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Hong Kong & China Comments (HK, GZ, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shanghai)

I am just finishing a two week trip to China and Hong Kong, and wanted to add to the relatively limited comments on here. By way of reference, I live in Los Angeles and grew up in San Francisco. I speak no Chinese (so I largely only went to places with English menus, or at least pictures), but I have had the benefit of eating some really good Chinese food in San Gabriel Valley (thanks to the brilliant Chowhound reviewers in that part of the world) and in San Francisco and Millbrae. I was unfortunately too busy before leaving to plan anything at all.

In Hong Kong, I really enjoyed Loong Toh Yuen (3/F, 1881 Heritage, Hullett House, 2A Canton Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui. 3988-0000) for dim sum lunch (HK$300 - I eat a lot). Some might eschew this spot because it is in a new hotel complex, which is otherwise a bit lame. But I suggest it. The food was refined and excellent, down to the edamame/soy beans, dressed in something delicious. The room was quiet and subdued, but I did get to listen in on a business deal between three hong kong dudes and thai guy, so they had to speak in English. It was just what I was in the mood for.

Also in Hong Kong, to celebrate a big day, and thank my host for having me, we went first for drinks at Ozone (which is silly and fabulous) and then for dinner at The Chairman in Sheung Wan (close to Central on HK Island). Do not let this douche-bag name scare you off, this place is fantastic. Check out the website, they are obsessed with organic, high quality ingredients and it shows in the food, which is refined, subtle and delicious. This place is down a lane in a quiet little corner, and is done up very simply in white. Good service, but nothing pretentious. It is all about the food. On a side note, they squeezed me in for a late dinner at 9:30 when I practically begged, and when we arrived the other tables were a family of 10 and what appeared to be a boy band with their manager - everyone drinking very expensive wine, including some 2000 Dom. The wine list starts at about $100 USD, so we had beer. We had shrimp cakes , pork ribs (sweet and meaty), soy braised chicken (subtle, spiced (not hot), and delicious), shelled snap peas with ginko nuts and mushrooms (dreamy), and the 320 HKD tiger prawns (4 prawns, separated into fried bodies and poached tails cooked off the shell, and worth every penny). This place was fantastic.

Guangzhou has good food, but I missed it. The center of the city was actually a delight to visit for an afternoon though (untouristy temples, a good park, walkable lanes). If you are gay, you might try Wilber’s which we did for a gin and tonic late on a Sunday night, and had a nice conversation with a Chef and a few patrons.

Chengdu. Wow. The air is redolent with numbing peppercorns. It is amazing. Just walking in this city is an epicurean experience (unlike Chongqing, where everywhere I went smelled like rot, death, poison, or urine). I missed out on a homerun dinner, but had a good time at Mantingfung (15 South 3rd Section, 2nd Ring Road, Wuhou, Chengdu, Sichuan, China, 610041 – across from Music House). This place has an English menu with pictures, and is pretty good Sichuan, including the numbing, hot situation. This is not a hot pot place. Having never been to Sichuan province before, I was somewhat thrilled because unlike at the best Sichuan restaurants in California, this place uses not just the dried red numbing Sichuan peppercorns, but also green peppercorns and listen, it was a whole new experience of numb and smell and beauty. I am kicking myself I decided not to smuggle that green dope back into the states... The neighborhood surrounding Mantingfun is a great walk at night - it appeared to me to be a nice middle class neighborhood of undestroyed low-rise buildings, lots of people out and about. Yulin street north from the ring road, and Nijiagiqiao Road east from Yulin street are a great walk at night and full of markets and hot pot restaurants packed to the gills.

Chongqing. I suspect this is a place with great offerings for those who know. I, however, did not know, and did not speak a lick of Chinese, and it is an intense big ass non-international city. If you are in Chongqing and confused and hungry, you could head to Metropolitan Plaza (a number of decent places on 6/F and 7/F it looks like) near the center. Next door to that is a pretty good, pretty spicy place call Shunfeng123 (or something like that). The menu is not in English, but has pictures. It is a nice room. Spicy. I went to Quanjude my first night because I wanted something familiar and easy. It was very boring. I don’t suggest it. The duck just doesn’t have much flavor. They do make the skin very crispy and nice however. The room and location is also overall rather drab and depressing.

Shanghai. Yum! There is plenty of info about Shanghai on TimeOut and in guide books, so I will just focus on two experiences: (1) Whompoa Club. Whomp. Whomp. This highly touted place on the Bund (recommended even in the recent Wallpaper Phaidon book (2012) , as well as the most recent Time Out guide from 2008, left me nonplussed. I should preface this my saying that I am traveling alone at this point, and this does seem to confused most restaurants quite a bit. I didn’t find Whompoa’s atmosphere to be terribly rarified or amazing. The service is catering to rich Chinese people who know what to get, and dumb business people who don’t know anything. The waiter aggressively steered me to things that would not offend, and hurried the food out (five plates arrived in 10 minutes). The asparagus with ginko nuts was good. The beef with scallions was fine, but it was not “filet” as advertised. It was also not very interesting. The service was either terrible or terribly confused by me being a single diner. Either way it was a whomp, not a whompoa.

Thankfully I was able to experience (2) Fu1088 (375 Zhening Lu by Yuyuan Lu, Jingan). This place was amazing. It is in a colonial mansion in Jingan, with only one table per room. Again, I was a single diner, so I had a room to myself – with a pianist, who played throughout my dinner. The staff was attentive and helpful, and let me order what I wanted. I had a lot, and it as delicious. To start Drunken Chicken with frozen wine (much better that Whompoa’s version, which had too much iced wine, so it was overwhelming and also practically froze the bottom pieces of chicken), also a soup spoon full of potato mash with pine nuts and fantastic soy radishes. So good - I ate the entire plate, of everything. Then for the main course I ordered sauteed pea shoots and a pork, chicken sweet shrimp sautee with mushrooms. Damn. Amazing. The little shrimps were so sweet and small and delicious - thrown on top of the dish rather than sauced with rest. Yum!

For good measure I also had a few shrimp pork dumplings, which were fantastic.

Tomorrow I am finishing my trip with Jean Georges on the Bund - hopefully it is great.

Pujol, Contramar, Califa, and ...? or ....?

I wanted to update this post after my annual trip to Mexico City last week. This year we ate at Biko, Pujol, Izote and Contramar (and Califa tacos). Biko was the best meal, best service and nicest room.

Pujol was off its mark this year. I thought the service was a bit too disinterested, and had lost its polished unintrusive but attentive perfection of years past. My three dining mates all had the set menu, and none of them raved (except for the soup, which they loved). The portions were all tiny and it didn't feel like dinner, but more like passed canapes at a cocktail party. They were nonplussed. My dinner was fine.

I liked Izote and thought the food was very good. My friend was not as impressed. He loved Contramar, which was as excellent as it always is.

Hopefully Pujol was just having an off night as it is one of my favorite restaurants.

Dec 07, 2011
lalaw05 in Mexico

Paris - What's Open (and Good!) Between Christmas and New Year?

I have a reservation at Chez Julien - is anything else good open this last week of the year? A few years ago we ate at Dome du Marais - is that place still good?

Thanks!

Dec 06, 2011
lalaw05 in France

Pujol, Contramar, Califa, and ...? or ....?

Pujol was excellent.

Jaso was only so so. The wine list is extremely expensive and from what I could tell, very over-priced (many mediocre wines marked up enormously). I also felt like Jaso is a showcase for their catering wing - didn't like walking in for dinner through a cake shop - just not the energy or smells I want before a fancy dinner.

-----
Jaso
88 Newton, Mexico City 11570, MX

Dec 12, 2010
lalaw05 in Mexico

Pujol, Contramar, Califa, and ...? or ....?

Can't wait to go back to Pujol!

Oct 19, 2010
lalaw05 in Mexico

Pujol, Contramar, Califa, and ...? or ....?

I spend Thanksgiving in DF every year with whatever good friends want to join me. Last year two of us had a seriously amazing dinner at Pujol - from soup to nuts, including service, it was a wonderful dinner. Not inexpensive, but excellent.

This year, we are planning to go back to Pujol for our Friday fancy dinner. (If it's lost its luster please let me know!) Thursday dinner we don't have plans (maybe local tacos). Saturday we'll probably have a late lunch at Contramar.

Any other can't miss or really great places to eat? We are going to be in Condesa/Roma/Polanco the whole time probably. (Well there's Envy in Lomas on Friday night ... but that's later... and who know's where that will lead...)

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
z

Oct 17, 2010
lalaw05 in Mexico

Fuyacho Sanjo - Kyoto

I had two good dinners at Fuyacho Sanjo in Kyoto last week. Both were fairly expensive ($100-150pp), but the combo of the food, room, and english menu and friendly staff were well worth it. I haven't seen any comments on this place on the board, and wanted to give a good report.

I sat at the counter downstairs one night when I was alone, and upstairs when I went with my sister in law. Both nights were excellent. Chestnuts, persimmons and matsutake (?) mushrooms are the seasonal things, and they were well-represented in the menu. Some raw fish, tofu dressing on chestnuts and persimmons, wagyu and mushroom stew, rice with chestnuts, grilled chicken with salt and pepper, lemon and a yuzu dab, duck with sesame, warm tofu, tempura squash - it was all good. And good sake in nice cups.

For me, the fact that they have an english printed menu is enormously helpful. The crowd was 90% japanese, but at the counter the first night there was a french family next to me.

I liked it.

Oct 17, 2010
lalaw05 in Japan

Hot Date Suggestion - Downtown

gay. i am gay. no woman. can't people read!

Sep 25, 2010
lalaw05 in Manhattan

Hot Date Suggestion - Downtown

HA! At least someone agreed with me on Intelligentsia - if I remember right I was chastized for my thoughts on that one. I can't take that place anymore. I'll share a secret with you - a fantastic new cafe - but only 9 tables inside and I don't want to fight for a seat. Commisary on Fairfax near Melrose. This is the best coffee shop I've found in LA in ages.

Date was fine, but a bit fraught. I still like him. It's just not a love thing at this moment.

Sep 22, 2010
lalaw05 in Manhattan

Read, realized and confused - please HELP!

you've generated a fantastic discussion about our food. in fact, my cousin and i are heading for spot prawns at sea harbour tomorrow in response.

ipdesixit mentions soot bull jeep. you need to bring a change of clothes, and go straight home and shower after eating here because of the charcoal smoke. you may also be risking cancer, BUT the flavors are amazing. I LOVE this place.

best taco - tacos are simple and local. my current favorite tacos are at the truck on wilshire just east of vermont, open from 7pm to 4am. maybe it's because i only go after a few drinks, or because they make their own tortillas by hand, but i love this taco truck.

have fun in la - you've been well-directed by those above.

Aug 27, 2010
lalaw05 in Los Angeles Area

Best Chinese - Millbrae?

Thanks for the very helpful comments! I think we'll try APP Saturday. I can't wait!

Best Chinese - Millbrae?

Thanks for the tips .... but I'll pass on your bitchy tone.

Best Chinese - Millbrae?

I grew up in the Richmond District and now live in LA, In LA we have a fantastic concentration of Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley - of all types and varieties. I have searched the SF boards and see mentions of Millbrae as maybe the hot spot for the best Chinese food in the Bay Area -- but the posts I am finding are fairly old. When I was growing up, I don't think that was going on yet.

In any event - I am back in the City a lot now and I am dying to try out this Millbrae scene. What are the best places ? I'd love suggestions about where to go and what to order. Thanks!!!

Hot Date Suggestion - Downtown

Thanks for all the in-put. I ended up picking I Sodi.

Simon, when you say 'she' is that followed by a snap? It's he to you, mary.

-----
I Sodi
105 Christopher St, New York, NY 10014

Jul 27, 2010
lalaw05 in Manhattan

Hot Date Suggestion - Downtown

Met a guy 8 years ago, and we finally have a hot date. This kid is smart, sophisticated and all the all. I'd like a place that has excellent food, won't be a trendy tacky scene, but will be current, chic and delightful. I'd also like to get out for under $200 including good wine and a fair tip.

Nothing cuddly romantic, and nothing super famous. By way of reference, if I was in SF, I'd go to 1550 Hyde, in LA I'd go to Osteria Angelini or Cafe Stella.

Thanks for any help!

Jul 19, 2010
lalaw05 in Manhattan

Top 5 Most Overrated in Manhattan

Langer's on the corner of 7th and Alvarado in Los Angeles.

Jul 19, 2010
lalaw05 in Manhattan

9021PHO

I wouldn't say 'don;'t go' - maybe just, don't go out of your way. The food isn't bad - it's fresh and fine. perhaps not an authentic rendition of Pho, but the food is fine. I work in BH and can name about 15 places that are on my I refuse-to-eat-there list, and this is not one of them. In fact, the office is ordering in soup in the rainstorm right now, and I am sure we will be happy.

Jan 20, 2010
lalaw05 in Los Angeles Area

Mexico City - Four Day Visit - Suggestions/Thoughts?

I wanted to report back on a fantastic trip to Mexico City over the Thanksgiving weekend - quite a few food highlights:

Pujol was amazing - we did the tasting menu, and spent a pile of money on wine, and I have to say this was one of the best meals of my life - subtle space, great non-intrusive, but attentive service, and complex, refined food. YUM.

Tacos at El Califa were awesome - I also really enjoyed 4am drunked tacos at Tacos Alvarado on Obregon on my walk home. Also tried El Tezoncito on Tamalpais and Tacos Condesa on Parque Espana.

Brunch at Condesa DF El Patio was quite an experience (expensive) - good food, better people watching on a Sunday. We hung out for hours watching beuatiful people and eating more and more. El Patio for dinner was only so-so for us, and there was a long delay in getting our food.

Contramar was also a highlight - got there just before two on a Friday and got a table and watched the scene develop. Enjoyed the octopus tostada with chipotle aioli, the special green and red fish and some tuna.

This was sort a deluxe trip for me - and it worked at almost every turn. Real deal food.

Dec 03, 2009
lalaw05 in Mexico

Mexico City - Four Day Visit - Suggestions/Thoughts?

I'll be in Mexico City next week - Thursday through Sunday nights, leaving Monday afternoon. I have been a few times in the past year, and want to do a few favorite things but also try some new stuff.

I am staying at the Condesa DF, and have a few friends to see.

Here are my ideas so far:

Thursday
Drinks on the roof at Condesa DF, tacos at El Califa, then stroll to Casa Lamm for after dinner cocktails, then finish the evening at Tom's on Insurgentes.

Friday
Lunch at Contramar at 1pm, stroll around Roma, a museum in the park, a cocktail somewhere then maybe dinner at Pujol

Saturday & Sunday
no real ideas yet - maybe El Bajio?

suggestions? I have read the board and that is where I am getting the Bajio & Pujol inclination from.

Thanks for any ideas.
Z

Nov 18, 2009
lalaw05 in Mexico

Looking for some good value / cheap eats in Las Vegas

one star, not three star

Aug 23, 2009
lalaw05 in Las Vegas

Osaka and Kyoto

I am in Japan for two weeks and struggling to find the right places to eat (I don'r read or speak Japanese). Thanks to those who suggested Nenohi, totally great dinner. I spent 8400, and drank a lot of sake from the expensive side of the list, and had some really good stewed pork and grilled chicken thigh marinated in miso. Yum. I would go back for sure. This was some good food. Plus the waiter was super cute, as were a number in the kitchen.

Apr 17, 2009
lalaw05 in Japan

Osteria Mozza - Disneylandesque and Terrible Service

my post was 100% accurate about my experience. we can disagree about my assumptions, and your experience may have been different.

Mar 13, 2009
lalaw05 in Los Angeles Area

Osteria Mozza - Disneylandesque and Terrible Service

I am not too hard to please. I worked in the restaurant business for 9 years, and am not an a-hole. I just don't like spending a lot of money on a meal and having mediocre, inattentive service. Pretentious service that misses basic points of service (being warm, attentive, unintrusive) is like pearls on a pig.

I love Campanile - for what's its worth. And sometimes crappy service is not that big of a deal - but when dinner is $100 a head, and it is a hard reservation, I want good service.

Maybe that is my take away for Mozza - it's just not a good special event restaurant, and should be a casual spot for rich people to have a bite to eat like BLD or something.

Feb 12, 2009
lalaw05 in Los Angeles Area

Osteria Mozza - Disneylandesque and Terrible Service

We were given butter when we asked - and it was actually really good tasting butter with sea salt.

Feb 07, 2009
lalaw05 in Los Angeles Area

Osteria Mozza - Disneylandesque and Terrible Service

It was disneylandesque to me because it felt like a set. It felt like the trappings of a fine restaurant, but not really a fine restaurant. It felt fake I guess.

Feb 07, 2009
lalaw05 in Los Angeles Area

Osteria Mozza - Disneylandesque and Terrible Service

We brought two $100 bottles of wine and paid $20 corkage for them and the bill was about $350 for four of us.

Feb 07, 2009
lalaw05 in Los Angeles Area

Osteria Mozza - Disneylandesque and Terrible Service

I have enjoyed a few meals at Pizzeria Mozza, and heard great things about Osteria Mozza, and have been meaning to check it out. I did some free legal work for some friends, who wanted to take me out to thank me with a splurge dinner - Mozza came to mind and we tried it.

Four of us made a reservation for 9pm on Weds. We arrived on time, and were left to stand in the doorway until 9:20 before we were seated. No apologies. No sip of wine offered to hold us over. No amuse waiting at the table to acknowledge the delay. I guess we were just supposed to be thankful to get a table. When we were seated, the host led us half way to the table, and then made us stop and wait in the middle of the dining room because the table was not actually set. When I used to manage restaurants before I became an attorney, that host would have had his wrist smacked with a ruler and he wouldn't have made that mistake again.

We were greeted by a down to business server, She didn't engage us with the menu at all. Just asked if we were ready to order. We paused a beat too long, and she told us she was going to take another table's order and be back. As she was walking away, over her shoulder, she barked - and I'll need your whole order. Are you kidding me? $58 for a steak and if I want to order an appetizer while I look at the menu I can't do that? Strict rules to be honored with the Mozza reso I guess!

When she returned, at one point someone asked what Orata was. Miss thing walked away from the table mid conversation without any comment to the bus station. When she returned she described the fish - no comment on her momentary departure.

The wine service was awkward. I hate it when they hold the wine hostage off the table without communicating to the guests where the wine is being stored. Of course if they weren't shoving four people onto a table not bigger than a card table, there would be more room on the table to store the wine. At one point, with just about two ounces of wine in the decanter, the wine was placed in the bus station. Why not just poor the wine off, rather than stress out the host that the wine was going to be lost in the bus station?

Staff was invasive and intrusive when it came to selling us more wine and bussing my unfinished main course plate while I was mid-sentence, but oblivious to details. Sure the staff was quick with a few tricks like replacing napkins when guests got up for the restroom, but missed things like empty glassware when the table was being reset for dessert.

No one checked on us to ask how the food was - ever - in a three course meal.

Bread is not offered with butter or olive oil. Maybe that's sophisticated. I think it's pretentious. Sort of like seasoning the wine glasses with a splash of wine. Come now.

Now the food was mostly excellent. We loved the grilled octopus and all things mozzarella. My duck was overcooked and mushy/dry in the breast - I didn't finish it. Unaccpetable at this level of dining, but as a guest I certainly was not going to raise a stink, especially with the server never checking in. One of our friends was non-plussed by the linguine with clams, which was overly spicy to his palate, and very al dente.

I went in really expecting a sophisticated, excellent meal. Instead I found the trappings of 'fancy'. I found entitled, inattentive clumsy service. The space is pretty, but also crowded and inelegant.

I could go on and on.

I won't be back.

Feb 06, 2009
lalaw05 in Los Angeles Area

Hacienda de los Morales - Not Good

I am just back from Mexico City for the Thanksgiving weekend with a friend, and wanted to report that I had a very disappointing meal at Hacienda de los Morales. I had searched this board before I went to see if there were any negative comments, as I ate there last 12 years ago and was concerned it might be touristy or not very good. Not finding any comments that the food was bad, I figured it might make a nice place for dinner on Thanksgiving night, since it is such a traditional, formal place.

Atmosphere
As readers of this post likely know, the building is a huge converted Hacienda, and is visually very appealing. The dining room was formal and attractive,but the sconces on the walls were way too bright, shining right in my friend's eye. Although the Hacienda is beautiful, it was less special feeling than when I last ate there 12 years ago. The grounds felt almost like Disneyland or a convention center in Vegas, with large signs and arrows. I think the Harris Ranch restaurant off Highway 5 near Coalinga in California would almost be an apt comparison (though the dining rooms at Hacienda are admittedly much nicer).

Service
The service was efficient and attentive, I will give it that. It was also rushed and heavy-handed. I understand that the style of service at a traditional place like this is more intrusive than my taste of contemporary American service where the server's job is to be unintrusive while attentive. But the waiter just loomed over our table - it was uncomfortable. We wanted to take our time reading the enormous menu and to discuss wine and food, but it felt awkward to have the waiter basically standing three feet away looking at us as we did so. We had a 9 o'clock table, so I don't even think they needed to turn the table. It was just clumsy.

The food was served very quickly after ordering, and the second course arrived so quickly that our first plates were removed simultaneously -- very inappropriate in an environment like this.

Food
I will go so far as to say that the food was actually terrible. For the first course, I ordered crepes with squash blossoms in green sauce and my friend had soup. The Crepes were fine - the sauce was okay, if one-dimensional. My friend said his soup was okay, but had a funny aftertaste. For main courses we both had steaks. His was served with huitacolche and goat cheese, and mine was stuffed with some shredded meat and served with a one-dimensional, boring red sauce. Tasted like it was from a can. We both ordered our steaks medium-rare. My friend's piece of meat was raw in the middle. Mine was welldone. My meat was tough. Neither cut of meat was of high quality. He sent his steak back to be cooked more, and of course it returned well done. I would have sent mine back, but the sauce was so boring and overwhelming, I really would not have enjoyed the steak even it was not chewy, tough and dry. The only bright note was a side of asparagus that tasted pretty good.

My friend is from New York and I am from San Francisco & LA and we both worked in the food service industry for years. I was not expecting the food to be fresh, modern cuisine, but it should be well-executed traditional food. Instead it tasted like banquet food at an enormous wedding.

I would NEVER go back.

I did enjoy my tacos at El Chifla or whatever that taco place is called on Nuevo Leon and Armando Reyes in Condessa.

Dec 01, 2008
lalaw05 in Mexico

Chang's Garden - Arcadia

We most certainly cannot handle not drinking. Hot pot is a fun idea. Thanks for the idea.

Feb 26, 2008
lalaw05 in Los Angeles Area

Chang's Garden - Arcadia

I wanted to report an excellent meal at Chang's Garden in Arcadia on Saturday night. I took my group of loud gays back to the SGV for another big fun dinner. We have previously gone to Chung King (when we were only 5 gays), then to Green Village (when we were a very loud dozen), and then to Lu Gin Kee for a peking duck feast.

I booked for 8 of us at 9pm, and the place was totally empty when we arrived - and shockingly bright. The staff was excited to have us, and was very friendly and helpful.

We ordered the shortribs in lotus leaves, which I thought were fantastic, and got very good comments from the crowd. The Shanghai-style spare-ribs, were less loved, and even called Panda-Express style, but I had no complaints. We also LOVED the five-spice beef in pastry, and ordered a second go around. The pea shoots were great, but the bok choy with black mushrooms a little uninspired. I liked the chicken with chestnuts, which had a real good sauce. I thought the green tea shrimp were boring.

Dinner for 8 was about $180 including beer.

The short ribs and beef in pastry were knock-out dishes in my opinion and definitely worth a trip back.

Also - I had dinner at Chung King last Saturday with the cousins, and had a great dinner again. My experience here is pretty up and down. Out of 8 visits, maybe two were exceptional, two lousy, and the rest very good. This was a very good meal. We had the water boiled fish, crispy rice with pork (with that mucousy sauce), long beans, the peppery fried chicken, some beef thing, and it was all great. That fish is so damn good - I have never had a bad time with that. We skipped the prickly ash spareribs, because I have been disappointed in them at my past four of five trips.

So where should I take my group of 8-12 loud homos next?

Feb 25, 2008
lalaw05 in Los Angeles Area