All posts filed under “Hong Kong

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Bo London: From Hong Kong With *Sex* and Caviar

Imported XTREME

Alvin Leung of 2-Michelin-starred Bo Innovation in Hong Kong is a self-taught chef best known for serving condoms, second-best known for re-interpreting and pushing the boundaries of Chinese cuisine, and third-best known, perhaps, for being a Heston Blumenthal of Asia. The cuisine is defined by the term XTREME, which according to reports far and wide, suggests either utter genius or ludicrous gimmick. In London, however, Bo isn’t too bogus.

The 15-course tasting menu at Bo London is priced at £138 (currently served at dinner only), but there is also a more bearably priced lunch option – of 2 dim sum dishes, 1 main and 1 dessert – at £35. Also available at lunch is the concise dim sum menu with a price range between £5.50 and £28. The infamous signature dish *Sex on the Beach* – yes them condoms – is available at £8. The restaurant is pretty much a coarse granite cave with chairs not dissimilar to the certainly famous Danish restaurant. The service is helpful, genuine and informative.

The good & the (very) mad..

I went for the lunch option with add-on dim sum. Foie Gras Wrap (£15) was a dish of generously-sized, seared foie gras on a bed of fried vermicelli and crispy iceberg lettuce. The drizzle of “Abby’s Sauce” added sweetness to the buttery liver. Not a bomb of taste but lavishly enjoyable. Calamari Balls (£6), boasting dense and bouncy intensity from the mashed calamari paste, was far more delicious. There was a pleasant dimension, especially of fragrance, from the kaffir lime mayo, though it could do with more citric tang. Black Truffle Taro Croquettes (£6) oozed piping hot truffle-y emulsion. The enjoyment, however, ended at the aroma as the puffs did not taste of much. Steak and Kidney XLB (£6.50) arrived toppled with avruga caviar. The minced beef and kidney filling was unmistakably robust and soupy but also quite peppery; the XLB casing could have been thinner; the avruga did not do much. More successful was Sichaun Spicy Lamb XLB (£6), which leaked a polite dose of chilli and a lovely oily finish on the lips. I liked Black Truffle XO Har Gau (£7). The musty shrimp floss, in theory, went nicely with the chopped marinated truffle and XO sauce. In practice, it could also benefit from a thinner wrapping and a little more sauce.

 

Before my main of Wagyu Beef Cheng Fun (with £ supplement), I was sent a couple (free) signature dishes in the multi-course tasting menu from the kitchen probably because I seemed to be taking an awful lot of photos. Bed & Breakfast was a flimsy basket of taro croquette with smoked quail and farmed Chinese caviar. The idea of the dish is constructed not only around the British term Bed & Breakfast but also Leung’s interpretative take on the pompous, traditional Chinese delicacy of Bird’s Nest. The luxury, of course, was well-matched and the attempt to promote ethically farmed Chinese caviar is commendable. Taste-wise, it was a posh croquette. The quail egg was crazily smoky; its slight elasticity caressed my tongue; and then it burst into gooey, yolk-y protein. The caviar could have had a more clearly pronounced taste if the smokiness was more finely tuned. Mackerel with “British Cloud” – a concoction of raw mackerel, citrus cream, ponzu and sesame foam, on a contraption of rose water and dry ice – was less promising. The dish cried for refinement as I could only taste the mackerel (acceptable but not the freshest) and the mayo-like cream. Back to my (paid) course of Wagyu Beef Cheng Fun, it was an utmost delight. There was an insanely good contrast of taste and texture. The melt-in-my-mouth Wagyu was skillfully seared, along with some crusty fat; the truffle puree was potent but not intrusive; the rolled gummy cheng fun was glazed in soy and (again) truffle and claimed umami richness. Together (and to me), it was pretty much an opulently playful interpretation of Beef Ho Fun and something definitely to go back for at Bo London. The fried rice with pickled vegetable could have been less oily.

For desserts I asked for “Sex”.

Leung’s name-making “Sex on the Beach” (£8), innitially conceived in support of AIDS charities, is a visually off-putting dish of fake condom, fake sand and fake jism. If these were real, they would be less off-putting? While the original “Sex” was more of a savoury delight (made from mushroom, honey and ham, the London “Sex” was a sweet affair (biscuit crumbs, Sichuan peppercorn mousse and condensed milk ice cream). While I loved the zing of the peppercorn, it overpowered the spunk (and the other elements) on the plate. The condom itself had a good tenacity in its texture. The more visually pleasing dish of Rum Baba was just nice. The sponge soaked the alcohol nicely but could have been lighter; the fresh blueberries did not taste much. The real star of the dish was lychee sorbet – cleansingly sweet and exuberant.

Bo London does make quite an impression. On the one hand, I had some issues with my dishes. The execution could be more refined, and after the meal, I felt a lightly greasy aftertaste. (There could have been more acidity). On the other, this is the menu nowhere to be experienced in Europe (or even Asia?), contributing much to its uniqueness and potential. Leung’s interpretative approach to Chinese cuisine is inventive, relatively well-informed and.. believe it or not.. quite *fun*.

And that’s certainly not something to dislike..

 

RATING: 3/5

BO LONDON

4 Mill Street
London
W1S 2AX

Tel. 020 7493 3886

www.bolondonrestaurant.com
Bo London on Urbanspoon

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Hong Kong in 24hr: The Luxuries!

IN a lifetime there is probably a meal that you really want to splash out, use up all your cash and eat as if there would be no tomorrow. At half past 8pm I was in my taxi, having just finished a brilliant pre-dinner meal at Ming Court, heading to this world’s first 3 Michelin star Cantonese restaurant Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons Hotel. I was restless, though that was partly due to the paranoa of overspending, or credit card declining. Initially, I wanted to go to LKH for cheaper dim sum lunch but I couldn’t just book a table, hence this late-hour dinner.

9PM – I arrived, checked out the loo and walked into LKH. The restaurant was on the 4th floor of the hotel overlooking the harbour. Stunning! The name Lung King Heen meant something like “View of Dragon” and yes the view is unparallelled. I recalled my view at Le Jule Verne – great view but the family-friendly dining rooms and the tourists downstairs peeping up during our meal were totally underwhelming. LHK’s dining room was spacious and the tables were nicely spread out. It was inclined to being traditional with a bit of modern touch. And, the scene was a real bustle.

Seated at one lonely sofa table. The fact that the seat was well cushioned made up for its being sidelined in the far end of the dining room. This was probably a design genius. I didn’t get the view but I did get luxuriously padded seats. The front of house was very accommodating for a loner like me – and the loner lady close by – I was loaned some magazines, two of which featured articles about Lung King Heen itself. Wasn’t that self advertisement before the meal? You might as well lend me the M guide! That said, the articles did give me an extensive summary of dishes at LKH and the flair of Executive Chef Chan Yan Tak.

The menu – situated itself in the Cantonese tradition. Seafood dishes were the thing at LKH. There were many dim sum dishes on the dinner menu. Never mind that. My eyes grazed through all the pages very carefully, with an occasional pause at the price list. For example, one braised whole 16-headed Yoshiyama abalone in supreme oyster sauce was priced at 3000$ HK. That was, £240 a dish!!! That said, many dishes on the menu were deadly and unthiftily appealing. Lots and lots of premium old-school Chinese imgredients – shark’s fin, abalone, sea cucumber, fish maw goose, fresh duck liver, garoupa. It took me a little longer than usual to make up my mind – because I was calculating the bill in my head, seriously! – and as much as I was NOT hungry I decided to order 4 savoury dishes.

Before that, there was an amuse bouche of deep fried calamari with sweet chilli sauce….

For a restaurant that served up a £240 dish, was this a joke? The calamari was nicely cooked but … you can guess what I want to say. Just don’t want to sound too rude.

DISH 1: Wok Fried Sea Cucumber with Spring Onion

Sea cucumber, for those who do not know, is a kind of seawater leech – animal, not vegetable as its English name suggests. There are big ones, small ones, fresh ones and dehydrated ones. It has this fishy kinda flavour but the texture of very tender gelatin. The big ones are more crunchy. The Chinese do many things with it – pan frying, brasing, stewing (as in soup). I have been having sea cucumber since I was a kid at special occasions. The thing itself is deemed one of the Chinese benchmarks of luxurious food. I really had high expectation of this serving!

The dish was composed of sea cucumber, leeks, ginger, refined oyster sauce and broccoli. The flavours were delicate with a mild note of ginger coming through. The leeks were noteworthy – sautee to the perfection resulting in the no-stringy texture. The sea cucumber was rather plump and absorbed the flavours of the many other things well but without being overpowered by them. This was probably a real 2-or-3-starred dish for me and the one I had much later on at Royal China Club was never in the same league as this.

DISH 2: Braised Superior Shark’s Fin with Crab Cream and Gold Leaf

I know shark’s fin is quite controversial now and I am brave enough to admit I am one of those consuming it. Though there was a moment on Ramsay’s Shark Bait, that made me think twice and I have strayed away from it since. But, to leave out this ridiculously amazing dish out of the post would be a crime (to me at least). The dish of crab cream soup, served with a light drippling of Merlot red wine vinegar instead of the traditional Chinese soy vinegar, was luscious. The cream was rich and its texture akin to that of light custard with crab perfume. The strings of shark’s fin, I must admit, were not necessary. The thing about shark’s fin is that the thing itself doesn’t have a taste – just a kind of bland jelly-like thing. It is whatever the fin is braised and stewed in that gives it very intense flavours. In other words, it absorbs whatever flavours better than any other ingredient in the world and because it doesn’t half taste those flavours remained distinct and enhanced. In this post-molecular gastronomic age, however, I think, one can re-create things that suck in flavours as much as shark’s fin. In this dish, the fin worked to add more flavours to the crab cream. The strings burst something salty and porky. The gold leaf was there as a spectacle – not realling doing anything to the flavour but adding a few extra $ to the bill.

DISH 3: Braised Whole 16-Headed Fresh Yoshihama Abalone in Supreme Oyster Sauce

First question? What is abalone? It’s a type of sea snail but flat in shape. It attaches itself to rocks on and nelow coastal shores. The reason it is so bleepingly pricy can be explained as the demand and supply thing. And, of course, because it tastes so good, a sort of combination of nutty, chicken-y and seafood-like flavours. The texture is that of firmness and chewy-ness depending on the quality and the way it is prepared. What’s with the “head”? Yes, abalone does have a head but the “16-head” tag above indicates the size of the abalone rather than, literally, how many heads it has. Confused? The head count refers to the number of abalone that makes up a “kati” or 600g. Meaning? The bigger an abalone is the fewer there are in one “kati”. In short, the bigger, the better; the bigger, the more tender.

My dish of abalone, then? It was gorgeous. Super meaty but soft. It’s like eating a proper piece of abalone steak. The outside was a little richer in flavour due to minutes it was braised; the inside oozed out very hazelnuty sweetness. Again, the oyster sauce was delicate; the texture well refined and velvety. This was, however, without any twist, just traditianally basic execution at its best.

 

DISH 4: Braised Duck Liver with Goose Web in Oyster Sauce

I knew I was stupid when the dish arrived. Why on earth did I order things that came with, more or less, a similar kind of sauce!!??? That said, this duck liver – NOT “foie gras” – was very interesting. It had all the flavour of foie gras minus grease. The texture was sort of jelly-like but creamy. I don’t quite know how to explain this but by means of association. I think, it’s quite similar to jellied pork blood but slightly creamier. Hope that association helps, no? For the sauce, there were strings of fragrant dehydrated orange rind, which lifted up the dish tremendously. Still, at the finish line of all my savoury dishes, I felt all these bankrupting Chinese delicacies had this similar gelatin texture and were cooked in a very similarly oyster-saucey way. No offence to the centuries of gastronomic tradition but it bored me a little. Maybe I was, as I said, stupid to have ordered these dishes and too fixated to eat these things I wouldn’t be able to find in the other side of the globe. Never mind, all dishes were solidly great and the quality, say, of the sea cucumber and the abalone did blow me away.

 

To answer what you had in mind, yes I did have desserts. I was spoiling myself and the process wouldn’t be complete without … two desserts. This explained why I gained so much weight by the end of 2010!!

DESSERT 1: Stewed Walnut Cream with Sago

Vile .. I didn’t even want to attempt to analyse this!

 

 

DESSERTS 1/2: Petit Four of Some Cake I Couldn’t Quite Remember and Goji Berry Agar

Well, the thing I couldn’t quite remember was, as I could remember, not bad. Just not memorable. But, again, petit four was hardly memorable. The goji berry jelly was delectable – lightly sweet and with a herbal, Chinese medicinal aroma. The grape-like goji berries inside were quite juicy.

 

DESSERT 2: Baked Milk Custard Tartlets with Bird’s Nest

This restored my faith in Cantonese cooking! These little bitches were the best of their kind, the most exquisite, the tastiest I’d had in the world. Unlike most egg custard tarts, which were heavy and yolky, this milk based egg custard was ethereal; the puff pastry was so fragile even a little touch from my fingers could bruise it. It invoked some sort of anxiety whether I would drop it from my fingers. The bird’s nest was of premium quality and once I put a piece in my mouth it was a whirlwind of sweetened silk and mild eggy-ness, while the bird’s nest gave a little tickle to the palate. I felt really blessed.

 

THE BILL – nay, I wouldn’t tell you how much this cost. I feel bad thinking about it now, but as I said earlier on, if there was a meal in my life I’d feel like emptying my wallet, this was it. Brilliantly executed, flawless food with well grounded cooking tradition. There was not much of a vision for the future. It might be fair to say, I was more excited at the ingredients than the cooking, and I wouldn’t probably go back to Lung King Heen for dinner by myself again. The exception would be to take my loved ones to experience what I had just had. But ..

did this meal change my life?

Well, yes, it made me a little poorer…

Enough said,

My head rating says, “7 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “7 out of 10″.

LUNG KING HEEN

4th Flr Four Seasons Hotel
8 Finance Street
Central
Hong Kong
China

Tel. +852 3196 8880

www.fourseasons.com/hongkong/dining/lung_king_heen

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Hong Kong in 24hr: Ming Court at The Langham Place Hotel

So, I had two bowls of snake soup at Sher Wong Yip and a pot of turtle jelly; I bought some stuff at Cat Street Market and browsed the Dried Seafood Market; but, I actually spent most of my afternoon in the taxi. The HK traffic was more horrific than Bangkok, god forbids! Arriving at my hotel in late afternoon, I was dead hungry. The dilemma was that I booked a table at this much raved about 3-star restaurant at 9pm. F**k, would I last 4 hours without a proper meal!?

No, I wouldn’t. I decided to have a pre-dinner at my hotel, which happened to house a 2-Michelin-star Chinese restaurant Ming Court. Surprise, surprise why I gained weight, yeah?

Seated at Ming Court – a modern Chinese restaurant boasting an elegant dining room with encircling glass walls adorned with mini Chinese vintage pottery and sculptures. The front of house was graceful and courteous and did their best to accommodate me. I told them I had only one hour to eat .. though I didn’t mention that I would be having another meal after this one.

Starter: Chilled Abalone and Jelly Fish

The flavour of the abalone simmered in this very rich jus was so deep and scrumptious, the best I’d ever tasted. Its texture of that of tenderness, which was well coupled with the crunch-worthy jelly fish and the juicy, uber-finely sliced cucumber. There was also a mild aroma of sesame and spring onions. Delightful.

 

Main Course: Chicken Black Truffle, Pumpkin

This wasn’t just chicken but chicken meat that was minced, re-processed into chicken ball mixture, flattened, cut and pan-fried for the perfect crispy-ness. Then, the pieces were coated with black truffle dressing, which oozed out heavenly aroma and turned quite a few heads in the dining room. There was also another dimension of the aroma: the deep fried shallot rings, which undercut the earthy smell of the truffle with a sweeter kind of fragrance. I was told this was Ming Court signature dish and biting into this bouncy and crispy meat I totally got what Ming Court was capable of. The dish – or rather the style of cooking – reminded me of Hakksan but million miles more refined. The accompanying slices of pan fried pumpkin added sweetness to the well flavoured chicken. They also added a lot of bites, though some westerners might find them to be undercooked.

 

Side Dish: Ming Court Special Fried Rice

I had my chicken with the special egg fried rice with many things in – ranging from lobster meat, ham, honey roasted pork, spring onions and cucumber. This fried rice was dry and greaseless. It might sounds like an exaggeration but every rice grain was well sautee and all the flavours – not a touch overseasoned – combined came through. That said, I refrained from eating too much; there was another meal waiting for me …

I just bloody hoped the other place would live up to this!

 

Desserts: Premium Bird’s Nest Soup with Ginger Syrup

Despite the front of house’s recommendation of a two course meal to fit my one hour slot, I couldn’t really bear the thought of leaving a restaurant without having a bird’s nest soup. The three previous dishes were Brilliant with a capitalised “B” so I knew I wouldn’t be unhappy with the bird’s nest on offer.

Et, voila!

 

Was the bowl not too full?

Let’s have a closer look …

 

Was there anywhere I could put my spoon in?

Pouring the warm ginger syrup in and slurping my first spoonful, I was swallowing – no pun intended – ecstacy! The bird’s nest was of the highest quality. It had this soft half-gelatin, half-agar texture and the mild natural sweetness maximised by the subtly gingery syrup. Really delicate but after half a bowl I knew I was doomed.

So stuffed … though I felt the urge and the guilt not to leave the bowl unfinished.

Long pause

Bill

I looked at the rabbit-shaped coconut marshmallow.

Put it in my mouth — gorgoeooouuusssssss!!!

I wasn’t sure if I could have another dinner in about an hour

 

Enough said,

My head rating says, “9 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “10 out of 10″.

 

MING COURT

The Langham Place Hotel
555 Shanghao Street
Mong Kok
Kowloon
Hong Kong

Tel. +852 3552 3300

www.hongkong.langhamplacehotels.com/restaurants/ming_court.htm