Most tourists go for the 3 color donburi (or 3 kinds of bluefin....toro, otoro, and marinated akami).

Here is a picture of the kama toro block carved into sashimi, that we splurged on. The block is still pretty cold, so we let it sit a bit and once each of us put a slice in our mouths, had to let it melt a little bit before chewing much further. Too bad we couldn't grate our fresh wasabi we purchased from another vendor, would have been stellar with it.

Jan 12, 2015
K K in Japan

Kansai trip report (Kyoto/Osaka)

First of all a huge round of thanks for those who contributed to the various questions I posted prior to my Kansai trip, as well as those who created past threads on the areas of interest.

In short, Kansai was extremely interesting and eye opening for me from a visitor and food standpoint.

We stayed at a condo via air BnB, close to Awaza station (Osaka), and just on the same block as the condo were various eateries. Kinguemon 金久右衛門 is a well established chain ramen shop in Osaka and apparently has won #1 best Shoyu Ramen (Osaka area) 3 years in a row. Tasted at least 3 of their menu offerings and found all of them enjoyable (and I really dislike ramen in San Francisco Bay Area where I live). Gyoza very solid and really enjoyed the Asahi dry (brewed locally) that just made me shudder at the Canadian brewed versions back home.

Just a minute walk away was a local izakaya called "Shin" (heart) and while they didn't speak much English I asked waitress to read out some of the menu items (particularly the ones highlighted as specialty) and we enjoyed all of them. Karashi Renkon age was a huge hit...almost grey colored lotus root, where the holes are filled with Japanese mustard and lightly fried. Not oily at all, very standard neighborhood technique and extremely effective. Had our very first taste of horse meat sashimi (basashi) which was thinly sliced (apparently well marbled) with onions, ginger, scallions, almost tattaki like. Then we continued our munchfest and went to another eatery that specialized in fish cuisine, which was dirt cheap and bustling with customers (opens from 6 pm to 3 am). Sashimi, salt grilled fish, braised/stewed (kinmedai nitsuke was earth shattering, like an exacting braise, very little excess sauce but incredible flavor). It is interesting that most of the local draft beers are Kirin, very light but still tasted very good.

Our condo landlord/host tried to book Saeki for us, which is rated #1 on tabelog (and top 500 within the country) of best sushi (also best in Osaka), but the establishment would only accept Japanese speaking customers. We then tried for #2 on tabelog which was 鮨処 平野 (Sushisho Hirano) coincidentally in the Kitashinchi area. The reservation was made in the private room and we enjoyed the omakase which was to me ridiculous value compared to sushi in California (I looked at my credit card and even with add on's, came to only US$176!!!) Stellar shirauo appetizer, grilled sake kasu which went great with our Junmai Daiginjo, a small portion of delectable Matsuba gani (snow crab 松葉蟹) with kani miso, awesome shirako, a Kujira (whale) course of tongue, bacon, and blubber tail with su-miso, a nimono course of daikon, kuro awabi, and octopus (blew us away), sashimi and nigiri course, plus adding on 5 more nigiri, strawberries for dessert, and the standard green tea and hoji-cha.

Two kaiseki dinners....Hana Kitcho and Kichisen. Kichisen was far superior hands down, and even cheaper! I have a new found respect for kaiseki and absolutely was ruined for life (whatever "kaiseki" we have in Northern California is never going to measure up). Had two different kinds of Sai-Kyo yaki (white miso sake marinated grilled fish) and neither of them were cod/gindara....makes you wonder how Nobu Matsuhisa took that idea and made a fortune with it, almost claiming that for his own. Also this trip made me really appreciate the delicateness and flavor of Japanese grown fruit, particularly citrus (not just yuzu). The level and quality of service was impeccable and from a vistor's standpoint far above and beyond (which to them was standard).

Osaka street food....takoyaki and okonomiyaki in the Dontonbori area. Why can't folks in California even do these simple things right? My friend said he has the same issue with pho (he makes pho at home and almost never eats pho outside). Heck even the Japanese Chinese fare kicks so much ass, particularly the Chuka-Ryori ya's in the area (e.g. a small subway restaurant in Shin Osaka station where we grabbed a quick breakfast of beef ramen, fried rice and gyoza, originally from Kobe Chinatown/Nanking machi). Also tried Osho gyoza, a famous local brand, in Dotonbori and loved it.

Even some of the touristy local eats in Shinsaibashi area were stellar. Fuku? sushi made a very beautiful saba sushi and the level of detail even in the packaging moved us. 1700 yen not cheap for a small sized saba sushi (not battera though, and not bou-sushi).

Kyoto Nishiki market was an eye opener for all of us. Fantastic small shops and eats. Loved the kyoto style pickles, particularly anything with daikon. Gives me a new found appreciate for local produce as well.
Aritsugu (knife shop) did indeed have two kinds of katsuobushi kezuri (bonito shaving box), small and large. Small one ran above US$150 and big one was over $300. Stellar impeccable crafstmanship, and the knife sharpening master behind the counter tested it out for me before wrapping it up...the sound was almost musical (the sound you hear from the shaving). Also bought a grater (can be used for yuzu for zesting and wasabi) and brush. One stall sold matcha warabi mochi and it was very enjoyable (though a touch messy). Somewhere 10 mins away outside the market was a killer taiyaki shop, tried one with sweet potato filling (Satsuma imo) and it was so comforting in the cold weather (it actually snowed that night after the Hana Kitcho dinner). There was also a roasted chestnut shop called 林万昌堂 that was absolutely stunning, really enjoyed those chestnuts!

JR Kyoto station (basement area) had a Malebranche cafe branch, which also sold the langue de chat matcha rectangular cookies. Couldn't really taste the matcha exterior, but the white chocolate(?) layer inbetween was delectable. Regret not buying some more to bring home.

Wish we had more time in Kyoto, only scratched a tiny portion of the surface!

Back to Osaka. 磯丸水産 (Isomaru Suisan) was a fun restaurant. Sashimi, grilled at table shellfish. Sazae, scallops etc. Also got a large tuna collar, and it was like eating Flintstones style.

We had one meal with our landlord/host, who took us to his favorite neighborhood restaurant Tori Nabe Tei とりなべ亭 very near Teradacho station (Osaka). No English on the menu but absolutely stellar with a good cost performance ratio. Most of the yakitori ordered was sauced, but even the sauce was extremely delicious. Had our first chicken sashimi as well (thigh, liver, gizzard, breast) and the texture/quality surprised us....so clean, no slimeyness. Tori nabe (hotpot) was incredible....for the chicken they used tsukune (fantastic recipe). And I couldn't believe how tasty their kama meshi was also.

Last but not least, Kuromon market in Osaka...one morning we passed by a vendor that sold charcoal grilled saba shioyaki and I polished off a medium sized one. Then we found a vendor that sold Aomori Oma bluefin toro blocks, and splurged on a block of kama toro. Ho Lee F***k....ruined for life. My friend then picked out what appeared to be an A5 Kobe (real kobe beef) steak that cost 3000 yen per 100 grams. Incredibly fatty and overkill but so damn good. Brought it back to the condo and just pan fried it, added some salt and pepper, along with some local vegetables.
Ended the meal with a 3000 yen Shizuoka musk melon (we saw 100,000 yen versions as well).

Went to Takashimaya department store basement (Osaka and Kyoto) and was just awestruck at the variety and quality. Osaka is definitely bigger. So glad I bought their jarred kani miso....had some over the weekend and it is supremely good stuff, though a touch more salty. Had it grilled over scallops and also in a crab handroll.

Damn I miss Kansai already.

Jan 12, 2015
K K in Japan
1

Wonderful --- a Hunan restaurant in Millbrae

Exactly on that site.

Jan 04, 2015
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Wonderful --- a Hunan restaurant in Millbrae

I have only tried the Mao's braised pork, and I must say it was very well executed without overloading on chili oil and spices (though it was stronger than I had imagined). With an order for one bowl of rice, it was more than enough for one person. Based on that dish alone they do put in additional effort and detail into the cooking. The higher prices also reflect the quality.

I do take issue though with the owner's practice of taking snapshots from the security camera and putting them online. I do know he or she monitors the restaurant's CCTVs from home and remotely. As a result I am not itching to return.

Jan 03, 2015
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Hong Kong trip report (thus far)

Not sure if I have a chance to try these before I leave (only have 2 more days in HK) but thank you so much for your recommendations! Based on your response you are no longer living in SF Bay Area?

I quite enjoyed the 花生糯米糍 from this smaller vendor (easy to pass by and miss on the way to Tai O Lookout and hotel) in Tai O Fishing Village. But always good to know other sources.

I actually did eat at 尚囍 (天后) which I dubbed Sheung Hei, but we opted to try different claypots and got the smaller sizes. Now I regret not getting the one you recommended. I still want to try Wing Hop Sing in Sheung Wan, apparently their marinated beef with egg claypot is great and if you pay something like HK$8 you can ask for crispy rice which is not made with their bread oven.

Jan 02, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Hong Kong trip report (thus far)

HKF it is great to see you post again!

Sorry for the delay, I am actually in Osaka now for the next 5 days. It was snowing in Kyoto earlier in the evening, and while Osaka is not snowing it is bone chilling cold with the wind chill.

I DID try the 流奶黃金牛 (molten custard croissant) and I have to agree it is one of the best damn things I've had on the trip. They no longer have the pineapple butter croissant, as it was a limited offering. My friend had some bun that had cubed cheese inside and that too was quite tasty.

Jan 02, 2015
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Hong Kong trip report (thus far)

Downstairs main dining room. Will try the VIP room next time!

Dec 31, 2014
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Hong Kong trip report (thus far)

OK here are some Tak Lung pics

The soup is 桃姿黑蒜燉螺頭 (with black garlic and conch head double boiled soup) which was recommended by the restaurant when I inquired via email while still overseas/making the reservation and preorder dishes. Just fantastic. 桃姿 is some plant based material used to make the gelatin, and is organic. The soup served 8 to 9 people and ran about HK$480 which was worth it.

梅子粉冰鎭涼瓜 - this was their small cold eats dish, blanched chilled bitter melon with sour plum powder. Really really good.

Gold coin chicken, duck foot wrap, and bbq pork. Having the Beaujolais Cru with us enhanced the experience of the meal, in addition to no corkage in the main dining room. Just incredible how they can take a piece of pork fat and cure it in sugar and rose wine for a week and it tastes so delectable.

茶燻太爺雞 - this is their signature tea smoked chicken. The smokey flavor was just incredible. There's also something about the chicken they use, particularly the delicious yellow fat under the skin. Now I understand why local gourmets think this is one of the greats in terms of Cantonese banquet chicken. Even the giblets (gizzards) were splendid.

山楂咕嚕肉 - hawthorn sweet and sour pork. Such a simple dish but executed at a high level. 3 kinds of hawthorns (flakes, sticks, fruit) and just enough sauce to coat the pork belly (and the belly itself does not taste fattening which is a skill in itself). Most other places use pork shoulder, but they stuck with tradition. One of the highlights of the night

雞蛋焗魚腸 - baked fish intestines with egg. This was actually the restaurant's mistake, I did not preorder this and they included it. We decided to take it since none of us had ever had this dish before ever. It was like a fluffy quiche, and a good amount of dried citrus peel flavor. At least it was not greasy.

蒸蟹糥米飯 - steamed crab glutinous rice. Appearance wise this is a winner. The rice trumped the crab (skinny, not fatty, and not meaty). Our party pretty much mostly from San Francisco Bay Area are used to fatty meaty local crabs. Perhaps this is not the right kind to use.

焗西米蓮容布甸 - baked sago (lotus seed paste) pudding. Finally a rendition that reminds me of HK in the 1980s! One of my all time favorites.

I must say that Tak Lung was an extremely enjoyable experience. Management were extremely responsive to reservations and preorder dishes through email, very polite and efficient. The restaurant turned over 2 seatings while we were there, and they also do a lot of great Shunde style dishes.

Hong Kong trip report (thus far)

Oh yes I've had that before and their coffee in the last 2 years. Cheong Kee's Yeen Yeung/Yin Yang (half coffee half milk tea) is extremely solid and is my new favorite drink there. In fact if you ask for Yeen Yeung Jeou, and less sweet, it is damn perfection. Having had that and Cheung Hing and Cheung Sing's HK milk tea, they are just not the same.

Dec 31, 2014
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Hong Kong trip report (thus far)

My friend took this picture at one of the bakeries but the lady was upset at her doing that (unless she was going to buy). Four different flavors at this one. I did try a specimen somewhere else at about half the size. This was far too big.

Dec 31, 2014
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Hong Kong trip report (thus far)

Heading out to Vasco tonight for an inflated 3x tasting menu NYE course, so it better be good...

Urban Bakery Works in the Landmark has a truly excellent croissant that impressed my well traveled friends. Turns out they import them from France. Upon toasting it the layers are crispy, like a fresh cornetto. Flakey, good layers, and great balance. Le Salon De The Robuchon at the Landmark on the other hand, provided a locally made croissant that was too buttery. We had to ask for it to be toasted, so it was no good in comparison. These friends who have eaten excellent definitive croissants in Paris said Urban Bakery's passes with flying colors.

Cheung Chau - Take the #5 Ferry, and you will get there within 30 to 40 minutes one way. Quite a pleasant day trip where the pace is slowed down (bicycles or walking as primary sources of transportation). Lots of retro style snacks but not as exacting or packing the same traditional punch as Tai O. The signature item is a "Ping On" bun, which resembles a Northern style mantou, with a pink stamp of the peace/harmony characters on it (which also morphed into various souvenirs at other shops like phone dongles or neck pilows for airplanes). Best of all they have those really old style HK toys that kids used to play, like plastic paste at the end of the straw to blow your own bubbles. Various dessert shops selling mango mochi, which are not bad. Lots of stir fry Sai Kung esque seafood restaurants along the waterfront but with very little wow factor compared to Ap Lei Chau fish market which I don't think we are going to get to this trip due to jet lag and other issues.

Tried to make a last minute reservation at David Lai's new Neighborhood small plates eatery and they require a minimum one week advanced reservation! We ended up at Sheung Hei in Tin Hau on Mercury Street, where the chef is ex Kwun Kee in Sheung Wan. He is a bit peculiar in that he doesn't make the rice entirely burnt. The prices are all very reasonable and reflect the local demographic. Place was packed to the gills last night with some grannies trying to force their way into tables without checking in with the cashier who runs a very tight ship. Two waiters only and they look like they run around like headless chickens. Good value and hit the spot. Loved the claypot rice soy sauce. Order ahead of time, they take 30 to 45 minutes to cook. Unless you have a giant appetite, one order is enough to share for two. White eel and frog leg was a surprising sleeper hit, but the classic Chinese sausage had a more intense robust flavor. But my friends and I agreed they do not surpass the Chinese sausage claypot at Ser Wong Fun (gas burner, far more smokey and more burnt rice). So my friends, charcoal grilled is not necessarily better, especially if you are after that crispy burnt rice layer. The other place supposedly on the upswing is Siu Wah at the Alridge Market in Sau Kee Wan (cooked food stall), also charcoal grilled, but I wasn't impressed with them as much. Moisture from certain materials will make the rice a tad wet and thus less crispy rice layers.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for the New Year to all of you!

Dec 31, 2014
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Hong Kong trip report (thus far)

Cheung Hing still has the retro decor inside with title walls, columns, and also the floors. The booths look a lot cleaner and the tables appear to be new. Otherwise the retro feel is seemingly intact. The place looks a lot cleaner than 2 years back.

Milk tea with condensed milk was not bad, but I wasn't impressed much with the pineapple bun. Very polite service, and they take Octopus card in there.

Dec 31, 2014
K K in China & Southeast Asia
1

Hong Kong trip report (thus far)

Still trying to adjust to a bit of jet lag, but whatever food I have sampled thus far is still quite spot on

Cheong Kee (Happy Valley) - upstairs from the wet market cooked food stall. This place is a local institution where they specialize in thick toast. But this visit I managed to finally try their pickled greens pork strip rice noodle soup 雪菜肉絲湯米粉 and it is out of this world. Having had really mediocre version in the USA, the quality and execution of everything in the bowl is just spot on. They seem to have a knack for getting a good quality pickled greens. Best of all is the kind friendly local style service where if you order this and a drink, they won't shortcharge you with a la carte prices and see if you want to do a combo. One drink, one side of toast (not the thick kind for the combo), and a bowl of rice noodles is HK$28. Open in the AM whenever they do till 5 pm like clockwork

Tak Lung (Sun Po Kong) - my photos are stuck in my phone at the moment, but I preordered all the greats. Sweet and sour pork using hawthornes, hawthorn flakes and sticks for the natural flavoring, with a sauce coating that sufficiently covers the pork, along with the frying technique make this a winner. Plus they use pork belly and not pork shoulder and it does not leave that coating of fat in the mouth. Baked sago pudding is also very solid. Gold coin chicken (pork fat cut into a cookie shaped diameter and marinated in rose wine and sugar for a week, chicken liver, piece of cha siu and slow roasted for an hour) plus "duck feet wrap" (deboned duck feet, duck intestines, taro etc) were excellent. Gold coin chicken and a killer Beaujolais Cru 2013 Jean Paul Thevenet that I brought along (free corkage if you do not use the restaurant's VIP room) went great with the meal.

Tai O - Go on Sunday and hit up the charcoal grilled eggettes. On the same side of the street is Tai O Bakery, and a place that sells "Chinese pizza" which looks like a crepe skin with scallions, pickled daikon/radish (house made, fantastic), dried shrimp, plus a bunch of other things that can compete with the best of Taiwanese night market street food. Stone ground shrimp paste is a must buy to bring home to Japan, Canada, USA (take it to your favorite Canto restaurant and stir fry kakung/water spinach with, or steam it with pork belly or pork jowl/neck meat and tofu, or marinate it with chicken wings...so damn good)

Giando - I finally dined at the restaurant where in October Charles posted the FB page of the restaurant where there was a ruckus with a table of local bloggers (they complained about stopping the free flow brunch Prosecco for a girl's birthday party and refused to pay and the restaurant called the police to resolve the matter). Based on some really solid regional Italian in San Francisco proper, I'd say Giando is very good for Hong Kong but it depends on what you order. I loved my spaghetti with ricci (Italian sea urchin) and bottarga. Burrata seems to be a hard find for HK but their appetizer with what tasted like heirloom like tomatoes (maybe Roma) and a marinated eggplant in balsamic was good. Most of the burrata was very creamy with a few chunks a tad elastic and a touch drier that would have benefited from adding some olive oil and a touch of salt and pepper. We have better burrata at A16 (SF) and my friend preferred the version at Delfina. Enjoyed a good Piedmont Barolo 2009 bottle with our table. There was a lot of construction outside the building where the restaurant is located.

Ser Wong Fun - double boiled soups cannot fail here. Tried their Chinese sausage claypot rice and it was heavenly. Ordered a salted fish stir fried with gai lan and it too hit the spot. Tonight we plan on going to a claypot rice specialist shop that also does charcoal grilling, and the chef is ex Kwun Kee from Sheung Wan, so we should hopefully also be getting the claypot stew/broth with pork bones and vegetables.

Yat Lok - I am amazed and yet rather appalled that this place got a Michelin star, but their roast goose is solid. Finally having visited the Central location, it is basically a typical HK cafe cha chaan teng kind of vibe, cramped seating. Guess you have to come right when they open if they are willing to sell drumsticks, otherwise just spend the HK$140 for a lower quarter which will have a drumstick. They must be using a different breed of goose, they are skinner. I love the marinade for the roast, it is just right in terms of saltiness. The skin is not crispy and to me doesn't need the prune sauce for dipping. The meat is flavorful, juicy and overall nicely balanced. My friends enjoyed it as did I. The lai fun on the other hand was average and the broth a touch salty. I prefer the lai fun soup from Bor Kee in Sai Wan, though their goose leg drumstick (should you be lucky to score one) is fattier and larger (smaller than an Anaheim Disneyland fried turkey leg but still a beast nonetheless in comparison). When we left the restaurant there was a sizeable line. Really why bother with Yung Kee or even Kam's.

I have yet to make it to Yue Hing and For Kee for HK style dai pai dong esque sandwiches.

Not going to Nur on this trip.

Happy Valley's Cheung Hing coffee shop (an iconic HK cafe) where lots of celebrities frequented, went through a major remodeling and finally reopened. They were closed last year and I thought they were done for. But they retained the booth seats and the place still has a pseudo retro feel. A slightly better selection than Cheung Heung nearby.

Dec 29, 2014
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Cooking Papa (Mountain View)

Makes no sense, likely the same bathroom as its previously tenant, Sizzler which has been there for ages. Unless CP got singled out by city of Mountain View and or with new regulations.

Dec 23, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Cooking Papa (Mountain View)

Don't know the scoop exactly, but guessing it is a legitimate facility or kitchen repair/remodel and not the slang term for permanent closure/change of ownership/paying off gambling debts etc.

Facebook page post from November: We will be closed from 12/1/14-12/21/14 for renovation. Sorry for the inconvenience. Please visit our other locations.

Dec 21, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Fish markets in Osaka, which ones worth visiting?

Also, any feedback on Izumisano fish market 泉佐野漁協青空市場?

If research is correct, these appear to be the eateries in that market

http://tabelog.com/osaka/S7/S141040/C...

Curious if it is also worth going to the Osaka Municipal Wholesale Market Honjo http://www.honjo-osaka.or.jp/ (which is where Sushi Endo is).

Thanks in advance

Dec 16, 2014
K K in Japan

Fish markets in Osaka, which ones worth visiting?

I know about Tariji Port which is not far from the airport (15 min walk tops from the train station, Yoshiminosato I believe), and on Sundays it looks like they have some AM farmers market/fish market with lots of cool vendors (sashimi fest, uni trays, and maybe seafood BBQ)

http://www.tajiriport.com/asaichi.html

http://www.tajiriport.com/bbq.html

Are there other fish markets that have something fun like this, that locals go to, that are better and bigger?

It looks like I will be in the area on a Sunday.

(I don't want to do that Sushi Endo/pseudo Tsukiji Sushi Dai Sushi Daiwa experience)

Dec 16, 2014
K K in Japan

Looking for good omuraisu in Kyoto, preferably in or near Higashiyama (near Heian Shrine)

This type of food is not on my radar when my friends and I go visit Kyoto area in slightly less than a month, but I was following a friend's blog post and he visited Omelette Araki 1960 (オムライスあらき 1960)

http://tabelog.com/kyoto/A2601/A26060...

which could be upwards of half hour subway ride south of the desired area.

It's rated maybe #3 on tabelog ranking if searching for omelette.

I would also try

http://tabelog.com/kyoto/A2601/A26030...

there is also this one that is rated higher

http://tabelog.com/kyoto/A2601/A26020...

but it appears to be more of a Yoshoku-Ya that does also curry rice, ebi furai etc.

This is assuming tabelog reviews are trustworthy enough.

Dec 09, 2014
K K in Japan

Mochi at Yuen Hop (Oakland Chinatown)

The black sesame ones are labeled in Chinese as "tong yuen" which suggests putting them in soup, but they are probably my favorite between them and the peanut version and already good eaten as is.

They should not be refrigerated and have to be consumed within 48 hours.

The peanut version is labeled as lor mai chee 糯米滋 and is a very classic old school glutinous rice based Cantonese based dessert, arguably with Hakka Cantonese origins. The texture is quite excellent, and somewhat reminds me of the kind I had at a vendor that sold these exclusively at Tai O fishing village in Lantau Island (western tip) Hong Kong

http://www.openrice.com/restaurant/sr...

though this place does it even smoother and silkier, with a texture on par with Benkyodo Co SF.

This type of eat falls under the category called "cha gwor" 茶果, which are snacks meant to be paired with Chinese tea, but typically 茶果 are steamed (pre-steamed sometimes served room temperature) and a lot chewier.

Nov 23, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Any recommendations on restaurants serving chicken livers?

Went to SPQR within the last two months and they did have chicken liver, paired with this sweet fig jam like paste with crostini. Quite good.

My favorite was the version at Serpentine during dinner, executed extremely well, I would go back just for that.

Then there's Ippuku in Berkeley, who can do them grilled over charcoal medium rare upon request (if you can tolerate the redness) but very juicy and nicely done.

Nov 23, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area

Hong Kong: Tasting menus: Nur vs Vasco?

Has anyone been to both Nur and Vasco recently and can comment on which one would be a better experience? Nur seems to offer a prix fixe (2 price) option for the last week of December with some Christmas themes. Vasco is willing to offer the full tasting menu during lunch upon request.

Trying to decide between the two given the short amount of time this visit to HK, then it is a matter of chance/availability afterwards. Thanks in advance!

Nov 20, 2014
K K in China & Southeast Asia

Crystal Jade, Embarcadero Center, San Francisco.

If you go on crystaljade.com there are various types of CJ restaurants. SF got the one labeled Jiang Nan which is under specialty (not "fine dining"), and the ones in HK are all called CJ LM (la mian) XLB 翡翠拉麵小籠包 and there are a few CJ Kitchen locations (not many).

Whoever did the investing probably figured, go bigger or go home. Exactly how the investors probably approached M.Y. China in terms of location and prices. It would have been nicer to get a more downscale and accessible CJLMXLB. Though can't complain, bringing us just a notch closer to Michelin Cantonese in HK, but not quite there since it is a mish mash of styles (Singaporean Chinese, Cantonese, some regional Chinese).

Nov 19, 2014
K K in San Francisco Bay Area