Yung Kee – the best roast goose in Hong Kong?

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The familiar story of rags to riches rings true for Yung Kee founder, Kam Shui Fai. More than half a century ago, Kam was a young and penniless man trying to make ends meet at a humble food stall seling siu mei at a dai pai dong on Kwong Yuen West Street.

After some success, a couple of major moves and even the Second World War, Kam Shui Fai eventually moved his business to the heart of central Hong Kong, on Wellington Street in the Yung Kee Building in 1964. And even after over 70 years, the restaurant is still going strong, receiving one Michelin Star in 2009 and another in 2010 and 2011.

Yung Kee is one of Hong Kong’s more famous restaurants, serving a number of award-winning Chinese dishes. But the most famous is its gourmet specialty-Roast Goose. In fact, the demand for its roast goose is so high that as many 300 birds are sold daily.

On a hot and sticky Hong Kong afternoon, I beat the “suits” and retreated indoors to o the air-conditioned comfort of Yung Kee. The restaurant has a certain sense of old-fashioned class about it without being pretentious.

The half goose, perfect for two to share, is beautifully fragrant and flavoursome, achieving a perfectly golden brown glaze. The delicate skin is thin yet crispy, with a thin layer of fat underneath it.

Melt in your mouth style meat was juicy and succulent, served over a bed of braised soy beans which effortlessly soaked up the flavour and the delicate plum sauce.

So is this the best roast goose in Hong Kong? Perhaps but I need to do a bit more research first.

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32-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2522 1624

A Progressive Dinner with Mason and Grace

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Meet Mason – a charming Frenchman, famous for his imaginative cuisine and tales. And Grace – the more eccentric of the pair, a lover of antiques and vintage. This may sound like a romantic tale of boy meets girl, but instead a tale of a progressive dinner with Mason and Grace.

Foodies gathered excitedly at 6.30 at the outdoor terrace of Mr Mason to enjoy free-flowing champagne and roving canapes to mark the start of the progressive dinner. Charming waiters weaved through the eager crowd tempting us with palate popping plates of cured salmon and horseradish and beef tartare with quail egg and nori.

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We were then tempted inside to warm our cockles by the roaring fireplace to enjoy a French inspired meal, compliments of Head Chef Thiago with matched wine. Thiago addressed the hungry guests briefly to explain the largely French inspired menu, which showcased the best of local, seasonal ingredients.

The Berkshire pork belly, which happens to be Thiago’s favourite is a beautiful assembly of pork belly, smoked pork loin, cauliflower and raisin. The belly itself is cooked to perfection with a fatty and succulent underbelly topped with an impossibly crisp golden crackling.The delicate jus brought all the elements of the dish together harmoniously. The match – a full-bodied 2013 Villages Beaujolais.

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The barramundi was an equal crowd pleaser. Crispy skinned barramundi was cooked to perfection with a well seasoned skin. The saffron bisque created a beautiful colour and aroma which gently permeated through the barramundi and clams. Its partner – a 2012 French Hugel Riesling, bone dry and well-balanced.

Unfortunately I did not taste the wild mushroom pithivier with madeira and lentil vinaigrette but it looked smashing!

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Full of food and good wine, we were then whisked away to the next venue – State of Grace.The restaurant/bar is full of vintage charm and character, literally bursting at the seams with antique collectables.

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Within minutes of excited chattering with our neighbours, we were served a decadent selection of their desserts, paired with our choice of Moscato or a Light Botryis Semillon.

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A generous slab of dark chocolate mousse was the first to arrive – devilishly rich, smooth and velvety. The addition of crushed roasted hazelnuts and jasmine foam provided a nice textural element to the dessert

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A warm pumpkin and hazelnut financier was nicely balanced, incorporating both sweet and earthy, savoury elements. A generous sprinkling of cinnamon sherbet and spiced chantilly cream conjured up feelings of Christmas. Tiny dollops of date puree were scattered around the plate to give the dessert a touch of added sweetness. The perfect winter dish.

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After hearing from the head chef, we were ushered into a small room with a mysterious bookcase..

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The secret entrance revealed a winding marble staircase, where we found a hidden cellar bar – Fall From Grace. The decadent den was stylishly dressed with chandeliers and candelabras.

The expert bartenders methodically placed glasses of fruity looking cocktails along a long communal table accompanied by small plates of sliced lime.

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The limed were lightly spritzed with alcohol then set ablaze by a tiny blow torch, creating an impressive fire display around the table.

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Once the limes had cooled, they were placed into the cocktail for an extra flavour punch. Voila their signature Zombie Cocktail! The perfect nightcap to even the evening.

Overall a great evening full of good fun, food and frivolity. Thanks for having us.

Disclosure: I was invited as a guest of Mason of Grace.

Hammer & Tong Food Truck launches in Melbourne

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Perhaps best known for their epic soft shell crab burger, Hammer and Tong 412 has decided to hit the road on the streets of Melbourne and launch the Hammer and Tong Food Truck.

Eating house and coffee bar, Hammer & Tong 412 opened in Fitzroy in early 2013 and has developed a loyal foodie following in Melbourne ever since. A partnership between industry pros Simon Ward and Dennis Ferreira (both ex Vue De Monde), Hammer & Tong celebrates casual dining and simple, fresh ingredients.

I was lucky enough to go to the launch of the food truck last week to sample some of the menu. Foodies mingled excitedly at the rear of the restaurant on Brunswick Street, tempted in by the smells of soft shell crab and charcoaled brioche and the sounds of the thumping beats from the house DJ.

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Serving up Hammer & Tong favourites, the food truck offers a new class of mobile dining fare and is a first in high-end food trucks.

Many dishes from the restaurant have found their way on to the menu, including the soft shell crab burger and lavender custard yoghurt. Of course, I had to try them all…

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The famous soft shell crab burger with sriracha mayo, black sesame slaw, coriander

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Lobster roll in charcoal brioche, lime beurre blanc, celery

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Lavender yoghurt custard, strawberry and pineapple gel, berries, lychee with basil cress

Taking casual fine dining to the next level, look out for the Hammer & Tong food truck at events, popular food truck destinations, and even catering private parties around town.

You can find the Hammer & Tong Food Truck in the following locations

Thursday August 21
Lunch 11am-3pm at Acu, Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Dinner 5pm-10pm at Moondog Brewery, 17 Duke Street, Abbotsford

Friday August 22
Lunch 11am-3pm at Victoria University, Footscray
Dinner 5pm-10pm at Kooinda Brewery, 28 Culverlands Street, Heidleberg West
Late night 10.30pm-12.30am The Racoon Club, 145 Plenty Road, Preston

Sunday August 24
Lunch 11am-3pm at Technology Markets, Box Hill Town Hall, 1022 Whitehorse Road, Box Hill
Dinner 5pm-10pm at Ruckers Hill, corner High Street and Bayview Street, Northcote

For the full schedule check out their Facebook Page.

www.hammerandtong.com.au

Tim Ho Wan – the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world

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It’s not every day you get to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant. But dim sum specialist, Tim Ho Wan, isn’t your typical fancy schmancy Michelin-starred restaurant. It’s fast, furious and, well, ridiculously cheap . In fact, Tim Ho Wan is the cheapest restaurant with a Michelin star in the world.

Famous Hong Kong Chef, Mak Kwai-Pui, opened the original Tim Ho Wan in Mongkok in 2009. Not a stranger to success, Mak Kwai-Pui is the ex-head dim sum chef at the coveted Lung King Heen at the Four Season’s Hotel. Soon after opening the Mongkok establishment, he was awarded a Michelin star in 2010 for his famous barbequed pork buns. Since then queues have risen dramatically and the empire has expanded to include four branches.

Tim Ho Wan is like the unfortunate ugly duckling in school; it may not be pretty, but it makes up for it by its well-developed personality and character. Queues are expected at busy times, so expect to wrestle with locals and tourists alike to get through the door. Waiting for two hours or more is not uncommon so make sure you bring your patience, if not a good book. The service is fast and furious, like a fast food restaurant on heat, as the waiters jostle hurriedly to take orders, deliver food and clear tables.

For good quality dim sum, this is as affordable as it gets with most dishes priced between HK$10 and HK$24 . The menu is straightforward; just put a quantity on your yellow menu and wave down a waiter.

If Matt Preston himself raved about Tim Ho Wan’s famous BBQ pork buns, they would have to be good. The golden buns were lightly baked with a slightly crispy, sugar glazed crown. Baking the bun, rather than steaming, gives the bun a slightly puffy, tender consistency. A simple bite revealed a palate popping mix of char siu which was thick and full-bodied, with an almost chutney like consistency. No wonder why 1,000 of these are sold every day. I couldn’t stop at one serving; I had to get two!

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Steamed shrimp dumplings (Ha Jiao) had a distinct translucent coat, thin yet firm enough to wrap around the generous sized shrimp with ease. Cooked to order and delicately pleated, the dumplings were sturdy enough not to break when picked up with the chopsticks, making them easy to eat in just one bite.

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Juicy spare ribs were steamed and delicately infused with black bean. Using whole black beans, the dish was nicely textured but the flavours didn’t sing as loud as I would have liked.

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Steamed dumplings in chiu chow style were slightly gluggy. The thin wrappers losing their integrity and translucency from being overcooked. The filling of chopped peanuts, pork, chives and water chestnuts was pleasant but spoiled by the wrapper. The only saviour being the small dish of chili oil in the side.

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Bouncy, fleshy parcels of siu mai (steamed pork dumpling with shrimp) were brilliantly executed. The dumplings were packed with ground pork and shrimp and garnished with diced carrot.  The addition of rice wine, ginger, and onion gave this steamed dumpling a well rounded flavour.

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Normally not a fan of Asian desserts, our neighbour strongly suggested the steamed egg cake. I eventually conceded. Steamed sponge cake is the rare dim sum item that is easily made at home. I was surprised by its springy, sponge like consistency and its delicate, slightly caramelised flavour. The steaming process gives the cake a soft, moist consistency, unlike a lot of sponge cakes which tend to be too dry.

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So does Tim Ho Wan live up to the hype? For value of money – yes it does. But if it wasn’t for the price or the brilliance of the BBQ pork bun, I would most likely go home disappointed in this fast-food style Michelin-starred restaurant.

The Damage?

Price: About HK$80 per person without drinks.

Food: 7/10

Service: 5/10

Atmosphere: 5/10

I9-11 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong (map)

http://www.timhowan.com

Top 10 foodie finds in Melbourne this week

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1. Part Peruvian, part Argentinian, Piqueos in Rathdowne Street is a welcome addition to Carlton North. Choose from a decadent selection of piqueos (small appetizers), followed by raciones (small sharing dishes). Don’t miss the oyster shot and their fresh selection of fish and meats straight from the Parrilla charcoal grill. You will be booking the next flight to South America in no time.

Piqueos on Urbanspoon

2. Still one of my favourite brunch spots in Melbourne, Three Bags Full Cafe, Abbotsford, never fails to disappoint. The smashed avocado on toast is simply heavenly, complemented by creamy feta, cherry tomatoes and radishes. The expert baristas, always deliver a good coffee and offer a range of single origins and seasonal signature blends using their custom-made Synesso. Bliss.

Three Bags Full on Urbanspoon

3. Rumi Restaurant in Melbourne for their delicious Middle Eastern cuisine. The largely Levantine and Persian inspired menu is designed to share, so you can make the most of their sumptuous range of food. There’s something about Rumi’s welcoming and friendly atmosphere which makes me want to keep coming back for more. Each dish is laden with spice, flavour and love. The house made labne, made with organic milk, is simply superb.

Rumi on Urbanspoon

4. Could this be the next big ramen hot spot? Shizuku Ramen in Victoria Street serves innovative dishes with a traditional touch. Claiming to be “the best ramen in Melbourne”, the menu has all the classics as well as modern inventive takes on ramen. There is even a ramen burger made with noodle patty “buns”, candied pork belly and miso glazed eggplant. Only time will tell if this is a stayer in the busy Vietnamese precinct.

Shizuku Ramen on Urbanspoon

5. Follow the red neon lights on cobble-stoned Oliver Lane and you will find Lucy Lius. So who is Lucy Liu? She is an Asian inspired bar/restaurant with an uber cool fit out, full of bamboo scaffolding. Come for some drinks at the bar or enjoy some of their tasty plates in the restaurant. I’d come here for the crispy quail, steamed pork and chestnut dumplings and yellow fin tuna with wasabi ginger dressing. A perfect spot for a date or a big group.

Lucy Liu Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

6. The tastiest food truck has started to hit the streets of Melbourne. Meet the Hammer & Tong Food Truck. I was lucky enough to go to the launch this week and was well impressed by the menu. Expect classics from the menu like the soft shell crab burger served with sriracha mayo and black sesame slaw and the lobster roll on a charcoaled brioche with lime beurre blanc and celery. For something sweeter, try the lavender yoghurt custard with strawberry and pineapple gel, berries, lychee and basil cress.

Hammer & Tong Food Truck on Urbanspoon

7. Fatto Bar and Cantina on Southbank for its simple and sumptuous Italian eats. This all day Italian bar and cantina offers diners picturesque views over the Yarra River. I can’t wait until summer, so I can bask in the sunshine on a deck chair on their alfresco deck with a negroni in hand.

Fatto Bar & Cantina on Urbanspoon

8. Liar Liar in Hawthorn for its top-notch coffee and quality brunch options. They have a great mix of blends and single origins like Five Senses and St Ali roasts. We love their orange Crepes, topped with creamy mascarpone, mango and blueberry salsa and crunchy coconut. Expect to wait for a table at busy times.

Liar, Liar on Urbanspoon

9. A raw dessert bar? What will they come up with next!? The Raw Trader is a specialty raw dessert bar in the city specialising in health-conscious desserts. Those with speciality dietary requirements will be well taken care of here with gourmet treats ranging from the savoury to sweet. I cant wait to work through more of this menu.

Raw Trader on Urbanspoon

10. Winter calls for Nigella’s Easy Sticky Toffee Pudding. Mmmmm.

What have been you’re favourite foodie finds this week? Would love to hear your comments below.

Lisa xxx

Five of the best bars with views in Hong Kong

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It doesn’t get any better than gazing at the breathtaking Hong Kong skyline at night with a delicious cocktail in hand. Here is a wrap up of the best bars in Hong Kong with views. Order yourself a martini, sit back and ogle at the dazzling views of Victoria Harbour below.

OZONE BAR

As far as views go, Ozone Bar (the highest bar in Hong Kong) is the best of the best. Located on the 118th floor of  the Ritz Carlton, the tallest hotel in the world, Ozone Bar is a sleek and sophisticated venue with a price tag to match. Expect cosy booths and a lavishly decorated interior of gold and marble. You can’t beat their narrow alfresco terrace on a summer evening – you will feel like you are sitting in the clouds.

Try to book ahead and reserve one of their corner tables where you can enjoy near 300 degree views. On a clear night, you can see as far as The Peak.

118th Floor, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Rd.

Above and Beyond Bar

Above and Beyond is one of the hottest restaurants in Hong Kong right now, and for good reason – the food and location is exceptional. Located on the 28th floor of the Hotel Icon, Above and Beyond Bar offers exquisitely prepared dim-sum and seasonal Cantonese cuisine in a stunning atmosphere. Perch on one of their plush sofas and ogle through the floor to ceiling windows at the stunning views of Victoria Harbour and Tsim Sha Tsui East below.

The wine list is exceptional – there is even a walk-in wine cellar focusing on French vintage. A sommelier is always on hand to provide wine matching options.

Level 28, 17 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon.

SEVVA

If you’re after some swanky cocktails in the city, look no further that Sevva – a penthouse bar on the top of the prestigious Prince’s building. This über plush bar offers 360-degree views of the city. Expect delicious cocktails, quality food and some of the best desserts in town. Don’t miss the Marie Antoinette’s Crave – a macaroon and candyfloss topped cake. The best seats in the house are on the wraparound terrace overlooking Victoria Harbour and the glittering skyline.

Make sure you dress to impress and prepare yourself for the “suit” invasion which tends to take over during lunch and for post work drinks.

25th Floor, Prince’s Building, 10 Chater Road, Central

Cafe Gray Deluxe

Fourty-nine-levels levels up in the Upper House, designed by Andre Fu, Cafe Gray Deluxe is the epitome of sophistication and elegance. The 14 metre long bar takes centre stage in the 21st Century grand Cafe and is a popular spot to watch the cocktail makers at work. The signature cocktail menu features mainly champagne inspired cocktails, so if you’re a champagne lover you have come to the right place.Head chef, Gray Kunz, brings his unique style of European classics and signature dishes from a lifetime leading the very finest kitchens in Europe, Asia and America.

49th Floor, The Upper House Hotel, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty

Aqua Spirit

Located on the top of One Peking in Tsi, Sha Tsui, Aqua Spirit continues to be one of the most popular bars in Hong Kong for locals. Venture to the restaurant downstairs and you can choose between two distinct dining options; Italian with Western style seating and Japanese with traditional tatami style. This is a fusion inspired menu at its best.The cocktails menu is out of this world. Stay late for a clubby atmosphere where DJs spin tracks until the wee hours of the morning.

30th Floor, Penthouse, 1 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

Restaurant Review: Spring Moon Peninsula Hotel

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There’s not many restaurants where the draw card is the sauce. However a sauce that Kylie Kwong herself describes as life changing has to be worth a visit.

Spring Moon at the Peninsula Hotel is said to have invented the original XO sauce. A fairly recent introduction to Cantonese cooking, the sauce originated in the 1980’s and later took Hong Kong by storm. Often referred to as the “Caviar of the east, it is made up of roughly chopped dried seafood (scallops, shrimp) or Jinhua ham and a spine tingling mix of garlic and chillies. It has a rather umami flavour with a bold, rich and smoky intensity. Unfortunately the famous recipe at Spring Moon is as guarded as the Colonel’s secret spices.

So is the XO sauce worth all the hype? I had to find out for myself..

Walk through the stylish lobby at the Peninsula Hotel and take the lift up to Level One and you will enter a peaceful sanctuary of a restaurant that feels like you are eating in your own dining room, despite the 200 plus covers. The restaurant is reminiscent of a 1920’s style Shaghai dining room.  The space has been brilliantly executed with its antique style hardwood floors and touches of Art-deco stained glass. Antique vases line shelves in the walls, accompanied by dimly lit lamps while colourful splashes of oriental rugs upon floors give the restaurant a more homely vibe.

But what I liked most about the restaurant, was the feeling of space between us and our neighbours, giving it a heightened sense of intimacy.

 

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Waiters circulate eagerly, weaving unobtrusively around fellow diners . Wine and water topped up magically just when we needed it.

Spring Moon offers Cantonese food at its finest. Dim Sum is a popular option throughout the day, but the a la carte menu by chef Frankie Tang is superb, featuring delicacies like the roast peking duck, Hangzhou beggar fortune chicken and the braised birds nest with crab coral.

For tea connoisseurs, there are a whopping two dozen varieties of speciality teas in house which are brewed by Spring Moon’s own expert tea masters.

To start, the rolled pork belly – served chilled and neatly assembled in small cigar-shaped cylinders. With a distinct sweet and sour sauce of garlic vinegar, the cucumber in the centre complemented it beautifully with a touch of freshness.

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Next came the shrimp dumplings with capsicum and sweet and sour sauce, which was a source of much confusion. Expecting Har Gow with the translucent wrappers, instead we received a sizzling bowl of sweet and sour sauce accompanied by a plate of giant tortilla chips (or so it seemed!).

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I wasn’t in the mood to argue, the flavours worked surprisingly well together and the giant chips were rather moreish, even stuffed with the shrimps themselves.

The hero of the night was without doubt the seared scallops with famed XO sauce. The scallops were beautifully cooked – plump and fleshy as they should be with no sign of toughness. Slightly seared in a wok, the scallops were topped with a golden glaze of Spring Moon’s homemade XO sauce. The XO  was nothing short of brilliant, with an intense full-bodied flavour. If it was in a cup I would have drunk it.

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Next, a sizzling bowl of sautéed chicken with black bean sauce arrived at our already full table. No thick, stodgy black bean sauce here. The chicken, just cooked, had only a hint of black bean sauce, giving it a delicate flavour with an extra layer of intensity from the shallots.

After consulting my dessert stomach, I ordered the waiter’s eager recommendation – the chilled mango pudding. Spring Moon’s signature dessert, was neatly assembled in a dainty white tea-cup. The pudding was beautifully balanced with a perfect mix of sweet and tartness. Little pieces of near frozen mango flesh rippled through the pudding delicately, providing a touch of added texture. A refreshing way to end the night.

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So is Spring Moon worth a trip for the sauce alone? Hell yes! But it’s a lot more than just the sauce.

 The Damage?

Approximately 900 HKD per person including wine. Expect to pay more for their specialty dishes.

Food: 8/10

Service: 8/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

www.hongkongpeninsula.com