Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kum Fong: Fantastic Porridge For Breakfast!

I haven't experience much winter life (I wonder why), but I can surely imagine waking up to a good bowl of piping hot porridge in the morning! There are countless awesome porridge stores in Hong Kong but the one that I always rely on has to be Kum Fong!

Located in between Taikoo and Quarry Bay, Kum Fong serves traditional Cantonese porridge and is just a 10 minutes walk away from my house. Being rather popular in the neighbourhood and featured several times in the press, it is one place that you can't enjoy without a wait. Tables are really limited in the small shop and you will probably end up sharing a table with fellow porridge lovers.

Century Egg Lean Meat Porridge (HKD 19 ~ SGD 3.20)

This totally encapsulated the essence of a good porridge; Superior base brimming of rice fragrance (米香), gooey texture with detectable bits of grains, and fresh ingredients that contributed to a rich, savoury flavour. Started my day real well!

Fried Noodles With Superior Soy Sauce (HKD 8 ~ SGD 1.30, Rice Roll With Youtiao (HKD 11 ~ SGD 1.80)

Hong Kongers have really big appetites, so its not unusual to pair a side with your porridge. My favourite got to be the noodles that are fried simply with soy sauce, but has a dry texture and salty taste that complemented porridge so well.

If not go for the lighter rice roll with oh-so-smooth skin and crunchy doughstick. Really good companion too!

Youtiao (HKD 7 ~ SGD 1.20), Steamed Rice Roll (HKD 8 ~ SGD 1.30)

If you are really hungry (or just greedy like us), order them separate as well! This way you will really appreciate how crispy the doughsticks are, and to have the freshly steamed rolls with dark soy sauce and sweet sauce. Very, very satisfying!

A breakfast here won't cost you more than $6.00, which I even dare say under priced for its excellent quality. A real gem in the neighbourhood!

Kum Fong Pretty Porridge & Noodles (Literally translated)
G/F, No. 2 Yau Man Street
Quarry Bay
Tel: What number? Just queue for it, even for takeaways!

Taken with Nikon D70
Friday, February 24, 2012

Kuriya Dining: Celebrating Valentine's!

Ladies, I think you should consider celebrating Valentine's not on the actual day. Think about it, roses will be hell lot cheaper (which means you get more!), tables are much easier to book and best of all, you wouldn't be forced to eat set menus (outrageously priced, btw) that aren't to your liking!

Okay I guess that wouldn't happen anytime soon ("Its the MOOD!" so exclaimed the girlfriend with rolling eyes) but my sentiments are surely agreed by many like-minded boyfriends. Oh well, into the topic, the girlfriend wants to go Japanese this Valentine's and so we celebrated at Kuriya Dining!

Located at a rather hidden corner of Great World City, Kuriya Dining used to be RE&S Group's top Japanese restaurant until they invested a Kuriya Penthouse at Orchard Central. Still, it is constantly voted as among Singapore's best and I have heard plenty of good things about it.

While it looked empty in the picture, we were actually given the second last table despite booking more than a week ago. With its modern, wooden decor, service was speedy and polite with our tea refilled periodically.

Edamame (Set Dinner)

We decided to share one Kuriya Dinner Set ($60.00) with additional ala carte orders. The chilled beans were nothing fancy and just teased our tongue with its lightly salted flavour.

3 Types of Sashimi, Chawanmushi (Set Dinner)

You can count on the Japanese for presentation eh! Admittedly, these were not melt-in-your-mouth belly slices but definitely very fresh and delicate, as the thickness were just right for a meaty feel.

No fancy ingredients in the steamed egg custard either; just cubes of chicken and prawns, mushroom slices and ginko nuts, but the silky soft texture surely won us over!

Soft Shell Crab Handroll ($8.00), Assorted Tempura ($18.00)

Prepared upon order, the crispy crab meat was delightful to munch on with bursts of tiny fish roe. The platter was also very well done with fresh ingredients coated in light batter. Special mention goes to the prawn head that was filled with rich goodness!

Cod Fish Teriyaki, Miso Soup (Set Dinner)

Although there were nine options for main course, the girlfriend went straight for her favourite fish! While the smooth, chunky cuts were nicely glazed with sweet sauce, the accompanying mushroom omelette was also a pleasant surprise with its savoury flavour and sponge-like texture.

Not your run of the mill miso paste dissolved in hot water, this was actually very hearty to drink!

Mini Seafood Shabu-Shabu ($38.00)

Let's have a mini steamboat! While the seafood ingredients were pretty decent (the plump scallop was particularly good), I was slightly puzzled by the broth's sweet taste; making it more like Sukiyaki than Shabu Shabu. Oh well, lapped it up all the same!

Green Tea Ice Cream with Red Bean (Set Dinner)

Again, nothing fancy, just good, dense ice cream with strong green tea taste and balanced out with the sweetness of red bean. Fruits seemed to be merely thrown in to make it more substantial but we appreciated it anyway.

Sins Chocolate

Not sweet enough? Then be nice and get your valentine a box of chocolate pralines! This is my first time buying the little ones from Sins and they turned out to be pretty good!

Bill for two was $145.95 after taxes. Getting two set dinners would be slightly cheaper but we were glad to try more things with ala carte orders. Kuriya Dining is certainly worthy of its reputation and with the positive experience, its time to work towards the next goal: Penthouse!

By the way, I still stick by my point that Valentine's doesn't need to be celebrated on Valentine's because with you, everyday is Valentine's =)

Kuriya Dining
#01-28 Great World City
1 Kim Seng Promenade
Tel: 6736 0888

Taken with Nikon D70
Monday, February 20, 2012

Sweet Basil: Thai-styled Curry Crabs!

I know that it might sound odd to you that I eat Thai food in Hong Kong, but given my almost-not-tourist status, most of my meal gatherings with family friends are really not dim sum or wanton noodles based. And the favourite place for yummy Thai cuisine? Sweet Basil!

With a branch in downtown Causeway Bay, Sweet Basil is one of those well-established restaurants that has remained popular with locals over the years. With a theme that more resembled an upmarket Chinese restaurant, lunch hour was mainly filled with office warriors working nearby.

Grand Platter, Minced Chicken Salad

Although the golden brown Crab Cakes and Prawn Cakes were the bouncy starch-filled types, the tastes of their crustacean nature were thankfully still detectable. The Pandan Chicken were slightly dried on the surface but nonetheless juicy within, though Nakhon Kitchen will win hands down if I were to do a comparison.

Marinated with a sourish sauce and eaten wrapped with raw vegetables, the cold salad was the only dish that I couldn't quite appreciate.

Grilled Pork Collar

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think you can ever find fresh pork collar in Singapore. According to a butcher that we frequent, pigs sold here are slaughtered with injections (lethal or anesthetic, I don't know) in the neck and thus banned for health reasons.

I doubt Hong Kong has that issue because this part of the pork is really popular among Hong Kongers and easily available in supermarkets. Grilled over charcoal fire and served with a tangy spicy sauce, the tender, juicy texture definitely makes an excellent companion to beer!

Oyster Omelette Hotplate

Now don't flame me for this, but I have to say that this Orh Luak beats any rendition that I have tasted in Singapore. Why? Because the tiny oysters were so fresh, so full of umami (鲜味, as the Chinese will say) and so abundant in amount. That's why. A mouthful of it with crisp egg bits was simply excellent!

Curry Crab, Green Curry Chicken

Just look at that yellow, creamy goodness! Adapted to Hong Konger's not-too-spicy palate, the rich curry was further enhanced by the mixture of gooey crab roe. Although it was a pity that the fresh crab was not as meaty as their Sri Lankan counterparts, the outstanding curry had won me over already!

The green curry became relatively less memorable and was more milky and spicy (surprisingly) than the usual ones, but I'm still drizzling it all over my rice anyway!

Steamed Tapioca, Mango Glutinous Rice

Nothing to fault about the soft tapioca served with coconut milk, and nothing but praises for my all-time-favourite Thai dessert; Sweet, fragrant mango with al-dente black and white glutinous rice. That's a wrap!

A meal here will cost about SGD 30 per pax. Definitely not the cheapest Thai food you can find in Hong Kong, but the quality of dishes is surely well worth the money. If you are ever tired of dim sum and want to have a less tourist-endorsed meal, then keep this place in mind!

Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine
Shop C-D, 6/F Lee Theatre
99 Percival Street, Causeway Bay
Tel: +852 2890 1993

Taken with Nikon D70
Thursday, February 16, 2012

Loyal Dining: Colonial Tea Time!

When I was in Hong Kong, almost not a day past by without afternoon tea. It was compelling to at least sip on silky milk tea at 3:15pm everyday! While we were full like nobody business after the lunch at FoFo, we somehow managed to get most of it digested by teatime after walking one huge lap around Central and were eager to rest our legs. The pitstop? Loyal Dining!

Located along the foodie-must-go Wellington Street (Yung Kee, Lin Heung, Mak's Noodles etc), Loyal Dining's Cantonese name, 来佬餐馆, is a word play on high-end western produces in British-ruled Hong Kong. The decor also sets to invoke memories of the colonial era with checkered tiles and dark-coloured furnishings, while staff wore butler-styled uniform. The menu? A mix of old-school western favourites, Cantonese cafe classics and fusion creations!

Loyal Thick Toast with Preserved Beancurd and Caster Sugar (HKD16 ~ SGD 2.70)

Yes you read that right. Peanut butter? Ordinary. Butter? Boring. Condensed Milk? Not today. But what the.. preserved beancurd?! Now you're talking!

And guess what, the oddball partnership worked! While I have always liked preserved beancurd with porridge, its a first for me to have it spread over toast as the salty, preserved flavour was softened by the sprinkling of grainy sugar. Simple and delish, kudos to the fellow who dared to dream of such a combination. Should replicate it at home soon!

Hot Milk Tea (HKD19 ~ SGD 3.10), Cold Milk Tea (HKD22 ~ SGD3.70)

Like I said, these were essential teatime companions! No complaints about the full-bodied flavour as it glided smoothly down the throat!

Prices here are on the high side when you compare to regular 茶餐厅s, but I am intrigued to return and try out the rest of the menu, and perhaps just to feel that lingering colonial atmosphere. More fermented beancurd toast? Why not!

Loyal Dining
66 Wellington Street
Central, Hong Kong
Tel +852 3125 3000
Check out their website for more information!

Taken with Nikon D70
Sunday, February 12, 2012

10 at Claymore: Downtown Buffet At Great Value!

This is an invited session

Have you looked at the prices of hotel buffets lately? They are definitely on a one-way upwards trip! No doubt that the quality and variety are also improving at most places, but I feel that sometimes all you need is a few really good dishes to pull off a great buffet, and hopefully without a that heavy pinch on the wallet. 10 at Claymore is one such example!

As the buffet restaurant of Pan Pacific Orchard, I have heard plenty of good things about 10 at Claymore even way back in 2009 when they had a 1-for-1 promotion with Citibank credit cards. The one most often said? Choices aren't aplenty but commendable for what do appear. And so I finally had the opportunity to verify this at a tasting session earlier this week!

Decked in modern black furnishing with a dash of orange, the relatively little number of tables were easily filled up as the evening went on. Thankfully, space between each table were ample and did not feel overly intrusive to overhear conversations that you didn't want to know.

The first thing to note is that the restaurant really wasn't out to compete in the longest buffet line or to impress you with plenty of live counters. What they did focus more on were seafood creations and had a counter for freshly-shuckled oysters.

And oh, the array of colourful sweets available were pretty mind-boggling too. More on that later!

Besides the main buffet line, they also had the unique feature of a separate menu with dishes cooked only upon order. The menu rotates every two months and our session was still in time for this year's CNY creations!

Pacific Shark's Fin Casserole

I liked the idea of having those on the separate menu served in small portions and this particular one came in a Le Creuset-like mini Casserole. Despite using shark's fin for the stock, I thought the Boston Lobster Claw was instead the highlight as it was oh-so-easy to eat in its deshelled form. However, it would be good to drink fast as it turned watery after awhile.

Note: As shark fins continues to be a sensitive, debatable topic, Pan Pacific is in the process of excluding it from their menu. But not so, for now.

Hokkaido Scallop, Chilean Ocean Sea Perch

These were huge, seriously! The sheer size of the scallop almost guaranteed its meatiness and was very satisfying to have it chewed in one mouthful. Nicely accompanied by a equally plump and juicy Monkey Head Mushroom.

Smooth with a firm bite, this lost out just a bit to the girlfriend's favourite cod fish, but nonetheless very well done on its own. Simply steamed the Chinese way with light soya sauce, the pea sprouts added a crunchy, refreshing touch to it.

US Angus Beef, Tasmanian Lamb

Sounds contradicting, but this was tender (on the knife) yet tough (in the mouth), more likely due to choice of cut rather than the chef's skills. Appreciated the robust black pepper sauce though.

Lamb is one meat that I would never fail to try outside home as it was something my mom would rarely cook. While most lean lamb meat (let alone the fats) would reek of gamey-ness, the ones here were excellent in having that at the minimum and further overcame with appetising citrus reduction. Very good combination!

Please don't tell me that looked filling already. We have not even start on the regular spread yet!

Chilled Boston Lobsters - The prized crustacean that everyone would rush for! While they appeared a tad skinny, there really wasn't anything to fault with its fresh, succulent meat. Preferred the ones dotted with tiny red roes!
Sashimi Selection - Fresh enough, but the way they sliced made it felt a little limp.
Tasmanian Mussel - Chewy and stench-free.

Cheese Assortments - Love the dense, smooth ones, always a joy to eat with water crackers!

Oysters - We preferred the creamier, plump US Rock Oysters to the saltier French counterparts.
Salad Selection - The Pickled Middle Eastern creation stood out for its tingy flavour.

Chinese Roasted Meat Selection - Char Siew was well marinated but on the lean side, Waxed Sausages were quite oily and the Roasted Pork had good crispy skin.

Cheese Baked Lobster

Special order! The meat was first taken out and evenly mixed with diced capsicums and mushrooms, then baked with a thick layer of cream and cheese, resulting in a golden mix that was rich and yet not overwhelming in flavours. Double thumbs up!

Unfortunately, the creation is no longer available (used to be served on Fridays and Saturdays nights) as the menu gets revamped regularly. But it sure shows what the kitchen is capable of whipping up!

Vegetarian Lasgane - When you need a pasta fix.
Steamed Seabass - With Sea Perch on the menu, this was frankly skippable.
Broccoli and Bai Ling Mushroom - Feel healthy, if you need to!
Mee Goreng - Satisfied nicely my craving for a savoury carbo bite.
Lamb Shank Casserole - Braised to tenderness with savoury gravy.

Asian Spiced Potatoes - Tasted like Yasai Tempura, but can be soggy when you get the remaining ones.
Mussel Au Gratin - Even better than the chilled ones.
Salmon and Prawn Skewer - Awesome, fatty chunks of salmon belly, showing the crunchy prawns who's the boss!

Done? No way, not till the desserts say so!

Durian Crepe - Made fresh on the spot, the thin crepe was delightfully crispy while my choice of durian filling made it an even better deal.
Strawberry Crumble Pudding - Very unique with bread pudding-like texture, deserved second helping!

Dessert Selections - Way too many to try even in petite portions! What stood out were the Cheese Crepe Roll, Coconut Mousse and a very well done Creme Brulee that was denser than usual. The jelly collection and mini cakes sadly, were very plain.

At $52++ for dinner and $55++ for Sunday brunch, 10 at Claymore is actually very affordable within the hotel buffet category. Now if you are looking for a 1001 dishes to try, then you will obviously be disappointed here. But if you agree with the direction of focusing on signature creations and limiting the variety of so-called expensive items, then I'm pretty sure that the feast here will satisfy you!

Special thanks to Givany of Pan Pacific for the invite!

10 at Claymore
10 Claymore Road, Lobby Level
Pan Pacific Orchard
Tel: 6831 6686

Taken with Nikon D70