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Archive for April, 2011

Just in time for your all-important weekend brunch decisions, here comes Best of Brunch part saam. This post is on one of my favorite places for dinner, too: The Press Room. My friend J was in town from China last weekend so we all had a little get-together over our favorite meal of the week. We booked an early table at 10:30. When we got to the restaurant, it was half-full, though it filled up rapidly during our meal. When I called, the staff member I talked to said we’d have to return our table by noon. It wasn’t really a huge problem, although I felt the staff were extremely anxious for us to return our table on time. At one point, someone (I forget who, but it might have been the captain, dressed in his nice suit) reminded us that we “have to return the table by noon!” when we ordered a second round of coffee. Come on, now, we’re contributing to your bottom line!

Anyways, on to the food! We ordered six things in all for us to share: the greek yoghurt with roasted hazelnuts and honey, waffles with blueberries and strawberries, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and caviar, an omelette with everything (bacon, ham, cheese, spring onions, herbs, and peppers), freshly baked scones with homemade jam and clotted cream, and pomme frites. Yes, I ordered french fries at 10:30 in the morning – but these are not just normal french fries. They’re the best pomme frites in Hong Kong and if I ever go to the Press Room and not order them, well…I think the world may just collapse.

The greek yoghurt came first. The yoghurt was thick and creamy with a great tang. Personally, I’m torn on the inclusion of the hazelnuts because once they were stirred into the yoghurt, you only got little shards once every few mouthfuls. But, that said, when I did get a hazelnut, the roasted flavor fairly exploded in my mouth. The general verdict was that the dish was good, but too small of a portion for $47.

Delish but a bit pricey

The next to come out were our egg dishes. The omelette with everything was wonderfully fluffy, though unfortunately it lacked a bit of seasoning on the inside. The ham wasn’t very prevalent, and I don’t remember getting any bacon bits at all. Maybe if you select everything, you get all the veggies and your choice of bacon or ham? Not too sure.

Our fully loaded omelette

The scrambled eggs with salmon and caviar was really unique. The eggs had a kind of salmon-infused flavor, if you will – a very distinct taste. The caviar was not on top of the eggs, as I’d imagined, but mixed into the scramble so every once in a while, you’d get a burst of caviar. P said this dish was his favorite and J was luxuriating in her first taste of caviar after her gradual cessation of vegetarianism.

They definitely did not skimp on the salmon

Then came my favorite! The pomme frites! You already know how I feel about these, but…all right, I’ll just reiterate that they were still magically crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. How do they do that?

Pomme frites for President! (Or Chief Executive!)

The last two dishes to arrive were the waffle and the scones. The waffle was groaning under the weight of a massive dollop of whipped cream (not that I was complaining). With blueberries and strawberries to the side, the dish looked like a delicious, abstract interpretation of the star-spangled banner.

A patriotic waffle?

The homemade whipped cream was amazing – I must confess I was scraping the leftover smears off the plate after the waffle was gone. The waffle itself had a nice texture, a little sweet on its own, but well-complemented by the fresh fruit and whipped cream.

The scones were delightfully crumbly, and beautifully browned on top. The clotted cream was smooth and soft enough for spreading. I’ve had tea at many places in Hong Kong where the clotted cream was a bit too hard for my liking, and trying to spread it on my scones was like trying to spread dried plaster. This cream was great, and the jam was nice and tart.

Its like cream tea for breakfast!

Oh, and I forgot to mention I ordered a fresh orange juice as well. It came all natural, sans sweeteners, and tasted very refreshing. They’ve also got a long list of tipples, including Kir cocktails and absinthe, along with the usual Bloody Marys, coffee and tea.

Fresh!

Now that I’m done writing this post, I would love to go back again and try some other menu items, including their pancakes with blueberries, bacon, and maple syrup; french toast with bananas; steak and eggs with hash browns; macaroni au gratin; lobster benedict (how decadent would it be to have lobster for brunch? Swoon!) and any of their desserts, like the banoffee sundae. They’ve also got a long list of soups and salads, sandwiches served with pomme frites, and their oysters on offer. Yes, I will be going back.

So I guess now, the only questions are: Do you distinguish between pomme frites and french fries? And do you think there’s another place in Hong Kong that serves even better pomme frites? (Or perhaps, even better brunch?)

The Press Room
108 Hollywood Road
2525 3444
Cost: ~ $180 HKD/person

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Last weekend, W, J, and I indulged our Chinese sides by visiting a Beijing/Shanghainese restaurant and ordering all our favorites from childhood. I found Wei Yi on the internet and after I saw the stuffed Chinese pancakes (北京餡餅), which is one of my favorite foods EVER in the whole wide world, I had to try it.

Right, so W and I arrived at this little place on Hau Fook Street just before noon. The little street is just off of Cameron Road in TST, and is lined with many little restaurants, mostly of Asian persausion. There are giant green signs outside with the most mouth-watering photos of all sorts of Northern Chinese goodies. Don’t worry if your Chinese hasn’t moved beyond “mm goi!”; there are pictures of menu items all along the interior AND an English menu.

Outside the Temple of Heaven. I mean, Wei Yi Noodles.

Photos to help the Chinese-challenged (myself included!). Note: My favorite dish on the menu is in the second row, on the right.

Before J even got there, W and I had scoured the menu, salivating, and ordered the following: One Beijing stuffed pancake (北京餡餅), one hot and sour soup (酸辣湯), one onion pancake (蔥油餅), a bowl of preserved vegetable and pork noodles (雪菜肉絲麵), one bowl of plain soup dumplings (净水饺), two soybean milks (豆漿) for J and I, and one salty soybean milk/soup (咸豆漿) for W. Perhaps it was ridiculous for three girls to split as much as we did, but perhaps it was just the much-needed fulfillment of a long-term craving.

Anyways, the salty soybean milk/soup came first (I call it soup because…well, see the photo below). I must admit I was too scared to try it, but W said it was high-quality; apparently, salty soybean milk should curdle if it’s good. Both W and J mentioned it’s easier to determine the properties of good soybean milk from the salty kind than its sweet counterpart.

A photo of J and my cold (sweet) soy milk is also below. I was very satisfied with how it brought me back 20 years to my times as a wee one in China. Wei Yi makes all of their soy milk on their premises, too, so you know it’s fresh.

W's guilty pleasure at Wei Yi

Soy dream, eat your heart out

Afterwards the bings came out with a vengeance! The green onion pancakes (蔥油餅) were a bit bland in my opinion (I would have preferred a bit more salt), but I loved the texture of the pancake. The outer layers were crispy while the inner parts were soft and moist. There was a nice proportion of green onion to flour.

This is my bing-bing

Afterwards was the stuffed pancake. It was plump and toothsome, oozing a bit of soy sauce and vinegar from the filling. All three of us said “MMMMMMMM” after biting into our pieces, appreciating the savory, juicy beef-and-chive filling.

Have I mentioned this is one of my favorite. dishes. in. the. world?! Great to finally find it in HK!

"I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille"

The hot and sour soup came next, and while it was chock-full of mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and all the good stuff for a really dense soup, the spiciness of the dish overwhelmed the vinegary, sour flavor. Out of the dishes we ordered, it was actually my least favorite.

A bit too "hot" and not enough "sour"

The last two dishes were absolutely delicious; I would order them again in a heartbeat. The preserved vegetable with pork sounds a bit strange in English (I mean, old bodies and prunes are the only things that should be preserved, right?), but the saltiness from the preserved vegetables flavored the soup nicely. Aside from the broth, I also liked the consistency of the noodles – they had great “chew power” or jiao ji-er, like hand-pulled, homemade noodles. Once we slowed down with our binge eating, I was worried the noodles would get soggy in the soup; however, they held up perfectly.

You need these noodles

J was obsessed with the plain dumplings in soup. It was the same broth as the noodles, though the taste was lighter as there were no preserved vegetables or additional meat to season the soup. The wrap-to-filling ratio of the dumpling was a bit heavy in the former department, but as I like chewy wrap, I can’t complain too much. The filling was pork and chives, and it was so smooth, prompting W, J, and I to lament the one time we all tried to make dumplings to no avail (our homemade filling was tough and, as W described it, “healthy-tasting”). In any case, the filling also had the soy sauce and vinegar mixture found in the stuffed pancake, which flavored it nicely.

They may have been called plain, but these dumplings were all sorts of amazing

When the bill came, there was even more to cheer about. After ordering five dishes and three drinks, our bill came to about $45 HKD/person. Awesome.

I really, really like this restaurant and, to be frank, W, G, P and I went back four days later to eat even more! If you’re a fan of northern food, I’d definitely recommend giving this place a whirl – just don’t be surprised if you find yourself craving it over and over.

Wei Yi Noodles (Despite its Chinese name, meaning “only one,” there are outposts in Sham Shui Po, Sha Tin, and other locations)
10 Hau Fook Street
2311 1498
Cost: ~$50 HKD/person

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All right, so I know the Japanese word “yakitori” refers primarily to chicken on a skewer, but nowadays, I think it means any kind of food on a skewer, Japanese-style, right? (If anyone knows, please feel free to comment!) Nevertheless, for me, it just means “splendid!” and I was really happy last week when P made reservations at Nan Tei, which I’d heard of from W and G. It’s a chain robotayaki/yakitori eatery and while there are four locations in Hong Kong, word on the street is, the one in Soho (which we visited) is supposed to be the best. It’s a tiny restaurant with a ring of bar stools around the main grilling station and a few tables scattered about. P said it reminded him of the small Japanese joints he visited while backpacking in Kyoto.

When we sat down, we were immediately given a plate with natural salt and a dipping sauce. It didn’t seem like the usual tare sauce (a sauce of mirin, soy sauce, and sake) that yakitori is served with; this sauce was more dense, kind of like a savory bean paste.

Our place settings at Nan Tei

We promptly ordered a ton of dishes, and eyed the grilling station hungrily.

The grillmaster at work

Approximately 10 minutes and the arrival of one Asahi (for P) and edamame (for me) later, our skewers started coming out!

Unwinding from a long day

Love these little buggers

The first batch of our order to come up were the mushrooms – we ordered regular shiitake mushrooms and also mushrooms stuffed with chicken. The regular mushrooms had just the right texture – soft but not mushy – and when dipped into the natural salt, they were divine! The minced chicken grilled on top of the mushrooms were also a hit, with the minced meat softer than I would have imagined for chicken.

Grilled mushrooms

Chicken-stuffed mushrooms - YES. In the corner you can see some of the Japanese rice we ordered - plump, slightly sticky, and fully delicious.

Afterwards, our grilled corn came out. It was sprinkled with salt and spread with butter, like corn on the cob from a 4th of July cookout. As you can see blow, some kernels were a bit more chargrilled than others, giving it a smoky taste. Such a great throwback.

Grilled corn

Then came the grilled rice balls. I was really curious when I saw these on the menu as I’ve never heard of anything like this before. However, after doing some research, I learned that “yaki onigri”, as it’s called in Japanese, is so popular in Japan that you can find it frozen in many supermarkets, like frozen pizza. It’s food on the go, kind of like a simple rice sandwich, if you will. The rice is brushed with a mixture of mirin, soy sauce, oil, and sesame seeds, and it can be stuffed with a variety of things. P ordered his stuffed with eel and I got mine with sour plum. When they came out, I loved the crisped rice on the surface. I ate my “ball” (they actually looked like little hearts – so cute!) wrapped in seaweed, and loved the salty contrast of the nori with the sweetness of the plum. There was a little bit of sharp, sour saltiness to my plum as well.

A Japanese "sandwich"

My favorite of the evening was the beef tenderloin. I have no idea how the grillmasters managed to keep an eye on all of the skewers under their care, but somehow, the beef was the most gorgeous medium, sprinkled with freshly ground pepper and seasoned to perfection. I would have eaten four of these by myself, easy!

We gave the beef tenderloin four thumbs up (two from each of us, of course)

We ordered a slew of other skewers as well, but these were definitely the highlights. Both P and I walked away from our seats fully stuffed (and this was after we’d canceled our order for udon).

To sum up, I’d definitely recommend Nan Tei for a casual, fun night with small plates and big flavors. The best part is, since each order typically has two skewers, you can try a little of everything even if you come with just one other person (or, by yourself…as I’m seriously considering). So, if anyone reading this wants to go, give me a shout anytime!

Nan Tei
55 Staunton Street
2559 6221
Cost: ~ $250/person

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I’ve been eating such good food lately that there’s going to be an explosion of posts coming up this weekend! Really quickly, though, I wanted to report that my favorite vegetarian restaurant (never thought I’d be saying that!) has opened an outpost in Wan Chai – that’s right, Life now has a takeaway deli on Ship Street!

A welcome sight on Ship Street

There are different salads on offer each day, and the same prices apply as those of the original Life Cafe in Mid-levels: For $50 you can get a small box with your choice of three salads, and for $75, you get a bigger box with five salads. I got a small box to go (I was on my way to work, after all) and selected the broccoli salad with tomatoes and feta cheese, the quinoa, and the lentil salad.The lentil salad had a nice middle eastern flavor to it, thanks to the cumin and cilantro – I think out of the three, it was my favorite.

The salads were all put into the same box, so sorry about the slightly messy photos! This is the lentil salad...

...and the broccoli and quinoa

There’s also a great selection of their delicious vegan desserts, which I’ll have to try next time. There are a few tables and chairs, so perhaps I’ll take a friend or two this weekend and we’ll get our veggie on.

Life Deli
50 C Johnston Road (Entrance on Ship Street)
Cost: $50 HKD for a selection of three salads

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