Thursday, 17 April 2008

Shaffi's Indian Restaurant

Shop 7, 14 Fau Tsoi St, Yuen Long
Visited 16th April 2008

Originally a chef in the British army, Shaffi use to spend his time dishing up vindaloos and chips to her majesty's finest. When they packed up and left, Shaffi packed up and headed to the culinary hotspot of Yuen Long to open his own restaurant. Situated on a busy little corner of Fau Tsoi St, Shaffi's is skinny restaurant, with basic decor and noisy vibe; the Wednesday night we went it was packed to bursting. For those who unfortunately live far from the fine dinning of Yuen Long, there's also a Wan Chai branch.

There was a big group and we ordered an assortment of dishes: chicken pakora and vegetarian samosas to start, chicken tikka, sag paneer, chicken do-pyaza, mutton jhalfrezi and chicken korma accompanied by garlic naan and saffron rice. All up it was a pretty good feed. The pakora we had for an entree were superb; the tender chicken was fresh and crisp (they were almost good enough to rival the delights of the Pakora Bar, Woodlands Rd, Glasgow). Our assorted mains were all flavoursome, though a couple were a little too oily for my taste, especially the sag paneer that was topped with a thick oil slick. The accompanying garlicky naan was tasty and enjoyably chewy. To drink we drained the fridge of Chang beers and then moved onto Heinekens and a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. Naomi sensibly went for a non alcoholic option and highly rated her mango lassi.

Shaffi's was a fun night out and the busy atmosphere was perfect for our big group. The service was fine and Shaffi, the man, is a friendly and personable bloke. The bill worked out at $160 a head which is a bargain when you consider we couldn't get through all the food and had mountains of beer - $12 a bottle makes life so much more affordable in the New Territories. The food was decent and reminded my English mate of how authentic Indian tastes back home in Portsmouth. Locals say there are two types of people in Yuen Long; Shaffi's people and Shangri-La people and while I enjoyed my night out at Shaffi's I'm still a Shangri-La man through and through.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Tuatara Bay Pinot Noir 2006

Tuatara Bay Pinot Noir 2006
Marlborough, New Zealand, $79, stelvin seal

I picked this up at the 'super'market for a bargain price of $79. An inspection of the back label revealed that it's made by the good people at St Clair in New Zealand's Marlborough region. The fact it's not mentioned on the company website, along with the pretty picture on the front and local myth on the back suggests it's an export only job.

On first sniff it's obvious the red berries are in the house: raspberries, strawberries and red cherries mix it up on a delicious fruity nose. This tastes good because it tastes like Pinot. It's not particularly intense or long, but what your get are flavours of maraschino cherry, strawberry and a little green leafy stuff that I can't quite place. Tuatara Bay Pinot Noir 2006 is medium bodied, soft and drinkable. For $79 I could drink this for breakfast, lunch and dinner; yum, yum.
Visit winery website which strangely doesn't mention the wine.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

AA Restaurant

Tai O Market St, Tai O
The fantastic old fishing village of Tai O is located to the far west of Lantau Island, closer to Macau than Central. It has a rich history and diverse attractions for the visitor; there's spectacular views of Lantau's rugged hills, delightful old temples, a fragrant dried fish industry, houses balancing on stilts, yet surely the biggest drawcard is Hong Kong's largest colony of 'pink' dolphins. Naomi and I took a short 'dolphin spotting' cruise and though we got good views of 'old man rock' and the village and we unfortunately didn't see any of the elusive mammals that enjoy the mix of fresh and salt water around Tai O. For lunch we stopped at AA Restaurant, a small, local style Chinese place just over the suspension bridge. It was spotlessly clean with a good view of wok flames rising from the open kitchen.

When we arrived they were only serving their afternoon menu and I went for a bowl of wonton noodle soup, while Naomi chose pork and egg with rice. My soup was delicious. The fat, meaty wontons were tasty and the noodles good, but the best bit was the well seasoned, flavoursome soup base; one of the best I've had in Hong Kong. Naomi was served a plate piled high with food and while the egg was too under cooked for her liking, I thought it was pretty tasty with fresh spring onions and big hunks of pork. With a couple of lemonades thrown in our bill came to $64; a bargain.

A visit to Tai O is a unique Hong Kong experience and one I'd definitely recommend. I thought the AA Restaurant was a good choice and I enjoyed my soup. It was impressively clean, the staff were friendly and welcoming and the price was right; a good spot to stop when you visit Tai O.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Chateau Jolys Jurançon 2005

Chateau Jolys Jurançon 2005
Pau, France, $89, synthetic cork seal

I grapped this from a local super market in an attempt to satisfy Naomi's love of all things sweet. The Jurançon is new to me, but it's apparently an appellation in the Pyranees in southern France. The region speacilises in dry whites and botrytis affected sweet wines made from the locally ingidinous grapes Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Courbu. This wine is made from 95% Gros Manseng and 5% Petit Manseng.

Chateau Jolys Jurançon 2005 has suggestions of apricots and pears on the nose, but it's dominated by the aroma of big, juicy, sweet pineapples. The pineapple smell is really obvious and reminds me of one of thsoe huge cans of Golden Circle pineapple juice. The palate has citrus and pinaapple flavours, but to describe the dominate taste I again turn to a can. This time it's that magicaly sweet mix of SPC peaches and mangoes in natural syrup - you remember the annoying TV add; "peaches, mangoes, peaches"? It's sweet, but there's enough acidity present to keep it fresh and stop it getting too clingy and sickly. Chateau Jolys Jurançon 2005 is pretty tasty and for the price it's a steal and definately worth trying.
Visit winery website.

Royal Plaza Court Seafood Restaurant

Ground Floor, Sun Yuen Long Centre, Yuen Long
Visited 6th April 2008
It's somewhat strange that I haven't written up the Royal Plaza Court Seafood before as it's a place we regularly visit. Maybe I'm hesitant because of the bloody long name, maybe because the cleansing tea, nourishing buns and blotting fried treats of yum cha have a tendency to accompany a cloudy head or maybe I've just still got a thing about tying to evaluate Chinese food. Anyway the restaurant, known as King Fook to locals, is located in the shopping centre aside the Yuen Long West Rail Station. It's a huge place with all the charm you'd expect of a Chinese restaurant of this size; floral chair covers, hanging balls of fake roses, phoenix and dragon statues with real glowing eyes, tanks of flapping grouper and a yelling crowd, flapping more than the grouper.

Yum cha served on trolleys is pretty rare this far from the decadence of central and at Royal Plaza Court Seafood it's a simple matter of tick the box on the photocopied menu; simple of course if you read Cantonese. Luckily with the help of local colleagues I've been able to hack together translations on a battered, outdated old menu. We were with overseas visitors so enough of the classics were ordered to fill the six of us. Pork and custard steamed buns, rice paper rolls, prawn dumplings, beef balls, sui mei, turnip cakes, spring rolls, wontons, glutinous rice puffs, fried rice noodles, roast pork belly and a dumpling soup. Along side the mandatory tea, the boys got stuck into the bargain of the century; three Heineken beers for $18. Sometimes you drink beer at 11am simply because it's dirt cheap. The food was pretty good; the ingredients seemed of decent quality, it was served fresh and it wasn't too oily. Naomi's favourite are the BBQ pork rice paper rolls, I can't resist roast pork belly and the visitors were fans of the Char Siu Bao or steamed pork buns.

Royal Plaza Court Seafood isn't a bad place for yum cha. The prices are reasonable (always under $100 per person), the food is generally good and the vibrant atmosphere is reminiscent of something resembling a circus in Hello Kitty Land. Service is OK and simply waving something in the air, whether it's menu, bill or pork bun, usually gets good results. The lack of English can be a problem, though if the staff can't help there's usually a helpful punter nearby who can. Royal Plaza Court Seafood; big restaurant, big name and worth a look if you're in Yuen Long and hungering for adventure and yum cha.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Gran Feudo Rosado 2006

Gran Feudo Rosado 2006
Navarra, Spain, $79, cork seal

Spring's come to Hong Kong. While the heat will soon be unbearable at the moment the sun and warmth are blissful. Such delightful weather calls for bottles of rose and his little number is first cab off the rank. Made by the giant producer Bodegas Julián Chivite it's 100% Garnacha and comes from Navarra in northern Spain.

Gran Feudo Rosado 2006 is a vibrant, almost toxic, bright pink colour and looks pretty sexy in its slim, clear bottle. The nose smells of strawberries, cranberries and a little sprinkle of crushed herbs. The palate is all about cherries and berries with a big whack of bright red fruit; dominated by fresh red cherries. It's a dry wine with a slight touch or acidity, and despite being only 12.5% there was obvious alcohol on the finish. Gran Feudo Rosado 2006 is tasty, easy to drink and food friendly, but needs to end with flavour rather than alcohol to get me really excited. At only $79 it's good value and a crowd pleaser. It's spring; it's time for the pink.

Visit winery website.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Thierry Germain Saumur Champigny 2005

Thierry Germain Saumur Champigny 2005
Loire Valley, France, $133, cork seal

Though I've a whole pile of unfinished entries waiting to be polished and posted I though this better skip the que because of the effort it's caused me. Thierry Germain Saumur Champigny 2005 is my entry for Wine Blogging Wednesday 44 hosted by Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library TV. This month's theme was French Cabernet Franc and finding a bottle in Hong Kong proved quite a challenge. Searching the five local wine shops proved unsuccessful and a trip to Hong Kong Island to battle the weekend crowds was even more frustrating until finally I found this hidden in a corner of Watson's Wine Cellar at the IFC. It's 100% Cabernet Franc and comes from the Saumur Champigny in the beautiful Loire Valley.

When I poured the first glass of this dark cherry red coloured wine it was oozing a compost heap of earthy smells; mushrooms, game and manure, there was also a very distinct menthol whiff. A bit of time in the decanter made a huge difference and the barnyard blew off and a fragrance of dark forest fruits emerged along side the menthol. The decanter also helped the palate soften and cabbage, beetroot and green plum flavours emerge. Thierry Germain Saumur Champigny 2005 is dry with a hint of acidity and firm chalky tannins. It's got a nice mouth feel, good length and seems like it would age well for a few years. Big and bolder than I expected, I initially didn't find it that appealing, but it grew on me and is certainly well made, food friendly and offers something a little different.

Visit winery website (though the wine doesn't look like any listed?), Wine Blogging Wednesday 44 or the home of Wine Blogging Wednesday.