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Archive for the ‘Central/Soho’ Category

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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Another restaurant I quite like for brunch is Life, located in Mid-levels. Yes, it’s a vegetarian restaurant. I know there are plenty of carnivores out there who gasp at the thought of a bacon-less brunch, but fear not: brunch at Life won’t have you missing meat at all. P and I have gone there a couple times now and even he’s been convinced.

One menu option that’s substantial and full-flavored is the Mushroom and Herb Omelette. It’s fairly bursting with mushrooms; if you looked up “stuffed within an inch of its life”, this omelette would be there! The caramelized onions add a hit of smoke and sweetness – really well done.

Omelette with all the trimmings

Omelette!

P and I also get the Gluten Free Flax Seed Pancakes. The name might make you expect a sterile, bland stack, but actually, these flapjacks are quite fluffy and a bit sweet. You can amp up the sweetness by adding some of the wonderfully-made mixed berry jam. The chunks of berry are tart and tasty, and this jam really reminds me of the homemade stuff P’s mom sends us when she jars her own jam at home.

Flavorful flax!

And though these two dishes are enough to fill us, we always end up ordering a couple extra pieces of their sunflower toast. It’s loaded with grains and so delicious.

Also served with a side of berry jam

The rooftop is open from noon on the weekends, I think, and it’s the perfect place to zone out and forget you’re in the middle of hectic Central. I just saw on their website that they don’t take reservations for the weekends, though. Must be a new thing, as I remember you could book ahead before. Also, downstairs they have a take away deli with daily soup and dahl, in addition to a selection of cold deli dishes. If I remember right, the prices are really reasonable – something like $50 for three choices of deli selections and a bit more for five choices. I haven’t gotten their takeaway yet, but someday soon, I will.

I really enjoy brunch at Life because my belly never feels overly heavy when I leave. There’s none of the lethargy associated with eating some traditional brunch foods (not that I avoid that all the time, mind you – the next brunch entry will induce anyone into a food coma, I promise). I also like that Life doesn’t make me miss meat at all; rather, they use interesting flavors and fresh ingredients to make the meal great.

Life
10 Shelley Street
2810 9777
Cost: ~ $150 HKD/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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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This morning, M, W, and I went to Ali Oli Bakery Cafe in the mid-levels for brunch. I ate there last weekend and was really impressed with the super-affordable prices and top-notch ingredients. My apologies, though, for not having photos just yet – though I’m sure I’ll go back, so check this space for updates.

Anyways, Ali Oli serves breakfast all day on Saturdays and Sundays. Snag a window seat if you can; it’s great for people watching! All iterations of adorable children parade by. Combined with the giant cups of coffee and abundant rays of sunshine warming your face, it’s my definition of a leisurely weekend meal.

The menu covers all kinds of breakfast, from a full English to yogurt with homemade granola and fresh fruit to omelettes to pancakes to brunch pies and chips. Today I had the latter (an Australian meat pie, to be exact), which was my first experience with savory pies. Admittedly, I’m not an expert in that area, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the buttery crust and well-seasoned meat. The chips were also great with their crunchy outer shell. Last time I came, I had a roll with two sausages and a fried egg in the middle. I will say, the sausages are delicious – plump and savory – and may be my favorite things on the menu. Last time I also tried the granola, which runs a close second in my mind.

This has definitely become one of my favorite breakfast spots on HK Island. Mind you, the service is sometimes lacking (the first time I came, I had to ask for multiple things at least twice), but I think it’s because they’re training some young, new-to-waitressing girls. Today we had very amiable man serving us, and he was great – very friendly and accommodating. In any case, once the food gets to your table, it’s hard to find a fault.

Also, I noted they have set lunches starting from $48 HKD (!) with sides, and options to include dessert and drinks for about $10 extra. There’s also a “pre-summer” special on gelato, priced at $20 per scoop. Oh and did I mention they have homemade artisanal breads, hummus, pesto, and other goodies as well? Heaven.

Ali Oli Bakery Cafe
53 Caine Road
2898 9000
Cost: ~ $70 HKD/person

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A few weeks ago P and I made our first-ever trip to The Press Room in Sheung Wan. Admittedly, I was prompted to book a table when I dined at SML earlier this month and got a coupon for $100 off a bill. Unfortunately I forgot my camera, so the only photo I can share with you are my leftover pomme frites from the day after.

Pomme frites perfection

We decided to get the Wagyu Rump for two, served with roasted tomatoes, green beans, mushrooms, and frites (yeah!). At $590 for two people, it seemed like a good value.

When the plate came out, the portions were humongous! But I was glad to have all of it, especially the rump — perfectly medium rare and oh-so-juicy. The frites also lived up to others’ reviews as potatoes “I would travel miles for”. How do they get them crispy all around while keeping the middle nice and chewy? Ah, the questions of the universe.

The green beans, which were nice and crisp, also get my vote. P and I wanted to get dessert, but alas, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs (once again). I guess the much-raved-about Pear Tart Tatin will have to wait til next time – the needs-to-come-sooner-than-later next time.

The Press Room
108 Hollywood Road, Central (but actually more like Sheung Wan)
2525 3444
Cost:~ $400 HKD/person

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After a year and change of living in Hong Kong, I finally made it to M at the Fringe. Last year, my foodie friend H had this restaurant on her radar for most of our stay and since it was worthy of her attention, I knew it was worthy of mine. Then Time Out Hong Kong rated it the Best Restaurant in Hong Kong and I discovered it was closing at the end of the month; therefore, I knew the food gods were telling me to make a booking already, dang it!

I heart ewe

P and I went on a Monday evening, and were immediately¬†impressed by the environs. The dimly-lit, slightly-bohemian dining room definitely lives up to the “romantic” billing I’d read about in numerous publications; it was kind of like eating in your really hip, artsy friend’s loft (because everyone has hip, artsy friends, of course).

We started with a tapas appetizer with gazpacho, anchovies, empanadas, olives and toasted seasoned almonds. Our favorite was the empanada; the dough was crispy yet flaky. Our mains were goose and roasted lamb with rosemary. P throughly enjoyed his goose, along with the accompanying sausages that reminded him of the kielbasa/kovbasa/kubasa his grandpa used to make.

My lamb was so tender a knife was basically unnecessary. It came with a lovely fig jam that gave the lamb the perfect amount of moisture and sweetness. The sides with my lamb were also delish – rosemary roasted vegetables and potatoes that echoed the taste of the lamb. Everything on the plate balanced or enhanced the other flavors to create a holistically pleasing taste, just like a good entree should.

Truthfully, we had no room for dessert, but me being me, I insisted upon it. We decided on ice cream in three flavors, including licorice and turkish coffee, the latter of which was grainy just like the beverage would be. Yum.

The waitress said they were closing to relocate and open again. I’ll definitely be on the lookout.

M at the Fringe
2 Lower Albert Road
2877 4000
Cost: ~ $550 HKD/person

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The Chocolate Afternoon Tea is back at the MO!¬†A buffet with 40-some chocolate desserts, hot chocolate, and a chocolate sculpture (in addition to the usual finger sandwiches, scones, and choice of coffee or tea), this all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet is like you’ve died and gone to gastronomical heaven. I made the trip a couple weekends ago with L, L, and J. When we arrived and the smell of chocolate hit us, L’s face lit up like it was Christmas, Halloween, and his birthday all rolled into one.

Perfect profiteroles

The dessert spread included something for every sugar fiend: thick fudge with sea salt, chocolate profiteroles, creamy chocolate mousse, the list goes on and on. The afternoon was a blur of “Ohhhh my gosh, that’s good,” and “Have you tried this one?!?!” but our favorites were the Chocolate Macaroons (crunchy cookies that finished soft and taffy-like after a few chews, topped with a shaving of silver foil), “America” Cheesecake Coated with Chocolate Ganache (sin in a sliver), and Baked Chocolate Mud Pie, which looked like little sailboats cruising into¬†a chocolate sunset.

After a couple of hours, we were all seriously buzzing from the chocolate and tea. And bliss. Pure bliss.

Chocolate Afternoon Tea at the Mandarin Oriental
5 Connaught Road
2825 4007 (Bookings for the Clipper Lounge)
Cost:  $378 HKD/couple or $208 HKD/person

Note: The Chocolate Afternoon Tea is only offered on Saturdays and Sundays. Call (way) in advance for bookings. I believe the MO is doing this all through December.

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