Tuesday, 31 March 2009

A Lorcha

289 Rua do Almirante Sergio, Macau
Visited 30th March 2009

There are a few essentials for any trip to Macau - purchasing more bottles of Portuguese wine than I need, stocking up on coffee at Chip Seng and of course a good feed of Portuguese food. So an after work jaunt across the Pearl River to make the most of an opportunity to see visiting friends made for a hectic Monday night. After hurriedly buying the coffee and wine I found my mates indulging in an all you can drink deal at a bar in the Venetian. When I eventually managed to drag them to A Lorcha for a late dinner food was very much a priority. Tucked away near the A-Ma Temple at the bottom of mainland Macau this established restaurant has the a real taverna feel with bare brick walls, checked table clothes and exposed wood beams.

By the time we were seated the kitchen was about to shut so serves of chouriço and cod cakes were quickly ordered. The fatty chouriço was spiced with paprika and really tasty. The three cod cakes were good; though perhaps a little heavy on the potato, they could have been a more "fishy". For mains crabs were requested so we ordered a serve of seafood rice, alongside 'frango assado' or spicy grilled chicken, 'lulas recheadas' or stuffed squid and a mixed salad. This excessive pile of grub of course came with the usual super crusty bread. I loved the stuffed squid; instead of being filled with the usual rice these tasty, tender little critters were packed with an intense juicy, meat based filling. The grilled chicken was good with a lovely charcoal flavour alongside a spicy kick. Served in a clay pot, the wet seafood rice had plenty of fishy delights, including a whole crab, and was a hearty, nourishing dish. To drink we sucked on a refreshing bottle of Aveleda Vinho Verde that while probably wasn't needed, was a steal at MOP 98.

On our Monday night visit I was impressed by the staff who were friendly and tolerant, especially seeing we staggered in late and a little tipsy. Our meal came to MOP200 a head and that seems like fair value; especially as we ordered way too much and walked out as stuffed as those tasty little squid. The only real concern I have is having to pay for bottled water; at MOP20 for a big bottle it's not the expense but the environmental impact that I object to. I like A Lorcha and it does everything it's supposed to by offering tasty and authentic Portuguese food at fair prices.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Chung's Cuisine

10/f, Times Square, Causeway Bay
Visited 29th March 2009

The Hong Kong 7s is hard work and after the festivities our group of strangely connected friends tumbled into Causeway Bay looking for nourishment. I tend to avoid the Food Forum at Times Square; spread over four floors it's
a strange, surreal place that's all a bit too fake and abstract for me. Part of the Tao Hung group, the Chung's Cuisine at Times Square is, of course, one of three branches in Hong Kong. The restaurant is well laid out and spacious, while an open kitchen and wood panelling help to the give the place a sprinkle of class.

One of my friends ordered for the table from a menu that includes plenty of Cantonese favourites. We started with some delicate slices of beef and a serve of crisp roast pork; both were good though the pork could have maybe been a tad tenderer. The whole roast chook that came next was a highlight. Served with slithers of apple and guava and a pureed sauce made from the fruit I loved the contrast between the salty roast meat, crisp fruit and smooth sauce. Next was egg whites with crab roe and this magnificently presented dish was a matter subtle textures and flavours. Then it was onto tasty water spinach with whole roast garlic cloves and salt and pepper fried tofu that was ruined by a plastering of thick batter. We finished with sweet and sour pork and the fatty pork came with a well balanced sauce and cucumber slithers that added a refreshing texture. After the weekend we'd all had it was pretty easy to stick to drinking tea.

There's a lot to like about Chung's Cuisine. The menu states clearly that there's no MSG, no artificial colouring, no powdered chicken stock, no charge for tea and no service charge; that's a lot of positive nos. The staff were professional and polite, though a couple of times it did take a while to get their attention. The pleasant ambiance was complimented by well presented, tasty food and a bill that only came to $98 a head; something of a bargain I think. Causeway Bay is swamped with restaurants, but if you can handle a visit to the Food Forum then Chung's is certainly worth a visit.

Visit restaurant website.

What Goes With Beer?

Hong Kong Rugby Sevens
27th to 29th March 2009

The end of March and again it's time for the carnival that is the Hong Kong Rugby 7s. My home is adapting to it's role as halfway house were a selection of sports fans, drunks and the insane seem to annually gather. With friends in town from Australia, friends in town from the UK and a pack load of local degenerates about it really is a weekend that involves way too much beer. Sunday evening, feeling tired, emotional and somewhat ill, I compiled an inventory of goods consumed. This prestigious list included two hamburgers, two serves of chicken and chips, chips, a kebab, a baguette and yet again one very dodgy pie. I should know better than to order those pies... Visit the HK 7s website.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Wang Fu Dumpling

98 Wellington St, Central
Visited 26th March 2009

For an easy meal in Central, Wellington Street is often a good option; close to the bars of Lan Kwai Fong and Soho it's packed with good value, local restaurants. Wang Fu Dumpling has become my favourite on this little dinning strip. Inside its pretty basic, but it's traditional Beijing dumplings, not the decor, that brings in the punters. I dropped in with a friend for an after work snack and was impressed to see handmade dumplings being busily folded in the kitchen.

Wang Fu Dumpling is obviously all about dumplings; there's an interesting range, including daily specials that are all served steamed or in soup. They also offers a small range of traditional Beijing snacks including Lu Da Gun or 'Rolling Donkey'; a dessert made with bean flour and red beans. Unfortunately we were both on our way to dinner engagements so could only squeeze in a serve of dumplings and cold noodles with shredded chicken. We went for the pork and garlic dumplings and the plate of ten fat little delicious parcels were simply steamed and went down a treat with a dash of vinegar. The noodles were just as good; the slippery, chewy texture of the glutinous noodles was complemented by the tasty sauce and crisp slithers of cucumber. Like a good local lad I washed the whole lot down with a nourishing paper cup of "low-sugar soy milk".

Wang Fu Dumplings offers unpretentious and tasty nourishment. We walked out surprisingly full from a 'snack' that set us back a piddly $60; a bargain for dumplings, noodles and soy milk for two. Dumplings are cool, but lovingly handmade, top-quality, bargain priced dumplings are something excited by. Wang Fu Dumplings would standout for its quality in Beijing, in Hong Kong it's a true culinary gem.

Sorry about the bad quality images, they were taken on a phone.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Quan An Ngon

138 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Quận 1, Saigon, Vietnam
Visited 22nd March 2009.

A rugby trip to Saigon and it's the first time I'd visited Vietnam since the three months I spent there before coming to Hong Kong. Amongst the poor performances on pitch and good performances off, I managed to find a couple of hours to slip away for a meal at an old favourite; Quan An Ngon. Situated in a beautiful colonial house and its lush tropical grounds Quan An Ngon is always busy; packed with locals and expats it has a reputation for offering top quality traditional food at reasonable prices. It's located an easy work from the
War Remnants Museum (the museum formally known as the Museum of American War Crimes) in the Dong Khoi area.

It had been ages since I'd eaten Vietnamese and after ordering a cold bottle of Saigon Beer (not my first for the weekend) I gave the menu some serious consideration. Confronted with a world of forgotten flavours I wanted it all, but finally forced myself to choose steamed rice flour rolls (Bánh Cuốn Nhân Thịt), green papaya salad with shrimp and pork (Gỏi đu đủ tôm thịt) and steamed clams with lemongrass (Nghêu hấp ). The steamed rice rolls were excellent; stuffed with pork and mushroom they came and accompanied my fish sauce, cucumber salad and some Vietnamese style preserved sausage. The papaya salad was just as awesome; fresh and bursting with flavour it was also a matter of contrasting textures - prawn crackers, peanuts and fried garlic added crunch, while lime, red chillies and basil all added freshness, heat and zest. The steamed clams had a good lemongrass flavours, but were a tad dry.

I like Quan An Ngon, oh yes I do. The garden and verandas of the old house offer a lush tropical setting to enjoy superb renditions of Vietnamese classics. The staff are efficient and friendly and for such a busy place the whole operation runs surprisingly smoothly. My bill for three dishes and a beer was a massive 108,000 dong which translates to a piddly HK$45; while you can eat on the streets for much cheaper this is still a bargain considering the quality and class. Quan An Ngon; recommended.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Rayen Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Colchagua Valley, Chile, $150, cork seal

I purchased from a local Yuen Long wine shop and can't find out anything about it. It's simply packaged and doesn't even have a back label.

This is really dark in colour; a deep purple, almost black. The nose is closed, but I got a whiff of the expected Cabernet inspired black fruit and a hint of mint. Rayen Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 is green and vegetably. It's tastes of cabbage and green capsicum, but there's also a hints of tart blackberries and tea. It's medium bodied and very, very dry, with solid chalky tannins and decent length. I drunk it by itself and it would probably have benefited from the company of a big bit of red meat, but when all's said and done it's simply too green and unripe to be pleasant.

Snap Shot Hong Kong Flower Show

Hong Kong International Flower Show
Visited 17th March 2009

Not really sure how this is related to food and wine, but I thought I'd throw in a couple of photos of this rather strange event. The Hong Kong International Flower Show sees the basketball courts of Victoria Park become a collection of flower beds, floral displays and souvenir shops. I personally thought most of the displays were pretty average, though a few stood out more for their bizarreness than beauty. There were certainly plenty of punters around, but the crowds seemed keener on visiting the stalls and souvenir booths than actually looking at the displays. Cosmos was the theme of the show. There were a couple of big displays built over Victoria Park's basketball courts. This floral swan sits amongst a background Causeway Bay's skyscrapers. Hey this is not just a giant squirrel with a big nut made of flowers, it's also a feat of mechanical engineering; the mechanised tail swings from side to side. Something a little more traditional. Yep, it's a dancing panda!

Visit event website.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Brunch Club

70 Peel St, Soho, Central
Visited 12th March

Tucked away on the upper fringes of Soho is the Brunch Club; a firm favourite amongst a group of my friends. It's setup more like a café than a formal restaurant; racks of magazines, comfortable couches, candles and a small courtyard out back. I was personally rather taken by the masses of flowers littering the place. Of course like every good Hong Kong restaurant they also have a second branch; in this case Brunch and Supper Club in Causeway Bay.

The menu consists of mainly western dishes as well as the popular all day breakfast options. We decided to share a set dinner and get (at my friend's insistence) an additional serve of eggs Benedict. Of the several available choices for each course and we opted for cauliflower and bacon soup, seared tuna salad, barbecued quails and lemon and raspberry tart to finish. The soup was pretty good with plenty of bacon chunks, while the tuna was OK; coated in sesame, the rare meat was tasty, though it was let down by the basic and rather average salad of lettuce and a couple of cherry tomatoes. The quails consisted of one and half grilled plump little birds served atop wilted spinach and pan-fried new potatoes; a nice dish. The lemon tart we had for dessert was tart and tasty, though the sliver we got was pretty thin and was topped with fake 'cream in a can'; always a turnoff. The highlight of the meal was definitely the eggs Benedict; well poached soft eggs, delightful lightly toasted, super soft muffins and a rich creamy sauce. I enjoyed a couple of glasses of crisp Willow Bridge Semillon Sav Blanc and my friend a banana smoothie.

Brunch club offers a pleasant, relaxed setting and friendly service; this is a big plus in the world of Soho restaurants were artificial, fake formality rules the day. I enjoyed my meal and I thought the set dinner pretty good value at $222 for the four courses and the eggs Benedict a bargain at $68, though $38 for a banana smoothie was perhaps pushing things a bit. It's called the Brunch Club and the best thing we had were the eggs, my suggestion; go for brunch!
Visit restaurant website.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Edgecombe Cabernet Merlot 2002

Orange, NSW, $120, cork seal

Another wine from Orange. I purchased this from a dodgy little dry-goods shop in Yuen Long where it was hidden beneath dust and dried mushrooms. I couldn't find a thing about it; the wine, the Sydney
address and even the winery don't seem to appear on the net. The label says it's from the Edgecombe Vineyard that lies on the slopes of Mount Canobolas, 260km west of Sydney. The label sagely lists the drinking period as being until 2009; which I'd agree with.

This is still looking vibrant and is a bright crimson red. The nose is an engaging mix of violets, dark cherry, cassis, tobacco and dried oregano aromas. It tastes of lovely black fruits; dark cherries, blackberries and mulberries. It's big and round, the fruit is still sweet and rich, though it is starting to dry out just a touch on the finish. I enjoyed this wine. I liked its silky texture, its fullness and length and found the slight sourness on the tail enjoyable. It looks like its hit its peak so if for any strange, strange reason you have a bottle of this lying around; drink up now. I would recommend this but I don't reckon anyone in Hong Kong's got a chance of finding another bottle.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Logan Weemala Gewurztraminer 2008

Orange, NSW, Australia, $80, stelvin seal

'Weemala' is a second label from the Logan winery in the New South Wales wine region of Orange. Situated at altitudes between 600 and 900 feet the cool climate vineyards of Orange make this exciting area the most elevated region in Australia. The bottle is pretty classily packaged with a striking label, stelvin seal and witty remarks on the back (not only do we discover that the winemaker is Peter Logan, but the bird on the front is a Black Chinned Honeyeater who can apparently testify that there's a "bloody good view" from the vineyard).

It's a pale, straw yellow colour with a lovely nose that echoes honey and pear. There's also underlying aromas of tropical fruits (maybe mangoes and starfruit) and a little spice and pepper. The palate has flavours of red apple and stone fruits. It's a nicely balanced wine that is not overly sweet or cloying, but then again it's not overly intense either. It's a refreshing drink that would work well with food and while not earth shattering certainly offers decent value and pleasant enough drinking.

Visit winery website.