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Archive for February, 2011

One symptom, I think, of being a “foodie” is an almost obsessive-compulsive need to research every eatery you will ever visit. And while I haven’t yet figured out if being called a “foodie” is a good label or a bad one (or whether I fit into that category, no less), I will concede that I spend a fair amount of time googling restaurants and their subsequent reviews.

Last Sunday, P challenged me again to lay off the internet searches and simply find a restaurant the old-fashioned way: walking around. That’s how we found ANA Sushi in Causeway Bay. We were looking for something Japanese (and CWB is definitely a great place to do it!), looked up at a tall building on Lockhart Road, and realized there were tons of options inside. I don’t know what prompted P to pick 5th floor, but I’m glad he did because we found one of my favorite reasonably-priced sushi places to date.

I didn’t know it at the time, but ANA Sushi is just one branch of the ANA group, which also has an oyster bar (on a different floor of the same building), and the recently opened ANA Gura in Central (with a chef who previously worked at Inagiku). We loved ANA Sushi so much we visited a second time, just a week later.

After exiting the elevator, we stepped over large black square stones scattered around smooth dark pebbles into a dimly lit dining room. There were tables of various sizes on the left and the right sides, with a long sushi bar at the front. On our second visit, we also noticed a private tatami room.

Place setting at ANA Sushi

The service was fairly good, with wait staff functional in Putonghua and English in addition to their native Cantonese. (I will emphasize the “functional” part – don’t expect fluent English by any means.) Both times we were at ANA Sushi, we decided to create our own “tasting menu” of sorts by ordering an assortment of both their raw and cooked foods.

I think their sushi rolls are of some the best in HK at this price. The vinegared rice is actually flavorful by itself, as is the nori. The first time we got the California (standard, right?) and the second time, we got the spicy scallop and fried shrimp salad rolls.

The spicy scallop rolls

P actually considered the spicy scallop rolls his favorite out of all the dishes we ordered. I didn’t notice much “spice” in it, but then again, I’m used to eating four-alarm pho. My favorite parts of the dish, incidentally, were the toasted sesame seeds which added texture and taste.

Fried shrimp salad roll (I couldn't taste much "salad' in here, but oh well)

I really liked these shrimp salad rolls because the breading was awesome! Light and crispy, just perfect.

Then came the edamame, nicely steamed and salted. Afterwards we had the sirloin teppanyaki. Originally we ordered the teppanyaki beef with mushrooms, but it turns out they were out of beef slices. After a lengthy discussion in pidgin English with our waitress, we discovered that the beef with mushrooms actually involved beef slices wrapped around enoki mushrooms, which is why she was confused by our request to get the mushrooms with sirloin steak, as she was envisioning mushrooms sandwiched between diced beef. Once we worked out that we just wanted mushrooms on the side, she was happy to put in the order (again, I must emphasize the functional English at ANA Sushi, but hey – it gets the job done. The waitress was really sweet about it, at least!).

Teppanyaki sirloin with enoki mushrooms

The enoki mushrooms were nice, and while the sirloin was tasty, it was a bit overcooked for my taste. Last time we were here, we ordered the mixed mushroom teppanyaki, which I would definitely recommend. The shiitake mushrooms were especially bursting with umami flavor, and it was great value for money. The other hot dish we ordered the first time was the beef fried rice, which I would also suggest. The rice is plump but a little bit crispy, which was delicious. I’d get that again.

The other two dishes we ordered the second time we visited were the handmade udon noodles with pork and the grilled chicken with miso paste. They were both all right, though nothing to write home about, IMHO. The noodles were interesting, a bit thinner than I normally see them, but the broth was yummy. Every now and then little bits of green onions would float onto my spoon and the crunch was fresh and exquisite.

The grilled chicken was a bit greasy for my taste, but the miso-paste added a sweet/savory flavor that P loved. He picked those bones like a hound dog beggin’ for scraps under the table (I hope he doesn’t read this).

Handmade udon noodles with pork

Grilled chicken with miso paste

So in conclusion, while there were some dishes the second time that I wouldn’t order again, I wouldn’t classify anything as an actual “miss.” I do believe ANA Sushi is a great place for sushi and sashimi, as well as fried rice and teppanyaki dishes (next time I hope to try the beef with mushrooms dish the way it’s meant to be made!). I’ll definitely be coming back, hopefully with enough friends in tow (and enough advance notice) to get that cool tatami room.

ANA Sushi
5/F, Kyoto Plaza, 491-499 Lockhart Road
2511 1110
Cost: ~$200+/person

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With a name like Supreme Beef Brisket Soup, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. Fortunately, this little Yau Ma Tei noodle shop really delivers. J, P, and I happened upon this restaurant when we were heading to Mido Cafe. Since it was only the third day of Chinese New Year, Mido Cafe was closed, and the Supreme was staring right at us. There were a good number of patrons inside and outside, and we decided to give it a whirl.

The menu was in Chinese, English AND Japanese. The prices were a pleasant start to our morning; few things were over $40. I loved how you could get the signature brisket by itself, or with noodles, rice or noodle soup. Customization!

Choices, choices, choices

But let’s get down to what’s really important: the food! P ordered the beef brisket curry in noodle soup and it came out in two bowls: one with brisket and one with noodle soup. The curry wasn’t super-spicy, but had a nice kick to it. The brisket was so unbelievably soft. It came apart delicately in your mouth – definitely not something I was expecting at a corner shop in Yau Ma Tei, but they are “supreme”, after all!

Curry Brisket Beef and noodle soup

Ooooooh the curry brisket!

The broth for the noodle soup was the same for all three of our dishes. My other friend J, who lives nearly above the Supreme, told me the savory flavor has a certain je ne sais quoi because they use Chinese daikon. I have no idea if this is true, but the bottom line is: the broth was salty, savory, and light all at once.

My fresh prawn wonton noodle soup rested in this lovely broth, and the wontons were stuffed within an inch of their life. Each one seemed to have a prawn and a half, and with a little bit (or a lot) of the homemade chili oil on the table, the whole bowl dazzled.

Wonton prawns before the spice...

...and after

J’s pork ball noodle soup was also a win. And on a side note, the green onions in all of our soups were awesome. Just as you got into the savory soup, you’d get a crunch of freshness which offered a nice balance.

And this little piggie went into our soup

So next time you’re going to Mido Cafe, take a detour. With a mix of great noodle soups and its prime people-watching location (we saw so many accidentally fashionably old men in the half an hour we sat there), the Supreme is where it’s at – and they mean business.

Supreme Beef Brisket Soup
46 Portland Street
2771 9897
Cost: ~ $60/person

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I’ve been meaning to write about Yoppi for a while now, ever since W and I discovered it nearly two months ago. Since then, I’d guess I’ve visited four or five times, often with friends in tow. Yes, it is a chain (based in the US, I believe), but it’s new to HK and it’s won our hearts. Why do we love it so much? It’s the only place (so far) I’ve found in HK that actually has self-serve fro yo!

LOVE the DIY aspect. It remind me of buffets and ice cream machines from years past 🙂

They have six flavors on rotation, anchored by the Yoppi signature tart. It’s pay-by-weight, so you’re free to mix and match as much as you want. AND you can control the portion size – whoohoo! (Can you tell I’m a bit excited about this place?) The signature tart is awesome, so smooth, tart, and a bit sweet. It definitely does not use Splenda, like the yogurt at a particular chain which will remain unnamed…

After the yogurt, you can fill up with a slew of toppings. They’ve got everything from fruits (blueberries, lychee, strawberries, mango, etc.) to sweets (gummi bears, oreo crumbs, M&Ms…) to syrups to mochi…the list goes on.

Myriad mix-ins

Besides the self-serve aspect and more mix-ins than a Girl Talk album, the staff is really nice, and they always blast top 40 music. Who doesn’t want to sing to Katy Perry as they inhale fro yo? Another bonus: I think they’re open until midnight. Late-night cravings = solved.

Yoppi
12 Stanley Street (and another one in Mongkok on Dundas Street)
2147 5711
Cost: ~ $4.50/oz (I think? I usually end up with half a giant cup around $35-$40)

*Thanks to FB for the photos 🙂

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Hey everyone, sorry for the long hiatus. I wish you all a Happy 2011! Thanks for checking in on the good ol’ blog again. I’ve got a lot to catch up on, so let’s get started without any further ado…

P and I went to New York City shortly after the opening of 2011. Since we’d both been there two or three times before, we wanted to eschew the usual tourist stops and instead spend some time walking around different neighborhoods. However, neither of us had visited the must-eat locales in NYC, so a week before our trip, we had already done homework on what was good.

P had just one place on his hit list: Papaya King. I had no idea this oddly-named restaurant was a hot dog joint, and a famous one at that, but one glance at the website, which listed approval from both Julia Child and Anthony Bourdain, (look up “strange bedfellows” in the dictionary and perhaps this pair will be there) and I was in!

Frank with onions and papaya juice - a surprisingly good combo

It was actually just a tiny place with a couple of counters for stand-up consumption only. P and I were quickly ushered through the line, him getting the frank with kraut (or simply “with” as the guy yelled behind the counter) and me with the one with onions and curly fries. We both got their signature papaya juice.

The colorful interior of Papaya King
The “with” (notice the GIANT drum of ketchup in the background…these guys don’t mess around)

The frank was so juicy delicious that even I, the girl who doesn’t like hot dogs, contemplated getting a second one. Meaty, substantial, solid – almost like a brat, IMHO, it was so thick. Delish. The papaya drinks cut through the grease, too. Guess after 70-some years, they know what they’re doing!

Maybe it’s just because I’m an out-of-towner, but Papaya King to me embodied the no-frills, down-to-earth candor found in the heart of every New Yorker. Even the cups had a bit of that American jocular attitude I’d missed so much in HK.

Big promises from a (somewhat) small fruit

You can’t see it, but the other side of this cup proclaimed Papaya King “as vital to NYC as the subway.” I’d be inclined to agree.

Later that evening, P and I went to the Mercury Lounge on the Lower East Side for a show. Afterwards, everyone spilled onto the sidewalk as bars in the neighborhood sounded their last call. P and I stumbled into Katz Deli, along with – seemingly – everyone else on the LES. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera that night (the photo below was taken the following afternoon when we were in the neighborhood). If I had, I would have taken an embarrassing amount of photos, surely trying to capture the greatness of their pastrami on rye. At nearly $15 for a sandwich and some pickles, is it a bit overpriced? Sure. But it’s good. That pastrami can back it up, and paired with a side of homemade dill pickles, it’s hard to hold a grudge for too long. P was also ecstatic to find Bass Ale on tap, something he’d been searching for high and low in HK.

Katz's Deli - Enough said

When we passed Katz’s again on Sunday afternoon completely stuffed on three pieces of NY-style pizza (more on that next), we made a serious attempt to eat again. We didn’t make it, but the lesson is: it’s that good.

On Sunday, we wandered around the Chinatown/Little Italy area and stopped by Lombardi’s. We didn’t have breakfast, so we went straight for the large pizza – 18 inches of pie. The menu allowed you to pick your own toppings with a set price per topping. We picked mushrooms, pepperoni, and roasted red peppers and eagerly awaited the arrival of our pie while taking in the red-checkered tablecloths and exposed brick.

The ambience at Lombardi's (and you can see by the ladies and cameras in the background that it's quite the landmark)

The pizza took about 15 minutes and while we were properly hungry when it came out, we immediately realized our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. Nevertheless, we made a huge dent in the pizza, taking down three pieces each (!). I realized the use of fresh ingredients is key to making a pizza jump from “great” to “fantastic” and indeed, all the toppings were good, especially the mozzarella. It wasn’t greasy at all, but soft and a little bit chewy. I also loved the crust. My complaint with NY-style pizza previously was that the crust was too dry and crunchy, but Lombardi’s crust was almost naan-like in texture, with plenty of chewing satisfaction.

Eighteen inches of YUM

Let’s not even calculate how many inches we ate. Let’s just say we were almost uncomfortably full for hours (is that why gluttony is a sin?), but man…was it worth it.

Our last stop during our 36 hours in New York was Harold Dieterle’s restaurant, Perilla. Harold was the winner of the first season of Top Chef and since P and I were big fans of season six, we were excited to go to our first “Top Chef” restaurant. I loved the casual feel of the restaurant, like it’s someplace you could go for a first date, a family dinner, a gathering with friends, and pretty much everything in between.

We ordered Harold’s signature spicy duck meatballs with mint cavatelli, spinach and quail egg; the housemade orecchiette with braised lamb, tomato confit, and sheep’s milk; a hanger steak to share (at this point, we were so full from everything we’d eaten the previous day and a half) and a side of edamame falafel.

The two starters were phenomenal, with the spicy duck meatballs living up to the hype. There was a little bit of a numbing kick to it, but the mint balanced it out quite well. The orecchiette was perfectly cooked to al dente, and the goat’s cheese melted slowly into the confit, creating a great tomato cream sauce.

Sorry, we got too excited and ate some of the meatballs before I took a photo. Whoops...

Starter #2, also a bit eaten

I’d take a pass on the edamame falafel if I were to ever go back (a bit too dry, even with the lemon tahini), but the hanger steak was beautiful! Medium rare, nicely cut, paired with sliced mushrooms – wow. It was also huge, as P and I split the entree and we still got a plateful. Not that I’m complaining, though.

The tater-tot-looking Edamame Falafel

Half-sized hanger steak (!)

A great meal, and a great end to our weekend.

Papaya King
179 E. 86th Street (between Lexington and 3rd)
(212) 396 0648
Cost: ~ $10 or less a person

Katz’s Delicatessen
205 E. Houston Street (at Ludlow)
(212) 254 2246
Cost: ~$15 for pastrami on rye

Lombardi’s Pizza
32 Spring Street (between Mott and Mulberry)
(212) 941 7994
Cost: I honestly don’t remember, but I’m gonna say it was modest (under $20/person)

Perilla
9 Jones Street (between W. 4th and Bleeker)
(212) 929 6868
Cost: ~ $30-$50/person

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