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Posts Tagged ‘Breakfast’

A couple weeks ago my friend J and I made plans to do the in-vogue thing for New York: brunch! She made a short-list of her favorite brunch spots in the city and lo and behold, the Clinton Street Baking Company was at the top. I’d seen Clinton St. on Yelp, with its 4 stars after more than 1500 reviews and everyone raving as passionately about the pancakes as the 2-hour (!) wait for brunch on the weekends. I guess it’s because word’s gotten out: TimeOut New York named it “Best Breakfast/Brunch” in 2007, and New York Magazine declared it had the “Best Pancakes” in the city 2008. More research unearthed the fact co-owner and chef Neil Kleinberg worked under Rick Moonen, so I was expecting some pretty fantastic cooking. J and I, ever the smart cookies, opted to take advantage of our flexible schedules and brunch on a weekday.

We arrived on Thursday morning around 10:30 and even then I was told a table for 2 would require a 30-minute wait. However, as we entered I realized why: the place is small, especially for US standards! It’s basically a narrow diner with roughly five tables and a few counter seats, holding a total of 32 occupants. You’d be wise to bring just one of your (myriad) friends. Alternatively, follow an insider tip I heard: Come for dinner, where you can still enjoy their pancakes from the “Breakfast for Dinner” section of the menu. Alternatively, get them for takeaway!

J, a savory brunch fan, ordered the Spanish Scramble, a three-egg scramble with goodies like chorizo and melted monterey jack cheese mixed in, served with a side of hashbrowns and sourdough toast. I, like most people in the diner, ordered the famous pancakes with blueberries and warm maple butter.

I had a bite of the scramble and enjoyed the saltiness of the chorizo, but to be very honest, the pancakes stole the show. Each bite was so fluffy and the just right balance of buttery-creamy goodness. The blueberries added great tartness while the warm maple butter lent a lot moisture to the dish. My only complaint was I found the maple butter to have a slightly cloying, saccharine aftertaste. I’ve read mixed accounts of whether Clinton St. uses Grade A or Grade B maple syrup for their butter (does anyone out there know the truth?); my only guess is on the day I dined, the maple butter was made with Grade B. From what I know, it’s traditionally a bit darker (compared to its Grade A counterpart), with a sweeter, thicker taste and not used for the table as much as Grade A. The richness of the Grade B was a bit much for me.

In any case, it was a great plate of pancakes and I. Ate. Them. All. Dare you not to do the same!

Clinton St. Baking Company
4 Clinton St. (between Houston and Stanton)
New York, New York 10002
646-602-6263
Cost: $20/person with tax and tip 


PS: In case you’re inspired to have your own pancake party, check out food blog The Pancake Princess and the Protein Prince! This cute blog features two authors sharing recipes for the baking fiend in you AND the side craving something more substantial. Recent posts include recipes for French-inspired tarte tartin pancakes and pumpkin pancakes – perfect as the weather starts to turn. MMMMMMM.

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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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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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