Friday, January 29, 2010

Highlight #279: Michelin is only for Gwailos

Michelin came to Hong Kong and Macau in 2010. The welcome was not warm, not from the Chinese anyway. Call it superiority complex acting up or whatever, but no Chinese honestly believes that Gwailos (Catonese slang for foreigners) really know anything about the depth of Chinese cuisine, especially when all the regional nuances are concerned. The Hong Kong authoritative magazine on fine living actually included a letter from the editor-in-chief titled "Don't believe Michelin."

Resentful feelings aside, Michelin did give my favorite soup bun venue, Din Tai Feng's HK flagship, a one star, which in my eyes was quite on point (the food is spectacular, but the setting is shy of the three star golden standard.) The remaining star distributions on the two islands, however, do raise many question marks.

At Din Tai Feng, a meal should start and end with buns. We like to start with a steamer of crab and pork soup buns. Unlike the true Shanghainese version, DTF's take has thin and stretchy rather than thick (in comparison) and fluffy skin. The soup is ultra rich and intensified with crab roe.

Beyond the standard soup buns, almost everything that comes in a steamer is good here. These shrimp xiao mai are also soup filled and are quite what the Chinese call bouncy, meaning toothsome with some resistance, a good quality indicator for fresh shrimp.

The veggie dumplings have more than thirty handmade folds each. It's trance inducing to watch the helpers in the kitchen make these at break neck speed.

We like to progress to hand pulled noodles. Here are two very different noodle dishes made from the same batch of noodles. First up is this clear brisket noodle soup. If you are used to seeing briskets in heavy sauces, this is a revelation. The very plain looking brisket is immensely beefy and fall apart tender.

This Taiwanese Dan Dan noodle is a twist on the original from my native Sichuan. I am no purist, so I like this much peanutier and much less spicy version. When mixed, the peanut dust on top evenly coats each strand of noodle and form a peanut butter like paste with the spicy sauce.

Naturally dessert also comes in a steamer. Aren't these red bean peach buns just over the hill adorable? I love giving each fluffy one a nice squeeze to burst the skin before biting into the warm and melty middle.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Highlight #278: What we call Snow Frog

We Chinese have a deep rooted belief in food for healing. The line between medicine and cuisine is blur. Even at banquets, a good host is always aware of his/her guests' conditions and orders the dishes accordingly. For example, at one business lunch near Shanghai, our hostess thoughtfully ordered up a very pretty rock sugar hasma soup steamed inside papaya for all the ladies. This dish is known to be particular good for the skin as hasma (snow frog's fallopian tubes) is harvested during the snow frog's 100 day hibernation under the snow and is full of beneficial hormones for energizing cell regeneration. The papaya further includes loads of helpful enzymes to help the digestive system absorb all the nutrients.

It may sound nasty to some, but the taste is really very pleasant, especially when served with honey and coconut milk. The hasma has a slight chew like the tapioca balls at the bottom of a cup of bubble tea.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Highlight #277: Lots of food

It's very slow to upload photos here in Singapore, so I'll save the majority of the photos from China, Hong Kong, and Singapore for when I get back next week. In short, I've been eating lots and lots of the above. :)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Highlight #276: Miller Union

Writing this post from Hong Kong makes me miss Atl immensely. Not that I don't eat well here. Hong Kong is for sure a foodie mecca. But living in Asia always requires more work. There is no going anywhere without navigating the people, the noise, the traffic... Anyway, you'll get to see some of that when I hit Singapore and finally upload the photos.

Miller Union was easy. Warm, cozy, and comfortable. Even the dishes carry on the feeling.

Poached egg in celery cream was a genius take on rich and creamy texture. Other than the slight lack of salt, we were all in love with it.

Foie with apple jelly succeeded on all fronts. In particular, the sweet/tart jelly perked up the taste buds.

My rabbit dish, despite not being recognizable as bunny, was well seasoned.

The herbal ice cream flavors of thyme, rosemary, and sage were assertive and lingering. The chocolate torte on the other hand was just meh.

Highlight #275: Ramen in LA

Four hours before flight, we found ourselves in Little Tokyo area of LA. Most of the restaurants lining the street we parked on where sparsely populated. But in front of Daikokuya there was already a line of shivering people trying to avoid the wind.

Naturally we had to eat there. We were smart enough to put our name down and then duck into the restaurant next door for drinks and appetizers. When we returned half hour later, we were up! The specialty here is a black ramen.

Warm and deeply savory. First bite was incredibly flavorful. After ten bites, it got a bit salty for my system, but I am somewhat sensitive to salt. The noodle here is the thin and slightly waxy kind. It provided plenty of chew.

327 E 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
TEL: (213) 626-1680

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Highlight #274: Ramen in OC

This post will be pretty much useless to those who want to find this place in Orange County... I was taken here by a relative and saw no road sign. Besides the Chinese/Japanese characters stating "Red Dragon" near the door, I found no English sign.

We waited about fifteen minutes for one of the ten or so small tables to open up. By the time these deliciously crunchy and juicy gyoza came, I had to fight off the chopsticks to get a photo.

The ramen here is the thick hand pulled kind. The house broth is sticky from meaty essence. Most of all, I love the soft boiled egg.

The spicy version is not so much spicy as extra sticky and savory. Great for a cold winters day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Highlight #273: Rushed LA - Restaurant: Osteria Mozza

I am always rushed in LA. After three trips, I have only seen snap shots of the city. But I always ate well. At the last minute, my dining companions scored a late reservation at Osteria Mozza, where we found Nancy Silverton happily dishing out fresh mozzarella behind the marble mozzarella bar.

Naturally we got some. The fresh burrata with bacon to be exact. I am sure you can already tell from the photo this bundle of joy's supreme creaminess. Silverton's bread also cannot be beat.

Pastas were wonderful. The calf brain ravioli was really stellar and was left mostly to me since the other had some issues with the heady matter.

Everyone loved the orecchiette with sausage and swiss chard. The very meaty sausage flavor left quite an impression.

Pillowy gnocchi with wild boar ragu.

The guy who scored the reservation insisted that we must try the porcini-rubbed rib eye bistecca. Apparently it's his favorite steak in the whole world.

Awesomely pink in the middle. Buttery but still a bit chewy. The meat textually is not the most delicate I've had, but very enjoyable as a large steak when too much marbling in every mouthful would be simply too much. Where this steak really excel is in the earthy yet slightly sweat rub. It left one salivating long after the stomach was full.

The stuffed quail, while not getting as much attention as the steak, was wonderfully flavorful in its own right.

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 297-0100

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Highlight #272: Nice vibe - Restaurant: Bistro Niko

It makes me feel a bit giddy every time I get pass China's massive firewall to gain access to facebook and blogger. It's silly since I am just using the work VPN and doing nothing fancy. But still, there is a bit of that excitement associated with getting away with something. :)

So coming from Shanghai, I give you Bistro Niko right back in Atlanta. Love the cheerful vibe!

Croque madame, as you can see, is not exactly a revelation and the fries were not super crunchy. But then again, it's not easy to find good fries in Paris either. I'd come back here for the overall vibe and good enough food.

Onion tart was not what you'd expect a tart to be. Fortunately, the description does paint the picture of a sort of pizza. This was a bit greasy.

Baba was enormous. Somewhat dry, but alright when pieced and allowed to soak in the sauce.

Overall, I liked eating here, not because it was top notch food, but for all the reasons one goes to cheery cafe to spend a rainy afternoon in Paris. The vibe is good and the stomach gets filled.

Bistro Niko
3344 Peachtree Rd NW
Atlanta, GA 30326
(404) 261-6456

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Highlight #271: Better late than never, happy new year - Restaurant: Paces 88

We wanted somewhere low key but celebratory for NYE and this spot right next to the band and fireplace and bar was pretty much perfect. We started off slow.

Then later...
Then after midnight...
But before all the festivity started, we filled our stomachs with the NYE meal at Paces 88.

Amuse of cool lobster in warm soup.

Seal foie with jelly. The whole meal was exemplified by this, nothing too adventurous but all very well prepared.

Seared scallop.
The dumpling looking things are mashed potatoes. Nice medium rare.

Trio of desserts.

Paces 88
88 West Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta, GA 30305

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Highlight #270: We ate Rome (Part IV) - Restaurant: La Gensola

I am off to China again, but Rome continues on the blog.

Our favorite shop owner in Rome (she runs a fabulous shop full of odd gems off the Milan runway) sent us to her favorite fish restaurant for a last meal in the great city.

Wine storage in the tight restaurant.

Tuna tartar. Not classic Rome, but nonetheless loved by the young Romans.

Fried calamaris.

My fish. . . almost ready. :)

Tender, sweet, and drenched in olive oil. I really didn't need the last generous pour, but the Romans love it.