Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong

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Sing Yin at the W Hotel

I was quietly impressed with Sing Yin when I went. It’s certainly one of the few places where the decor really  wows with it’s individuality and it makes for a great alternative to the usual suspects for dim sum. You can also read this review on Sassy.

The softly lit entrance of Sing Yin invites you to take a closer peek at what is hiding within. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it doorway, as it’s tucked away on the first floor on the W Hotel, but once you walk in, it’s hard not to be quietly impressed with the decor.  Before I launch into the food, I have to gush a little about the interior. The architect and interior designer Steve Leung, has skilfully paired a sleek and modern design with features of old Hong Kong. I love the semi-private dining rooms which span the length of the passage on the way to the main dining area. It’s a clever and lovely feature and each ‘room’ has a theme which cheerfully reflects the streets of Hong Kong such as local groceries, boutiques and barbers. The rooms are separated by transparent Oriental frames and coupled with the muted colours of the restaurant, subtle lighting and soothing music in the background, it all makes for a wonderfully harmonious atmosphere. At the end of the passage is a nifty wall of clear glass fish tanks and LCD screens showing virtual marine life and real fish swimming along, which adds to the tranquil ambience. The main dining- room is equally ‘oohh-worthy’ with the walls proudly displaying the city’s skyline and the carpet an awesome copy of the map of the outlines of Hong Kong and Kowloon skyscrapers.

I had lunch in the gorgeous bird-cage themed semi-private room and experienced impeccable service, which included the waiter kindly giving me a chair for my handbag (very important for a girl of course, bonus points!). Chef Bryan Lee has created a menu that has a Cantonese focus, but which also encompasses elements of Northern and Southern cuisines, as reflected by his culinary travels in China. I was lucky enough to try eight of Sing Yin’s ‘must-try’ dishes, including their famous Lychee wood-fired crispy chicken which I eagerly anticipated, especially as it was seventh on the list!

To start, I had three excellent dumplings- deep fried abalone with wagyu beef,  steamed whole abalone with sea moss and steamed hairy crab meat with minced pork and crab roe. I particularly enjoyed the deep fried dumpling, which had a fantastic crisp shell and a wonderful balance of beef and abalone flavours. Nothing is more addictive than the broth inside a xiao long bao, and the steamed hairy crab dumpling was fantastic. As I gently nibbled the side of the dumpling, the flavoursome broth escaped and in my panic, I lost some of the soup (so sad). In the end I had to opt for inelegance and popped the entire dumpling in my mouth before further loss!  The double-boiled grain-fed quail soup was presented with a flourish in a scooped out papaya masquerading as a bowl. The sweetness of the papaya infused into the soup which had a real depth, I assume due to the double-boiling process, and was interestingly refreshing, cleansing my palate.  An observation I made was the simplicity and elegance of all of Chef Lee’s dishes. The stir-fried fillet of garoupa was an excellent example of this, where the real pizzazz was in the taste. The garoupa was delicately seasoned and cooked to perfection, with the asparagus and Chinese wolfberries subtlely enhancing the fish’s mild flavour.  Stir-fried diced Wagyu beef with crispy garlic is always a winner with me and again, the dish was uncomplicated in appearance, with the beef accompanied by a small receptacle of beansprouts which helped cut through the tiny amount but unavoidable grease of the meat. My only grouse is that the garlic slices weren’t nearly crispy enough.  The main star of the menu, the lychee wood-fired crispy chicken, was truly luscious. I was glad I had paced myself for this dish, as it was well worth the wait. The chicken, I’m told, undergoes a fairly intense process of overnight seasoning, roasting with lychee wood and tea leaves, and then fired to the golden, glistening beauty that it is when it comes to your table. The skin was amazingly crisp, the chicken succulent and juicy with a faint hint of sweetness.  The last dish was a ‘sichuan style’ soup noodles with enoki mushrooms and minced pork which was a surprisingly spicy finish to the meal and left me in a flustered but satisfied, bloated heap in my chair.

I managed to squeeze in a small dessert platter too!With the exquisite decoration, attentive service and an impressive menu with several stand-out dishes, the W Hotel has a fine restaurant on their hands. Sing Yin has a lovely nostalgic feel to it, and with those frames carefully shielding you and your friends from fellow dining companions, one can dine with absolute gusto and feast on that chicken with abandonment.

Sing Yin, 1/F W Hong Kong, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon Station, Hong Kong. 3717 2222 



A taste for heights

The views are truly spectacular, if somewhat dizzying, the interior spick-and-span, sleek and luxurious, the feel and atmosphere buzzed with a touch of new and unseasoned. What is this place I speak of? None other than The Ritz-Carlton at ICC.It’s taken me almost a year to get myself over there, but I finally made it. It’s swish inside, as to be expected, the staff obliging and smiley, and as I rode the lift and nervously glanced at the escalating floor levels and getting slightly paranoid about any movement I felt, I couldn’t help but marvel a little at the sheer scale of this hotel. Boasting the highest bar in the world (Ozone, on the 118/F), is no mean feat and even if you have no intention of staying or dining there, I’d say it’s worth a fly-by visit.

The day I went, I was off to have lunch at their Southern-Italian restaurant, Tosca, on the 102nd floor. The impact of the decor is quite dramatic, with high ceilings, water fountains (to reflect the water theme of the restaurant), chandeliers and velvet seating. A nice touch is the open kitchen, something that seems to be de rigueur in Hong Kong.Neopolitan Chef Vittorio Lucariello, has brought a classical menu with traditional Italian ingredients, to Tosca and has ensured that 90% of the ingredients are sourced from Italy, down to the flour. We had an epic lunch to look forward to, as it was recommended that we try all of Chef Vittorio’s Signature dishes, plus an additional antipasti of Fassone beef carpaccio, asparagus, anchovies and extra virgin olive oil gelato.

Both Chef Vittorio and The Ritz-Carlton’s Executive Chef Peter Find, were kind enough to swing by our table and enthusiastically explain the dishes, which were all quite complex with their ingredients. Post dish break-down my palate had a chance to sort out the myriad of flavours offered in some of them!

To start we had a lovely looking amuse bouche of mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and anchovies and Chef Vittorio presented us with a single rigatoni with a delicious pork, tuna, and chilli sauce, which had a very distinct Southern Italian taste.The beef carpaccio, with olive oil gelato, asparagus foam, asparagus puree, anchovy sauce and honey mustard dressing was aesthetically interesting, but difficult in practicality to dish out. The carpaccio looked like a thin, flying saucer of beef, with toppings. The intriguing parts were the accompanying gelato, foam and puree. The olive oil gelato was sweet, palate cleansing. But I found the sweetness intensified at the end and didn’t have a strong enough ‘olive oil’ taste. My favourite was the asparagus puree but the foam’s taste was too delicate and indistinct and was quickly overwhelmed by the gelato.The roasted pigeon was succulent, and the foie gras so intensely rich, that it was a little too much for me, (shocking I know), but the Campari jelly helped to cut through the heaviness.The Tagliolini with red prawns had a wonderful texture, the prawns perfectly. They were a bit liberal with the salt but the little tomatoes in the tartare were wonderfully warm and sweet, giving a lovely balance.
Was this the end of the meal? Absolutely not. We charged on and welcomed the tender lamb chops with an excellent, crunchy pistachio crust and a Jerusalem artichoke mash. I felt that this dish almost seemed to cater more for Asian tastes, as the accompanying French beans had a Cantonese flavour to them.Our last main dish was the Mediterranean Sea bass. The top half of the sea bass was fantastic, but the bottom half was a tad overcooked. The spring onion fondant was overwhelming, masking the gentle taste and texture of the fish, which was a shame. I wasn’t sure of the intention with the spring onion but I do think it is overpowering for this dish.Luckily there is a separate stomach for dessert (wishful thinking), as we had the Baba’ (citrus sponge cake), with cherry custard, pine nuts praline and malaga gelato. The rum raisin ice-cream was scrumptious and the sponge full with tangy syrup.The signature dessert is the Tiramisu, made with illy coffee, Italian eggs, (giving it a more yellow colour) and homemade crumbled cookies. It was not too bitter and all sorts of chocolatey goodness which paired well and penetrated the creaminess. In short, it was incredibly indulgent as a dessert, as it should be.

 Chopstixfix rating: 3/5

Tosca, 102/F, The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Tel: (852) 2263 2080


You can also read this review on Sassy HK.

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Definitely not the Wurst

As you can tell, I’m in the middle of yet another updating frenzy. Obviously, October has long gone, but you can still read the rest about Berliner! 😛

October is round the corner, (where did this year go?!), and that can only mean one thing in Hong Kong- Oktoberfest! I’m sure you thought I would say Halloween, but if you haven’t been to the Marco Polo German Bierfest before, then you’re in for more than just a trick or treat.

I’ve attended the last two Bierfests since moving to Hong Kong, and my interests lie completely with the stalls of traditional German food, getting my ‘free’ Oktoberfest tankard, both of which now double up as pen pots in my flat, and having a beer.

However, if a year is too long to wait for the next sausage-fest, don’t get your knickers into a twist (excuse the pun). Cafe Deco group, (Sakesan, Cafe de Paris, Watermark), has opened their second Berliner restaurant in Olympian City 3, following the success of the original Berliner in Soho East.

Olympian City in West Kowloon is vast, and the directionally challenged person that I am, took ages to find my way. When I arrived, what surprised me most was that the alfresco area of Berliner and other restaurants along this outside strip of Olympian City 3, felt quite European, as if I’d been plonked in the middle of Belgium. Perhaps it was because the street was quiet, the area sprawling, but it was quite lovely, and I imagine that many people would enjoy having a beer or two outside in cooler weather and forget that they were in Hong Kong.When I stepped into Berliner I noticed the shiny new bar, serving a variety of German beers and was greeted by several smiling staff and the bar manager, who helpfully led me to my table, right in front of the open kitchen. While I waited for my dining companions, I tortured myself by staring at the rows of whole chickens slowly spit roasting in the window and casting a glance around the spacious restaurant with nice big six to eight-seater booth tables. Eventually I tore my gaze away long enough to indulge in a mocktail- the Apfel Strudel Drink, made with apple puree, ginger beer, cream and cinnamon. Though not exactly thirst-quenching, given the cream, it was oddly tasty, like having liquidised apple strudel. Not a drink to have several rounds of though!I was famished when it was time to get stuck into our meal, and first up was the Berliner Bratwurstschnecke, or roasted Berliner sausage. Resembling a sausage version of a cinnamon roll, the Bratwurst was roasted nicely and very well seasoned. The sauerkraut, which I become addicted to, so much so that the theme of the meal was me heaving piles of the stuff onto my plate, was a good compliment to the dish. The Wurst sausage platter with bratwurst, regensburger (beef and pork sausage that’s been smoked and then boiled), nürnberger, and White Munich (boiled veal and pork sausage), was also served with sauerkraut and roasted potatoes, and was altogether pretty satisfying. I enjoyed the nürnberger and the regensburger the most, as both seemed to have a fuller flavour, but in essence, the entire platter was prepared well, the Würste meat tender. The roast potatoes were a little too heavily and unnecessarily salted, especially as the meat was thoroughly seasoned; but that is my only complaint about the dish.The two other main dishes we indulged in, were the Grillhähnchen (roasted half-chicken) and the Schweinshaxe (roasted pork knuckle with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut)- one of the most popular dishes of the Marco polo bierfest and a favourite amongst carnivorous males.The roast chicken was nicely cooked; the skin crisp and the meat moist, but the pork knuckle trumped the chicken with its amazing crackling and flavoursome meat. I could have demolished the entire crackling myself, but I was also busy attacking the sauerkraut (again) and enjoying the creamy mashed potatoes.We couldn’t finish our meal without ending on a sweet note and we ordered the Apple strudel served with vanilla ice-cream and the rhubarb crumble. Both desserts were of a good standard but I preferred the sweetened apple in the strudel to the rhubarb, though the pastry was a little soggier than I would’ve liked.No more solid food after our puddings, but we did have room for a shot of Schnapps- I had the sour apple which was light and tasty but still had some impact on my oriental liver, but the Himbeergeist Raspberry schnapps was ridiculously strong and almost had me drunk at the first whiff and sip, after which I stopped and decided that I didn’t want to pickle my liver.I’m glad that Hong Kong now has a little taste of Germany all year long, rather than just in October, and the casual dining atmosphere plus the great outdoor patio, affords a pleasant and relaxing eating experience. The location may be a little out of the way but due to the enormous spread of Olympian City, it is in fact, not far from Mong Kok. One thing I have to comment on is that although Berliner imports German beers, it does not, disappointingly and ironically, import local Berlin beers. This might be an aspect to address, so that if anything, customers will not wonder about the origin of the restaurant name!

Chopstixfix rating: 3/5

Berliner- Shop G18, G/F, Olympian City 3, 1 Hoi Wang Road, Kowloon 12pm to 1am and Berliner in Soho East, 2B-07, G/F, Tai Hong St., Lei King Wan, Soho East

You can also see the review on Sassy Hong Kong

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Above & Beyond

Last month I had the pleasure of making my first trip to Hotel ICON in East TST to check out The Market. A few weeks later, I was invited back again, this time to sample the Cantonese cuisine at their fine dining restaurant Above & Beyond.Like the other restaurants in the hotel, the interior design is by Terence Conran. The decor is sleek with muted colours, all leather, marble and slate. The restaurant is situated on the top floor, has 360 degree panoramic views of the Hong Kong skyline, being quite literally above and beyond. Diners are first greeted by a relaxing lounge area before it expands into the dining-room. The work of art is, of course, the stunning vista of Hong Kong Island and the harbour. If you happen to be seated with your back towards the view, don’t worry. The designers have ingeniously fixed angled mirrors above the inside seats for diners to enjoy the scenery too!The menu is extensive with a range of seafood, meat dishes, soup, a barbecue selection and Catch of the day, to name a few. As I went for lunch, I was most looking forward to trying their signature dishes and dim sum, which I heard were excellent.

As my companions and I admired the Hong Kong skyline from our window seats, I had a look at the dim sum menu and noticed a couple of unique dishes that I had to try- the Baked Wagyu beef buns with Black Truffle and the Steamed Shanghai dumplings with Crab meat and Sea Urchin. The Wagyu beef buns were incredible. Essentially it was almost like having an entire dish shoved in a bun, there were so many gorgeous flavours going on. The black truffle was lovely and intense, both in smell and in taste and enriched the richness of the beef which had been tenderised to perfection. The dumplings were very good. The skin of the dumplings was a wonderful consistency and paper thin, the way I like them, and the way they should be. The filling was generous, but with just the right amount of sea urchin to not overwhelm the palate and I relished the soup which had that great seafood sweetness to it.Moving on, I had four fantastic mains to dig into. Before sinking my teeth into the extremely smooth Steamed lobster with egg white and black truffle (yes, more of my beloved truffle!), we had a cleansing bowl of double-boiled soup. I have no idea what the ingredients of the soup were, but all I can say is that it was very tasty and wholesome.The steamed lobster with egg white was as smooth as velvet. The lobster was a smidgen overcooked and therefore a little tough, but otherwise it was a good dish.The Wok-fried US tenderloin cubes with goose liver and fresh basil was superb. The goose liver was a fat explosion in my mouth. I was told that the chef is careful to do a 2:1 ratio of beef to goose cubes so as not to overpower the taste-buds.A sight to behold was the Steamed coral crab with glutinous rice. It was glorious to look at-the beautiful coral red of the crab nestled on a mound of rice and sprinkled with spring onions, was almost too pretty to demolish. The combination of the fresh crab and the glutinous rice, although heavy, was wonderful and perfectly seasoned.Our last main dish was the Smoked Bresse Pigeon with Oolong Tea Leaves. The pigeon was first-rate. Unbelievably tender and aromatic from the smoking process with the Oolong tea, I was hugely impressed and would consider it one of the best pigeon dishes I’ve eaten in Hong Kong. I loved the presentation; the whole pigeon was laid out to resemble its original form, as if it were resting on the plate.As if all the above wasn’t enough, we were treated to the Above & Beyond dessert combination. This had everything including the Oolong tea chocolate ganache cake, peanut brandy chocolate brownie, chilled mango sago cream and baked sago pudding. One of the more interesting puddings on offer was the Wu Liang Ye Chinese Wine and Chocolate ice-cream. The taste really surprised me at first. There was a shocking alcoholic burst that gave away to a gentle chocolate finish. Do not put a whole scoop into your mouth; you will be startled and confused by the intensity! To appreciate it, I recommend taking tiny spoonfuls.Above & Beyond was a fantastic dining experience. Everything I tried was wonderful and it helped that I had a meal with a view. The restaurant has 4 private rooms that you can book, including one for up to 16-30 people with its own kitchen and 270 degree views, where you can cook yourself or hire your own chef. Quite the place for a party!

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5

Above & Beyond, Level 28, Hotel ICON, 17 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon. Tel: +852 3400 1318

Price:  Lunch $250- 400, Dinner $500 and upwards

You can also see the review on Sassy Hong Kong.

Thanks to CatchOn for the professional pics!

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g.reat e.xpections?

An interesting interview with a passionate chef, a confusing tasting and a vague write-up for Sassy 🙂

There’s nothing like a good mystery novel or film to keep readers and audiences on their toes, and I’m definitely a person who enjoys pretending to be the detective and desperately trying to solve the mystery before the answer is given away.

So what does this have to do with food? This review or hint of a review will be a bit of mystery, much like the dishes at this newly opened fine dining restaurant, g.e or gastronomy extra | ordinaire.

This extremely intriguing establishment at The Luxe Manor in Tsim Sha Tsui, is the brainchild of Chef Gianluigi Bonelli, former head chef at KEE Club, who has also worked at the world famous El Bulli and The Fat Duck.

I dropped in on g.e. the day before its soft opening and luckily for me I had the pleasure of having a few moments with the inspirational Chef who is whipping up a storm at The Luxe Manor.

Chef Bonelli, took time out of his hectic schedule to try to explain to me the concept behind g.e. and also to give me a taste of what his menu has to offer.

The concept I was told, is Progressive cooking. I asked if this was similar to Molecular cuisine, to which the reply was no, but that it was difficult to explain. In the laughter that ensued in the attempt to explain this to me, whilst at the same time, giving away nothing, I managed to ascertain this: that this cuisine is about evolving creativity, that in progressive cooking, everything at g.e. comes to the diner like a show and that all the dishes are filled with a surprise that reflects this creativity.I asked Chef Bonelli where he gets his inspiration from and he replied that his inspiration stems from book of intricate flower compositions, and that in seeing these compositions he sees food, and his love of presenting his food in increasingly novel ways is an extension of those compositions. A lot of his creations may not look conventional but the flavours are all retained and certainly keep you guessing.

His reason for doing something new and innovative was refreshingly honest. He simply told me that he gets bored easily and that he couldn’t possibly make something like spaghetti every day! You can have pizza anywhere for example, but you can’t have what he produces in his kitchen just anywhere. Progressive cooking allows him to be creative and one of the most interesting things he said to me that day was that he “needs two things: freedom and freedom.”He admits that g.e is not for the conservative, so if your husband, wife, parents are the traditional type, perhaps g.e. is not for them. But, if you have a curious nature like me, then this is the perfect place for new heights of culinary discovery and definitely makes for a great conversation starter.

As I was only given a taste of the menu and to preserve the mystery of the dishes, I will only say that everything I had was glorious- from the impact of the presentation , to the initial and last taste of each bite, I was beyond impressed and surprised by each dish. Every single dish I had was unique and Chef Bonelli had me exclaiming in amazement on several occasions. I had an amuse bouche which was perched on the end of a long stick stand (can’t describe it!) and I was told to retrieve my amuse bouche parcel and eat it without using my hands. A slightly surreal experience especially when you have the Chef and the PR lady looking at you! I can also tell you I had an exquisite palate refresher- a small white chocolate covered ball of lemon sorbet that melted gently before exploding into a refreshing mouthful of tart lemon.The menu itself is complex and the contents are changed according to what ingredients are in season. I joked that one needed a PhD to decipher it but in actuality, it is quite simple, once you get the hang of it. Each dish breakdown is a study into the creation of that dish, from the year it was first conceived, to the main focus ingredient, accessory ingredients and the different styles that are prepared from a certain ingredient. Clever stuff.

g.e. has three private rooms- Heaven, Hell and Eden, all beautifully decorated and reflecting their theme, as well as a main dining room which itself is rather surreally designed. For all the private rooms, the menus are designed and catered to the taste and needs of the guests whereas the a la carte menu is available in the main dining room.

Chef Bonelli told me he is a 100% or nothing kind of guy and that to deliver what he is offering takes a lot of discipline. He always strives to do better, and this passion is apparent in the way he expresses himself and also is communicated through his cuisine.

I am a passionate epicurean and Chef Bonelli a passionate cook, so much fun was had by all that afternoon. The tag line for g.e. is “every dish in the name of creativity”, and that is really what it is.

Come and experience g.e. for yourself and have no pre-conceived notions about it. As Chef Bonelli told me, “…just come through the door and sit down”.

g.e, 2/F, The Luxe Manor, 39 Kimberley Road, TST. Tel: 3763 8803

Chopstixfix rating: undecided as it was a tasting intended to heighten my curiosity and tease the tastebuds. Will rate when I go for a proper meal!

$$$$$$-$$$$$$$$$$ (including wine)

PS- photos are not a reflection of what I ate they are just pretty! A big thanks to GR8 PR for letting me use their pics for this 🙂

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Elements is confusing..luckily there’s Udon

I don’t have the best sense of direction, but when someone creates a shopping mall like that of Elements in Kowloon, they’re really asking for it. Hundreds of shoppers walking around trying to navigate the Fire, Wood, Earth, Metal and Water zones, every part looking the same- it’s STRESSFUL. It shouldn’t be this hard to get my cup of coffee, but where is Starbucks? Your guess is as good as mine. You need a PhD to work out the floor plan.

Luckily for me, I know the location of exactly… 2 places. The 360 supermarket and Inaniwa Udon Nabe. The former because it’s big and it’s near the MTR, the latter, because it’s the only place that friends who work in ICC know how to get to. And also because it’s too much effort to retrain the brain to navigate to another part of Elements for food.

I know one should never judge a whole restaurant on the basis of one or two dishes, or one bowl of noodles. But I’m gonna judge. If the only place you can get to in Elements serves awful food, I would cry but fortunately, Inaniwa serves a cracking bowl of beef udon (eaten several times, never get bored) and my latest love is their tomato and pork bone hot soup with Japanese pork. Delicious. A large bowl with generous portions of meat and a fantastic flavoursome soup base. Slurp.They serve nabe, a Japanese version of steamboat. I’ve yet to try but I have several more bowls of the same udon to go through before I move onto the next dish on the menu. Their menu is well laid out and comprehensive with a good choice of nabe, udon- hot or cold, as well as appetisers and small dishes like grilled eggplant.

So if you’re an Udon fan, and can stomach the walk of eternity from Central station across to HK station to get to Elements, then stop by for some snacks at 360 (in case you get lost) and visit Inaniwa. You could probably nap there if you like, takes ages to find your way out again….it’s on the 2nd floor of the Fire zone.

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5 (on just the 2 bowls of udon)

Inaniwa Udon Nabe Japanese Restaurant, Shop 2002, Fire Zone, Level 2, Elements, 1 Austin Road West, TST, Kowloon. Tel: 2196 8989