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Archive for November, 2009

(This may be the closest I get to writing a bad review.)

Going back in time, I must comment on a meal I had last Sunday. I was with C, a mainland-born, Canto-, Mandarin- and English-speaking friend, and we decided to have lunch at Nuocmam in Mongkok. It was about 11:30, and we were the first ones there. I spoke to the hostess (in English) and we were promptly seated with our menus. We ordered a bowl of pho, some spring rolls, and a chicken vermicelli (typical, I know), and waited.

Mango madness

Let's spring for some rolls

First, some cursory comments on the food: it was generally quite good, especially the pho broth. It had a bit more mint than usual, giving it a kick of freshness. We ordered the rare beef pho, which came out as two entities: First, there was a bowl with noodles, beef, and sprouts. Then, the waiter came with a tea kettle of broth, which he poured in front of us. I’d never seen this done before, but accordingly, the rare beef cooked before our eyes. Very neat! The spring rolls were nice, too, with mango (quite original!) and chives.

The food was yummy, yes, but the thing that really stood out about this meal was language discrimination. That’s right, we were slighted based on our speaking English! Like I said, we were the first ones there, but soon, families and couples filled in around us. We noticed everyone else had a blue sheet with boxes to tick; I was craning my neck the whole time to see what they were, but to no avail. Finally, at the end of our meal, C asked the captain in Cantonese for a copy of the sheet. We found out that, on Sundays and public holidays, Nuocmam has a deal where, for $75 HKD a person for an hour-and-a-half, you can order as many items as you like off the blue menu! Naturally, we demanded why we didn’t get a menu and the captain initially said, “maybe they forgot you” but we immediately dismissed that – we were the first (and only) customers for a while. She then admitted that they thought we only spoke English and, as the buffet menu was all in Chinese, we wouldn’t understand it. I was slightly miffed. C asked ever-so-nicely if we could get a discount on our meal. No dice, but the captain said she’d bring out free desserts (which were good as well).

Fortunately, our bill was about $80 HKD a person, so not an egregious difference, but still! We felt slightly cheated. The experience left a bad taste in my mouth (figuratively), but the buffet is quite a deal, so as much as I’d like to remain indignant, I may be back sometime in the future with a Canto-speaker.

Still, this kind of language discrimination surprised me. I’m used to people giving me short shrift when I speak Mandarin, but never before had I missed out on something great simply because it was assumed I/we only spoke English. Hmmph.

Nuocmam
Shop C, 6/F, One Grand Tower
639 Nathan Road
2628 0331
Cost: ~ $80 HKD/person

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The frozen yogurt craze that’s swept the States has slowly migrated to Asia and, like every good cosmopolitan city, HK now houses a handful of fro-yo joints. I first discovered Yo Mama on Star Street, which has now expanded to a second location in the IFC Mall. I thought it was quite good, though after discovering Berrygood, it slightly pales in comparison.

A quick fix

We all scream for...fro yo?

Admittedly, I saw Berrygood last year while dining at Tuk Tuk Thai on Graham Street (another one of my favorite eateries). Having heard good things, I planned to visit soon, though never got around until this fall. Now that I know its deliciousness, I’m officially addicted. There are three choices of yogurt everyday: Original, Flavor of the Day, and Swirl (a mix of the two). You can get a “quick fix” for $30 with one free topping or an “indulge” for $40 with three free toppings. There’s much more selection for toppings here than at Yo Mama; they range from hard-to-find (Reese’s peanut butter cups!) to innovative (Cinnamon Toast Crunch) to (what I think is) slightly bizarre (Mott’s apple sauce? On yogurt?). The yogurt itself also tastes a bit more dairy-ish, if that makes sense (…or perhaps “less watery-tasting”?), and I like it!

My friend A has also clued me in on another fro-yo place on Elgin, which I’ll have to try soon. Anyone up for joining me?

Berrygood
Shop A, G/F, 41-43 Graham Street
2543 8393
Cost: ~ $40 HKD/person

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Steakout

Last Monday, J and I, in the euphoria of having been recently paid, decided to try BLT Steak in TST. It’s a restaurant I’ve noticed many times, just outside of Ocean Terminal, opposite the Star Ferry pier, with a sizable patio facing the water. Due to our schedules, we had to have an early dinner and when we arrived at 5:30, the place was fairly empty (though when we left around 7, it was slightly crowded). On weekdays, it seems happy hour goes until 6 and there’s a buy-one-get-one deal on wine and beer (however, you can’t buy one and have your friend get one; each person gets two drinks for the price of one).

Dinner and an education

Dinner and an education

J and I pored over the menu, an extensive collection of salads, small plates, hearty sides, and an absolute parade of steaks. I picked my dinner companion for a reason – he’d been to no less than three steakhouses the final month he was in the States, perfect for a steak newbie like me! My bovine education was also enhanced by the comprehensive diagram of a cow, surrounded by callouts of cuts and cooking methods, on the back of the menu (this was quite amusing to me). In the end, we decided on a 12 oz. Australian ribeye, paired with jalapeño mashed potatoes and tomato pomodoro gnocchi, all preceded by a pear salad.

Pop it like it's hot

Pop it like it's hot

Before anything came out, the waiter brought us a salmon carpaccio-esque dish, compliments of the chef. J, knowing full well my aversion to sea creatures, took one look at me and said, “You’re eating this.” My reply was, “Oh, I know.” The salmon was tender, seasoned with a bit of fresh basil, and topped with sunflower seeds for a nice contrast in texture. I was pleased. Then, another free goodie appeared on our table – popovers. When reading the Openrice reviews for this place, I made out, in my piecemeal Chinese, that popovers were cited as the “favorite dish” of many. I had no idea what they were, but when they came out – two doughy puffs reminiscent of giant mushrooms – I didn’t care. They looked delicious. A little recipe that came with the popovers revealed they’re made of milk, eggs, flour, salt and gruyere cheese, which apparently yields pure pastry heaven. Perfect when paired with butter and sea salt.

Our actual order was pleasing as well. The pear salad was a great mix of sweet and savory, the cloyingness of the pear (and raspberry vinagerette?) offset by crisp bacon and grated parmesan. The steak was juicy, medium rare as we ordered, and the filet mignon was bursting with flavor. The gnocchi was topped with a small avalanche of grated parmesan cheese, which only made it better, and the jalapeño mashed potatoes was an inspired twist on an old favorite (not too spicy, either). J and I had our eye on a chocolate peanut butter parfait for dessert, but we were schooled by the meal. Next time!

BLT Steak
Shop G62, Ground Floor, Ocean Terminal, TST
2730 3508
Cost: ~ $350 HKD/person (including drinks)

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Sorry I’ve been remiss in updating the blog lately, but being a working girl is kind of time-consuming! Rest assured, though, that I’m never too busy to eat, and in the past couple of weeks, I’ve enjoyed quite a few tasty meals.

Last Friday night was one such meal, with L, one of my stalwart eating buddies, and B and his friend H, in town from Macau. We’d heard of a Vietnamese restaurant in “Rat’s Alley” in LKF, a small street just off D’Aguilar (by the Ben and Jerry’s stand). It’s known for Thai restaurants and ridiculously aggressive touts, both of which greeted us as we ambled up the lane. However, we were set on our destination: Bon Appetit.

Seconds? You bet.

Please sir, can we have some more?

All of us were starving and our first order of business was the menu. The four of us got two bowls of rare beef pho, one chicken vermicelli, spring rolls, and a bahn mi sandwich with traditional meats (paté, ham, beef, etc). A silence engulfed the table once the food came; we honestly didn’t speak, save the occasional moans of “oooohhhh this is good!” Everything was delicious, but our favorites were the pho, for the beefy broth which tasted like it’d been stewed for hours, and also the bahn mi, for the buttery saltiness of the baguette and meats, coupled with the sweetness of the carrots. In fact, we just had to order a second one.

The most amazing part of the meal may have been the bill. After a four-way split, the damage was only $62 HKD. I’ll definitely be returning.

Bon Appetit Vietnamese and Thai Restaurant
No. 12-14, G/F, 8-16 Wing Wah Lane, Central
2525 3553
Cost: ~ $60HKD/person

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