Friday, August 31, 2012

food porn @ robuchon au dome

Monday, 13 August 2012. A day which will live in infamy (with apologies to FDR). It was the day that Ma and I had lunch at Robuchon Au Dôme at the Grand Lisboa in Macau.

How did we get to Macau, what were we doing there when we were supposed to be in Hong Kong-- all shall be explained in the next blog post. For now, let us concentrate on the food.

I've never been a proponent of false humility, so I'll just go ahead and say it because it's the truth: My photos of this lunch are magnificent. But did the food taste good? Let's dive in...

I was always under the impression that an amuse bouche should be something small, easily consumed in one or two bites, preferably eaten without utensils-- like an hors d'œuvre. But twice now I've had a kind of chilled SOUP as an amuse bouche at Jöel Robuchon's restaurants. This cherry gazpacho was absolutely fantastic-- bursting with garlic and tomato flavors tempered by a dollop of cheese. The cherry scent made me giddy. Now THAT was an amuse bouche!

L'Amuse-bouche: Cherry gazpacho with ricotta cheese sherbet and pistachio flakes. 5/5

What's an indulgent, expensive meal without caviar? Might as well go all the way with three treatments of caviar in one course. The pea veloute with egg white and basil oil was magical, the single spear of asparagus was flawless, but regrettably the king crab in the caviar tin was too salty. Still, I enjoyed Le Caviar as a whole because it made me feel like a richie-rich. Notice the covetable caviar spoon and the gold leaf on the asparagus.

Le Caviar: Chilled green pea veloute and floating island, jelly of caviar with cauliflower cream, green asparagus topped with caviar. 4/5

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

sunday in sai kung, part two

Earlier this month, I was watching Andrew Zimmern's show on TLC while I was working out.

(I like to watch food shows when I'm on the treadmill, OK? I'm sure that the other folks at the gym would rather be watching Fashion TV with skinny models prancing on runways, but I don't care. I control the remote, bwahaha! Food inspires me to exercise harder. The only reason I go to the gym is so that I can eat more.)

Anyhoo, Zimmern was in Hong Kong and he went to Sai Kung-- a place I had never heard about, and I've been going to Hong Kong regularly since my teens. I immediately decided that I should go there, and it was so worth the trip! I'm mentally patting myself on the back as I write this.

Sai Kung is a quaint little town in the New Territories. It started as a fishing village and the harbor is still very much the heart of the community. People go there for the fresh seafood, and you know how "fresh" really means "alive and kicking" in Chinese.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

sunday in sai kung, part one

Introducing my new favorite restaurant in Hong Kong: Hung Kee Seafood Restaurant in Sai Kung.

1. Fabulous view of "rural" Hong Kong.

2. Al fresco dining with a cool sea breeze.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

first dinner in hong kong

You know what's the best thing about eating dim sum in Hong Kong? Two things, actually.

First, Hong Kong is the best place to get the traditional stuff. You can't find a better siu mai, cheong fun or har gao anywhere else, and that's a fact of life.

Second, they're not afraid to experiment. They're not content to rest on their laurels, or maybe they're just sick and tired of the same ol' dishes. Whatever their motivation, the results are fantastic.

In short, in Hong Kong dim sum has been elevated to an art form that harmonizes elements of the old and the new. And in Tsim Sha Tsui, you can eat-all-you-can of this art form at Dim Sum Bar in Harbour City.

We were very fortunate that Dim Sum Bar had a promo for the month of August-- only HK$168 for adults, HK$98 for kids. They have six pages of dishes on offer, and everything is cooked to order.

King's dumplings in lobster bisque. 5/5

Baked abalone and chicken pastry. 4.5/5

Saturday, August 25, 2012

first lunch in hong kong

When Mother and I arrived at Holiday Inn Golden Mile in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon at 1130AM on 11 August 2012, our room wasn't ready yet. No problem. We went across the street to Wu Kong Shanghai Restaurant for some lunch.

Like many restaurants in extremely crowded Hong Kong, Wu Kong is located in a basement. Which means that there's no natural light, so excuse the yellow-tinged photos.

Peanuts with nori and salt. Quite addicting.

Actually, the main reason I wanted to eat here was to try the xiao long bao which shootfirsteatlater believes beats Din Tai Fung's and Crystal Jade's. Them's fighting words.

Wu Kong's XLB, HK$32. Taste OK, skin too thick. My heart still belongs to Din Tai Fung.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

best creme brulée ever

I'd been wanting to try the Creme Brulée at Paul Lafayet Patisserie Française since last year, but somehow I couldn't fit it into my eating itinerary. This trip, I just couldn't NOT have it!

When I got to Paul Lafayet at K11 Mall in Tsim Sha Tsui, the prettiful macarons were calling my name.

A box of 12 French macarons for HK$180 (US$23).

But I didn't forget my mission and got my Creme Brulée. Freshly blowtorched and meant to be eaten within 40 minutes. Good thing our hotel Holiday Inn Golden Mile was right next door to K11.

Had to hurry back to the hotel room to take a picture before digging in.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

zuma vs. nobu

On my last day in Hong Kong, I decided to take the MTR to Central and see if 8 1/2 Otto E Mezzo Bombata at Alexandra House would take me without a reservation. Alas, they were fully booked. So I went to the next building, The Landmark, home of my beloved L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, and stood in front of the directory to choose a restaurant.

And there it was: Zuma. Cuisine: Japanese. A welcome change from all the Chinese food I'd been eating the past four days.

12 noon on 15 August 2012. The calm before the storm.

When I was a small DB, I used to read a Pinoy komiks series called "Anak ni Zuma". It was about a girl named Galema who had two snakes growing out of her... er, nape. Her father was the evil serpent- man Zuma. Obviously this restaurant has nothing to do with that.

"Antipodes" means any two places that are on opposite sides of the earth. It's also the name of a group of islands in New Zealand which is diametrically opposite Greenwich, England. You learn something new everyday.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

last day in camiguin

We didn't have to leave Camiguin until mid-afternoon and so we hired a multicab to take us to the sights we weren't able to visit the previous day because of the downpour. Including a ride to Benoni Pier to catch the ferry back to the city, we paid 1,200 pesos.

At 9AM, Ardent Hot Spring was practically deserted.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

the facts of luna

1. Luna Ristorante Italiano is one of the best restaurants in Camiguin.

2. There are only a few "real" restaurants in Camiguin, so chances are you will end up at Luna anyway.

3. The flavors of their version of Inslata Caprese are alright, even though the mozzarella is the low-moisture kind, not the semi-soft fresh type. I'm always happy to see our sweet and plump native tomatoes used in salads, instead of the bland imported or greenhouse varieties. And the extra virgin olive oil is green and fruity-- obviously high quality.

Luna's Insalata Caprese, 4.25/5

Monday, August 6, 2012

90 kilometers in one day

The best way to explore Camiguin Island is by motorcycle. Not a lot of people know this.

This is what commonly happens: As soon as you step off the ferry at Benoni Pier you are accosted, albeit politely, by a dozen tour guide/drivers offering their services for the day. You pick a guy and negotiate a rate, usually 1500 to 2500 pesos, depending on how many are in your group and how many hours you expect to rent his vehicle. You get into a multicab which can fit six to eight people. Maybe more, if you're skinny and/or enjoy close physical contact. You are then whisked off in an Amazing Race-like fashion to visit all the must-sees on the island. You make it back to the pier in time for the last ferry so that you can go back to Cagayan de Oro City and upload your pictures on Facebook.

But that's not how we roll. We prefer to take our time, to stop and smell the proverbial roses, to get to know the local people in their natural habitat and to eat the native specialties. A motorbike is perfect for this type of undertaking.

Our first stop was the Philvolcs (Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology) Observatory on Mt. Hibok-hibok. It was only a few minutes' drive from our cottage near the beach in Mambajao but it felt like a different world.

One of the scientists at the facility took a break from "observing" and we had a nice long chat about the importance of their work, what it's like to live in Camiguin, the problems of Mindanao and how to attract more tourists and foreign investors. Friendly guy.

Friday, August 3, 2012

how to get to camiguin

Last November, two local airlines declared a seat sale. I just couldn't resist the rock-bottom prices and bought a whole bunch of plane tickets. That's how I ended up going to Cagayan de Oro in June for only 1,300 pesos round trip from Manila.

But Cagayan de Oro was not the objective. It just so happens that Lumbia Airport in CDO is the closest airport to the island province of Camiguin, a place I last visited in the early 1990s.

We arrived at Lumbia around 830AM, too late to catch the Ocean Jet ferry at the CDO pier which, um, jets to Camiguin only once a day. The alternative is to take the bus to Balingoan port where the RORO (roll on, roll off) ferries are scheduled every hour throughout the day.

From the airport, it was about 50 minutes by taxi to Agora Bus Terminal in the city. We paid the driver 200 pesos for two people, which is what we agreed on when we got into the cab. He let the meter run and it read PHP197.50 at the end of the ride, so it wasn't a bad deal at all.

After a quick and cheap breakfast outside the terminal, we paid the 2 peso "usage fee" to enter and luckily an air-conditioned bus was just about to leave. The bus fare was PHP128 and it took us a slightly grueling 2.5 hours to get from Agora to Balingoan.

When we alighted from the bus, it was lunchtime. There were a couple of clean-looking eateries right across from where the buses were parked. We had a very tasty meal at Agnus Lechon Baboy for only 60 pesos per head. So cheap, and they had an impressive array of pre-cooked dishes. There wasn't any lechon, though.