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Archive for the ‘Western’ Category

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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I’ll admit it: I’m a bit slow on the uptake. At least, I was with Shake ‘Em Buns. I couldn’t believe I’d lived in HK for two years without ever trying their (in)famously named naughty nibbles. But you know what? Now I know. And IMHO, Shake ‘Em Buns (at least in Wan Chai) has some of the best burgers in town even topping – dare I say it – BLT Burger.

When P and I ambled into Shake ‘Em Buns last week, we immediately liked the gothic-sitting-room-cum-western-saloon vibe, compete with the burger bar overlooking the grill. (If that description sounds weird, just visit the place in person. You’ll see.) The menu was quite large; we hemmed and hawed over poutines vs. chili fries vs. San Francisco Fries, and chicken vs. burger. For some reason P had his mind set on chicken, so he ordered the Hot Chick and I got the Debbie Does Dallas, mainly because it has my favorite sinful treat: bacon. We also got some San Francisco Fries to split.

While I will say the Hot Chicken (a spicy chicken sandwich) was good, the burger stole the show. I will never be getting anything else at Shake ‘Em Buns. The bun was buttery and moist and the patty was both seasoned and grilled to perfection. The BBQ sauce added the right degree of juiciness without overwhelming the taste of the beef. I think I can safely say this is the only food that ever made me want to make sounds reminiscent of its namesake.

Ohhhhhh Debbie!

Got the hots for the Hot Chick?

The San Francisco fries were all right; the olive oil was a nice departure from plain ‘ol salted fries…though next time I think I’ll go for something with a bit more flavor. Perhaps the chili cheese fries? I’m sure P, representing his Canadian heritage, will want to critique the poutines as well.

Hippie fries

Rest assured I will definitely be back. These are buns I’m not ashamed to booty call.

Shake ‘Em Buns
60 Johnston Road (but the entrance is on Ship Street)
2866 2060
Cost: ~ $90/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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I’ve recently eaten at some newly-opened restaurants and already, one is to my heart what Joey McIntyre was to thousands of side-ponytail-wearing teens. Here’s the report…

ZELO

Hello Zelo!

Last Thursday I walked through Pacific Place in Admiralty and noticed the scaffolding that took up a fourth of the LG level was finally cleared. In its place was the charming, whimsically-decorated Zelo. A sign in front told me it specialized in Meditteranean fare and was newly-opened. I made a mental note to investigate further.

Some research online revealed Zelo just opened on December 10, and while I couldn’t find any reviews, I did read that chef Ryan Crawford did apprenticeships at “it” eateries Chicane and Tonic in Sydney. Apparently he also did an 18-month stint at Nobu, London. Armed with that information, I made a booking with relative peace of mind.

J and I went for lunch on Sunday. We arrived at 12:30 and seats were plentiful, but the place quickly filled up in the next half hour. On the way to our table, we hungrily ogled a beautiful salad spread and wondered exactly how we could get our hands on it. The answer was soon apparent: The set lunch included a main, tea or coffee, and a choice of appetizers including the starter buffet.

A beautiful start(er buffet)

J and I attacked that buffet like we hadn’t eaten for a week (which was ironic, because after the meal at BLT Burger, below, we thought we’d never eat again). There was an amazing orecchiette pasta salad with tomatoes, capers, olives, and what J thought was an anchovy-based dressing (which stopped me in my tracks for about two seconds before the deliciousness of the pasta salad called me back); also on offer were plates of cured meats including salami, pepperoni, and proscuitto (and cantaloupe was on hand, just waiting to be hugged by those thin shavings); walnuts, caesar salad, potato salad, tomato slices topped with mozzerella and basil, and assorted cold vegetables tossed in olive oil. That starter buffet alone was worth the price of lunch; between the top-notch ingredients and the thoughtful pairings and preparation of those ingredients, Zelo immediately rocketed to a high standing on my list of favorite restaurants.

Grilled chicken with vegetables and potatoes

After a promising starter, our mains came. J ordered penne arrabiata, which only got a “so-so” from both of us: the sauce had a lot of kick, which was nice, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. My grilled chicken with vegetables and potatoes were far more impressive. The chicken breast was wonderfully smoky, covered in a balsamic reduction that was latticed over the meat. The potatoes were like oven fries, crispy around the edges and soft on the inside.

We were too full for dessert, so instead we had our tea. The tea came out with a small assortment of biscotti and lemon cookies – the perfect ending to a wonderful meal. I will definitely return. See you soon, starter buffet!

Zelo
007, LG, Pacific Place Mall
2918 1028
Cost: ~ $240/person (For lunch. And for all my raving about the starter buffet, you should know you can just get the buffet with coffee or tea for $168/person, plus 10% service charge.)

BLT BURGER

J, C, and I visited this little brother of BLT Steak on Saturday night in honor of the boys’ birthdays. We arrived around 6:45 and were pleased the queue of this uber-popular place wasn’t 1,000 people long, as C had feared when he recalled seeing this restaurant last weekend. After a five-minute wait during which we started perusing the menu, we were seated.

BLT Burger has all the dishes a homesick American would love: burgers, milkshakes, and oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies. There are also combos: you can get a classic burger, fries, and your choice of beverage. The only complaint about the menu is its inflexibility: When we asked our waiter if we could pay extra and substitute one of the specialty burgers on the menu in the combo, he replied, “We follow the American style and have these combos, but you can only get the classic burger,” to which I replied with a pout, “That’s not how we do it in America!”

Burgers, waffle fries, and milkshakes - what more do you need?

Nevertheless, J and C both ordered the combos, with vanilla and chocolate shakes respectively. I got the Tex-Mex burger which had avocado, jack cheese, chili, and onion sour cream, among other things. We each got waffle fries, and the BBQ Nachos to split. The Nachos were decent; the meat was like the pulled pork back home, though we all agreed the plate could do with more filling in general. The burgers were monstrous! Though mine was scrumptious, I only managed to eat the better part of a half, and the boys were struggling after putting away their seven ounces of beef. However, the USDA Certified Black Angus beef was juicy and delish, so they fought through.

Mmmm brownies!

Again, we were too full for dessert (why do we always do this to ourselves?) but I couldn’t pass up the Bittersweet Chocolate Brownie a la mode. Covered in powdered sugar with a scoop of ice cream underneath caramel, fudge, and pecans, it was everything I dreamed of. And maybe the manager heard us say, “birthday,” because we mysteriously received a slice of cheesecake topped with the most luscious raspberries, on the house! A smooth finish to our birthday celebration. All in all, a bit overpriced for burgers (though I believe that’s par for the course in HK), but a nice place anytime you need an “American” fix.

BLT Burger
Shop 301, Level 3, Ocean Terminal, Harbour City
2730 2338 (they don’t take reservations – at least, not for Saturday nights)
Cost: ~ $220 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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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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