Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bund Brunch Dealings – Jean-Georges

"Lunch at Jean Georges, it is a no-brainer" was the answer I got when I asked a friend where she had lunch in NYC during her business trip.

As for us, deciding to have Brunch at Jean-Georges in Shanghai wasn't such an easy decision. Firstly, there are a lot of brunch choices. Secondly, one of us previously had a sub par experience at Jean-Georges, Shanghai and was not prepared for another one. Eventually we did, we figured it was a calculated risk, since it was a good way to give Jean-Georges another chance since the brunch deal was touted as the best brunch on the Bund. I went with no expectations and I'm glad to report that it was good. I haven't had lunch at Jean Georges, NYC but I am guessing that it is the same winning formula of great food at a good value that makes it's a "no-brainer" lunch spot.

There are 3 brunch deals to choose from. If you are a brunch purist, the 188rmb brunch menu that gives you beautiful platter consisting of homemade smoked salmon, French toast, eggs Benedict, buttermilk pancakes and a croissant or with an additional 210 rmb you can lux-up your brunch plate with some lobster, truffle and caviar and add 210rmb. But if you are like me and not really into pancakes, then you can elect for the 188rmb 3-course prix fixe. On top of this, proper service and a view are all inclusive.

Left and moving clockwise: scallops and cauliflower with caper-raisin Sauce; raisin & walnut bread; steamed shrimp salad, tender greens and champagne vinaigrette

The food was focused on being good. The plates were elegant and slightly understated but big in flavour. From our first courses of scallops and cauliflower with caper-raisin Sauce, steamed shrimp salad, tender greens and champagne vinaigrette and Kabocha pumpkin soup, mushrooms and chives, the scallop was the flavour winner of the three. I expected the local Shanghainese river shrimp on the salad, so I surprised when I was served up a jumbo sized shrimp (or I would term prawn – I got lost in translation somewhere) but it was juicy and sweet and the vinaigrette had a great acidity.

Left and moving clockwise: grilled pork chop with smoked chilli glaze, asparagus and onion compote; veal Milanese, radicchio salad and sweet potato, dried cranberries; JG Cheeseburger with Fries and truffle dressing

For the main courses were slightly heavier. The JG cheeseburger had the makings of a good burger and a rich truffle dressing but all together it was too heavy. My Flintstone-sized grilled pork chop with smoked chilli glaze, asparagus and onion compote, was really good; the smoked chilli glaze was bold and pungent but well balanced out.

top left and moving clockwise: wildflower honey, vacherin, crispy meringue and citrus sorbet; oatmeal apple soufflé and applie cide sorbet; Jean Georges chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream

For the sweet notes, the signature Jean Georges chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream was executed ok but very unimaginative. In comparison, the apple cider sorbet was apple fresh and delicious that went really nicely with the comforting oatmeal apple soufflé was sensational and the wildflower honey, vacherin, crispy meringue and citrus sorbet, was cleverly layered textures, light and refreshing.

All in all, the brunch deal here is a happy meal. There is a view, there is good service and the food is solid. It is a good deal, so looking for brunch on the Bund? Maybe this is a no-brainer.

puxi. pudong


4/F 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu,
Shanghai, China
Tel: 86-21-63217733

*see all photos

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hairy Crab Happy Hour – less mess more flavour

It was October when we were in Shanghai and it was (still currently) that time of the year again when 大闸蟹/Da Zha Xie (hairy crabs) plump up and are perfect for savouring their roe and oil. They were everywhere. We stayed along Wulumuqi (middle) street and the streets were lined with stores selling these compact roe bundles in abundance.

Hairy crabs are a food that I associate to Shanghainese food but on our hunt for Tu An Xie Wei Guan - that a local recommended to us, I soon realised that feasting on this delectable delicacy that not everyone in Shanghai gets to enjoy. Two locals, the lady whom recommended us to the restaurant and another whom we asked for directions had never even tasted it because it too expensive. So, I’m very grateful that I have had the privilege.

This year in my hairy crab adventure I’ve found different and easier ways of savouring the hairy crab. Nothing beats using your ten fingers to rip apart the crab, then dipping the roe in vinegar and eating off the shell and licking your fingers and finally proceeding to pick of the remaining flesh but this processing is sometimes a very messy and tedious affair.

These are my newly discovered ways of eating hairy crab (hassle free) in no particular order of preference:

1. Braised Shanghainese noodles with hairy crab cream, Liu Yuan Pavilion, Hong Kong

2. Hairy crab xiao long bao, Ding Tai Fung, Shanghai

3. Hairy crab and roe with mung bean sheets, Jesse, Shanghai

4. Hairy crab roe with tofu, Liu Yuan Pavilion, Hong Kong & Tu An Xie Hui Guan, Shanghai

Hairy crab roe with tofu, Tu An Xie Hui Guan, Shanghai

Hairy crab roe with tofu,Liu Yuan Pavilion, HK

Liu Yuan Pavilion
3/F The Broadway
54-62 Lockhart Road
Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Tel: 852-28042000

Ding Tai Fung
Second floor, South Block,
Xintiandi, Shanghai, China
Tel: 86-021-6385837

41 Tianping Road
Xuhui, Shanghai, China
Tel: 86-021-62829260

Tu An Xie Hui Guan
1 Gao'an Road
Xuhui, Shanghai, China
Tel: 86-021-64451206

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Hong Kong, Double or Nothing

Like I previously mentioned, I’m usually in and out of Hong Kong in 30+ hours, so with that little amount of time, I find myself eating a succession of small meals. The pattern that has more or less unfolded is what I term, one plus one meals.

ast 1 + 1

Starting off the day at Lau Fu Kee is great. It is gentle on the stomach, especially if you had a big night out. Here, the rice that has been cooked to a point where it surrenders what its original form is and transforms into this really smooth nourishing comforting bowl of white goodness. Choose what you want in your congee and you are good to go.

From Lau Fu Kee we walked a little to head to breakfast no.2, Lan Fong Yuen, a Hong Kong food institution that is home to the milk tea. Because it is famous, it is tourist friendly. So the menus are friendly, it is in English, in Mandarin, in Japanese and if all else fails, stare at the pictures. We went for the pork bun and milk tea to wash down everything and to finish off breakfast. The pork bun is essentially a fried port cutlet topped with a slice of tomato and mayonnaise and served between a lightly toasted burger bun. It was tasty and the pork was tender and not too greasy but it didn’t blow my socks off. Pork burger bun with milk tea, not something I would wake up craving but when enjoyed together in Hong Kong, it is strangely a nice combination.

In between meals 1 + 1

I usually eat at Mak’s but this time I thought I would cross over from the usual Wellington Road outlet that I eat at Tsim Chai Kee. I had the fish ball and wanton noodles, ok, yes the portions are bigger but I didn’t the soup quite hit the mark, it was a little cloudy and the flavours weren’t as clean as Mak’s.

From Tsim Chai Kee, we walked down Wellington and headed into the famous Yung Kee, which I have successfully avoided every other trip in Hong Kong. I’ve always thought it was overhyped, overpriced and bordering on being a tourist trap. Well… but I should try it right? Ok, so I tried to shake off my prejudice and was given a solution of tasting Yung Kee but not burning a huge hole in my pocket and potentially feeling really pissed off. Instead of ordering a whole goose or half of it, I ordered a serving of goose rice – a small bowl of rice topped with the famed roasted goose and its drippings seeping through the grains of rice. The roasted goose I must admit was good and the side of century eggs was really good and the ammonia was under control. So now that I’ve been there and done that, check. The food is not bad but I still think it is overhyped and definitely overpriced. And for a one Michelin star holder, the service grumpy and condescending, well, in short, it was downright atrocious.

Lau Fu Kee
50 Lyndhurst Terrace,
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2850-6756

Lan Fong Yuen
4A-6 Gage Street
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2544-3895

Tsim Chai Kee
98, Wellington Street
Central, Hong Kong.
Tel: +852-2850-6471
Yung Kee
32-40 Wellington Street
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2522-1624


Xenri No Tsuki

My past two visits to Hong Kong have been rushed. I’m in and out of the city in about 36 hours and with only that amount of time, so much to do, a couple of people to catch up with and loads to eat, planning and multitasking is important. The best way to do it, is to share a great meal with the people you want to see, that way the warm comforts of familiar company and conversations helps to season the whole meal.

One of the first things that come to mind when I think about going to Hong Kong is Kau Kee’s beef brisket noodles and seriously the last thing on my mind is Japanese cuisine. But when an offer of two local foodies was made to bring us to their regular sushi place, I couldn’t say no, and it’s been a long time since I had sushi.

I hadn’t realised how long I hadn’t sat at the sushi counter until the night before my flight and I was lying in bed and muttering to myself, “oh man, I can’t wait to get to lunch, I can’t wait to eat sushi” and with those wonderful thoughts, I eventually drifted off to sleep, woke up in a daze, got myself to the airport in the wee hours of the morning and I made it to lunch.

Lunch got off to a late start. There was some mix up in our reservation, the chef thought we were coming for dinner and so was terribly surprised and embarrassed when the four of us turned up and the sushi counter was full. So instead the four of us sat tight in a corner with a bottle of sake and waited for the seats at the counter the open up. Sake, not a bad way to start a holiday and as S puts it, “having sake in the middle of the day is so decadent but I love it!” I love it too but it is a terrible combination with hunger and travel exhaustion.

C-jie, when she invited us told us that this is her regular joint - they have loads of fresh fish and the chef is not Japanese. Chef Andy Li, the man behind the counter, sure he isn’t Japanese, he is a local Hong Kong boy and he explained to us his cuisine, Japanese technique but tuned a little to the local Hong Kong palate. Well, I’ve no problem with that. We are finally seated sushi counter and I’m really ready to eat. So to quote Kaga Takashi, “a la cuisine” (I’m neither French nor Japanese).

We started off with what I shall term as the cold and creamy courses. Shirako, Cod milt or bluntly put cod sperm followed by akimono, monkfish liver and lastly oysters. The Shirako that we had was just coming into season but this was the best I’ve ever had. It looks twisty and brainy but when cooked perfectly brings out the creamy custard like texture, we had it cold and lightly seasoned, this forgave the wait for the seats at the counter in an instant. Following that we had akimono, another cold creamy dish but rich and fattier and more luxuriant topped off with ikura. Splendid start!

Following that we had focused plates of sashimi that showcased beautiful presentation, technique and freshness.

Chef Andy’s personal and latest creation that he was testing on us, a oshizushi, box sushi of Aji, sesame seasoned sushi rice, konbu and topped with truffle, was well-balanced, creative and delicious.

Amaebi served in its sauce made from its own head juices. Head to tail eating, prepared simply with the focus of highlighting the merits of the amaebi.

Triple decked uni gunkan sushi, this was just crazy. It was so tall I could barely fit it into my mouth without losing any of that glorious uni that had just arrived. This was just pure indulgent and generosity from the chef in wanting to pleasure and feed.

Negi toro, labouriously hand chopped that gave the toro a good texture but also maintained the fatty flavours of toro and and garnished with spring onions. Again, this piece of sushi was presented with a generous top flavour, awesome.

Throughout the meal what I felt most of the passion and gentleness of Chef Andy’s love for food and for feeding us. The food was prepared with integrity and had a big focus on flavour. So…so what if he is not Japanese and he is presenting sushi, it still is technically beautiful and a feast for the eyes and the stomach, and he has the magic that what anyone in the hospitality industry should have, a desire to serve and entertain, to bind and to comfort people through his expression of food.

Xenri No Tsuki
6/F, Jardine Centre
50 Jardine's Bazaar
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

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