Sunday, 31 January 2010

Challenge Shield Final

Hong Kong Senior Challenge Shield Final
30th January 2010

Hong Kongers apparently love football, but this seems to only go as far as betting on the overpaid posers who play for the big European clubs. I don't really love football, but do enjoy watching live sport and as a result spend a bit of time drinking cans of Kingway while watching the mighty Tin Shui Wai 'Pegasus'. This Saturday was the final of the Hong Kong Senior Challenge Shield, a knockout competition that has been running since 1896. Even though the Flying Horse didn't make it, a mate and I still trundled out to the wilds of Chai Wan to check out the action. I didn't take any photos on the day so the snap below is of TSW playing at home in Yuen Long. Kitchee were playing the ever popular and successful South China. I hadn't been to Chai Wan before - it's not really convenient to Yuen Long - but the airy Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground was a decent stadium and the Kingway was cold. The only thing that disappointed me was the tiny crowd and thousands of empty seats. The game was exciting with goals, yellow cards and controversial refereeing decisions aplenty. South China defeated Kitchee 4 to 2, but the real winners were those who bothered to get out of bed or leave the shopping mall to actually watch a bit of live sport. Hong Kongers apparently love football, it's just a shame they never bother to watch it; that the stadiums are empty and the local teams go unsupported.

Visit HKFA website.

Sun Chuk Yuen Vietnamese Restaurant

2 Landale St, Wan Chai
Visited 30th January 2010
A mate and I decided we needed a little substance before heading to Chai Wan to watch the HK Senior Challenge Shield final. Meeting in Wan Chai he suggested we head to Sun Chuk Yuen Vietnamese Restaurant, a little place hidden away with all the other little places on Landale St. Inside it was all pretty basic and we grabbed a table squashed amongst all the others.
I enjoy really the freshness and vibrancy of Vietnamese food however the menu here seems to be all about plates of rice. We decided to share satay beef noodles, spring rolls and pork with mint. I know they're unadventurous, but I love Vietnamese style fried spring rolls. The ones we got were good - crisp, but not oily - the little nuggets of love went down a treat wrapped in lettuce and accompanied by tasty homemade dipping sauce. Next were the noodles with satay beef; the big serve of rice noodles came in a clump topped with the beef, capsicum and onions that had been tossed with a satay sauce. This dish was just OK as the sauce lacked flavour and whole thing was pretty bland. Next was a plate of stir-fried chicken with 'mint'. Fresh herbs are one of the things I love most about Vietnamese food and here they helped to add vibrancy to the dish, though it was basic it was pretty tasty. We were told that they didn't sell beer so made do with a can of soft drink. Our lunch at Sun Chuk Yuen Vietnamese Restaurant was pretty good. The food was certainly nothing special, but offered a pretty filling feed and I was only really unimpressed with the satay noodles. The service was efficient enough and $75 we each paid for lunch seemed fair, though not necessarily a bargain. Though everything about Sun Chuk Yuen Vietnamese Restaurant was kind of OK I can't really see the point of returning; there must be more interesting Vietnamese places around Wan Chai?

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


22 Ashley Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui
Visited 26th January 2010
I've got a pretty standard pro-forma for writing up restaurants and if you look closely you’ll usually find half a sentence that mentions the setting/design/atmosphere at the bottom of the first paragraph. Hachiouji, a little Japanese place on Ashley Road, however deserves a little more than that, as honestly it resembles a toyshop more than a restaurant. The big elephant at the door gives a hint of things to come and inside the walls are chocked full of Japanese nostalgia. It’s stuffed with models, toys, games, posters and adverts from yesteryear; all very cool.

The menu is really just your generic Japanese with selections of everything ranging from teriyaki and tempura to soba and sushi. We decided to share a bowl of udon, mixed tempura, grilled chicken wings, and a sushi roll with pork. We also had a last minute order of barbecued ox tongue after watching our neighbours devour a serve. The small bowl of udon came simply served with a seaweed garnish, but they were well cooked and tasty. The tempura consisted of a single prawn, mushroom, chilli and piece of sweet potato; it was OK, but could have been a tad crisper. The four tiny chicken wings were pretty average and lacked flavour, both from the marinade and the grilling. Stuffed with plenty of grilled pork and lettuce the sushi was pretty good, as was the well seasoned, tasty ox-tongue. To drink I made the most of happy hour and enjoyed a big bottles of Asahi, while Joey stuck to tea.
I enjoyed most of the food at Hachiouji, especially the udon and ox-tongue, however the dishes were tiny and I left feeling a bit ripped off. Just because the walls are covered in toys it doesn't mean that you should be given children's sized serves. Our bill was $286 and I thought $55 especially expensive for four pieces of tempura and the tiny bowl of udon a joke at $62. The service was OK, though when paying I had to remind them that my drink should have been at the happy hour price. For those with nostalgic memories of a Japanese childhood Hachiouji is worth it for a walk down memory lane, but for you average Aussie kid who dreams of fishing and footy there's better value to be had elsewhere.

Don & Petie Kladstrup ‘Champagne’

2005, Harper Collins; New York

This book is subtitled ‘How the World’s Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times’ and is more about a concept than a drink. Champagne as a beverage is discussed very little; the authors don't mention aromas, flavour or anything resembling a tasting note. Instead the focus is on Champagne as the product of a place, Champagne as a product of marketing, Champagne as an economic unit, Champagne as politics and Champagne as a collection of shared histories.

Starting in the middle-ages the authors move through the history of the region, bringing their account alive through tales of the vibrant characters that have emerged to shape Champagne’s reputation. While many of the stories are enlightening and enjoyable what I found most interesting is the historic links made to the Champagne of today. The emergence of marketing, the pressures of global trade and international markets, environmental concerns, the role of scientific development, relationships between the growers and the big houses and the AOC rules are all put into historic perspective by the Kladstrups.

Champagne is a drink that mystifies me. It is just as much a product of marketing as it is of terroir; promoting itself as “the drink to celebrate with” has been the key to Champagne’s success. The majority of Champagne is also the product of large companies who are in many ways are the anti-thesis of traditional French wine making; specific terroir and vintage are ignored in the aim of consistency (well at least for the NV offerings that us poor mortals can still barely afford to drink). The Kladstrups successfully use engaging historical accounts and tales of key personalities to weave an entertaining and informative picture of Champagne. Though it is more a book about history rather than wine, Champagne is certainly worth a read for anyone interested in the bubbly juice.

Visit publisher's website.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2007

Tuscany, $79 (375ml), cork seal

I'm loving the well priced half bottle for a little weeknight tipple. This Chianti Classico comes from the Mazzei owned Castello di Fonterutoli and has been in their family for nearly six hundred years. The wine is predominately Sangiovese with 5% Malvasia Nera, 5% Colorino and 5% Merlot thrown into the mix.
This smells seriously seductive: it's perfumed and exotic and all floral and spicy. There are also attractive hints of cherry, boyensberry and charcuterie. The palate is riding the black cherry train with plenty of delicious fruit, but also a lovely savouriness that echoes dried oregano. This is a pretty smartly put together with plenty of good, grippy tannin that is balanced by crisp acidity; it's persistent as well. I like Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2007; it's one sexy little wine.

Visit winery website.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Taking it to the Streets

HK Magazine 15th January 2010
This blog is so far behind that I'm basically ignoring posts tagged with 'media watch'. So despite the temporal irrelevance of this post I still thought it was time to stop and pay tribute to HK Magazine. For a rag you pick up for free in bars the quality of the reporting is generally excellent and the paper as whole isn't afraid to grapple with controversial issues. Our beloved mag is only published weekly, yet it's coverage of dinning around Hong Kong is more extensive than the total weekly output of the daily South China Morning Post. This week's magazine featured a five page guide titled 'Taking it to the Streets' about Hong Kong's dai pai dongs, an accompanying article about bureaucratic threats to these traditional outdoor restaurants, three restaurant reviews plus an introduction to a new restaurant, a page of food and beverage news and Amy Ma's 'Hot Tables' column. And how much do we pay for all this goodness? Nothing, yep that's right folks, a total cost of zero point zero dollars. It's time we all said thanks to HK Magazine.

Visit magazine website.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Four Peaks Race

23rd to 24th January 2010

The couple of people who read this even remotely regularly may have worked out that I enjoy the odd jog. Running up Lantau Peak at midnight may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it was a part of one of the most enjoyable weekends of my life. I've no idea how the Aberdeen Boat Club's annual Four Peaks Race fits into a blog about food and wine, but I suppose I did eat a home cooked stew Saturday afternoon and drunk quite a bit of rum early Sunday morning. I'll let the video do the talking

Friday, 22 January 2010

Domaine Tournon Shiraz 2005

Mt Benson, Limestone Coast, $160, cork

M. Chapoutier is a big time Rhone producer, but also a company of vision who have diversified with vineyards across southern France, Portugal and Australia. The Domain Tournon label is M. Chapoutier's Australian venture which focuses on growing Syrah on unique Australian terroir. They have vineyards at Heathcote, the Pyrenees and at Mt Benson, where this is from. The wine is biodynamic and organic. It's rather cool to see the label includes Braille. Sniffing this it screams Aussie red; it's big and beefed up. There's plenty going on with dark fruits, spice and beef kangaroo jerky. Having a sip it's packed with fruit, but is still deliciously savoury. It's all about blackfruits: think blood plums, black currents and blackberries. The most intriguing thing about this however is the texture. On the first day it was really bizarre; chewy, big and consuming, yet by day two it had settled and became a lot silkier. You can see a touch of Mr Chapoutier's Rhone here, but it's the Rhone with extra chunks. Nice wine.

Visit winery website.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Port Philip Estate Chardonnay 2007

Red Hill, Mornington Peninsula, A$26.75, diam cork

While I didn’t get a chance to visit, I did hear many good things about the new Port Philip Estate cellardoor when I recently visited the Peninsula. From all reports it’s a magnificent building with tidy little restaurant. Port Philip Estate is owned by the Gjergja family who also own the highly regarded Kooyong Estate. Like the Kooyong wines, this is made by Sandro Mosele who barrel ferments it in French oak, 30% of which is new. Having a sniff you couldn’t mistake this for anything but Chardonnay. There are aromas of lemon sherbet, butter and melon. A sip brings out citrus flavours, perhaps grapefruit, with green melon and hint of walnuts on the finish. Where this wine really shines is its beautiful ‘feel’ in the mouth; it’s rich, textured and creamy. Port Philip Estate Chardonnay 2007; nice wine.

Visit winery

Monday, 11 January 2010

Apgujeong Tent Bar

1/F Koon Fook Centre, 9 Knutsford Terrace, TST
Visited 10th January 2010
Knutsford Terrace is a great spot for a happy hour ale, but never inspires me as a dinning destination as it always seems over-priced and dominated by chains. Looking up seems the way to go as there's a few more interesting options tucked away on the floors above including the Korean restaurant Apgujeong Tent Bar. Look for the big glowing Korean writing and head up to a room that's authentically decorated with wood panelling, traditional floor seating and a TV playing Rain DVDs.

When I visited Korea last year I got the impression that while the food was tasty there were only about thirty different dishes in the whole country (stonepot rice, chicken and ginseng soup, barbecued meat, rice cakes). Strangely the menu at Apgujeong Tent Bar has at least thirty-five dishes. We ordered samgyeopsal-gui and japchae. First came the mandatory banchan or side dishes. These were of top quality and the range of tasting treats included clams, broccoli, garlic, mushrooms, beansprouts, salad and of course kimchi. Next was the japchae; the big serve of sticky cellophane noodles came with beef and mushrooms and went down a treat. Cooking at the table is always fun and the samgyeopsal-gui or barbecued pork belly was great. The strips of chunky pork came with plenty of lettuce for wrapping and a tasty, spicy sauce. To drink I thought I better order a Korean Cass Beer, while Joey had a can of something Korean and mango based. I enjoyed the authentic and tasty Korean food at Apgujeong Tent Bar. The staff were efficient and cheerful, but that could have been because there was so many of them working for a relatively small place. I thought the prices were pretty fair; the beef was $128 and the noodles $88. If you’re on Knutsford Terrace and after more than a beer Apgujeong Tent Bar is definitely worth a look.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Casa Ferreirinha 'Vinha Grande' 2003

Douro, MOP$83, cork seal

I do drink a lot of Portuguese wine. This bottle is another purchase from Macau, where there seems to be a never ending supply of good value wines for midweek drinking. Sourcing fruit from the sub regions of Cima Corgo and Douro Superior it's made from Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz grapes.

This is dark and intense; almost black with just a bit of garnet around the rim. This smells rich and luscious with hints of dusty chalk and sweet oak, but it’s really just about fruit, black fruit, lots of black fruit. Tasting this there’s an initial wallop of sweetness and plenty fruit; I’m thinking plums and boysenberries. There’s also the richness of coffee and caramel flavours. It has a long finish and plenty of big integrated tannin. The touch of warmth on the finish is pleasant rather than ungainly. Casa Ferreirinha 'Vinha Grande' 2003 is a nice wine, but you’ve got to like the sweet, rich style.

Visit winery website.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Snap Shot Home

Visit to Australia
23rd December 2009 to 2nd January 2010

I hadn't had Christmas in Australia for quite a few years. The chance to spend time with family and friends was of course fantastic, as was the opportunity to introduce Joey to the Land Down Under.
View looking east from the top of the Eureka Tower; Art's Centre, National Gallery, Botanic Gardens, Government House, the MCG, Flinders Park and the Yarra River.
View of Flinders Street Station, Federation Square and St Paul's Cathedral.
I'd never visited the Eureka Tower before; the views from the top were spectacular, though I'm not too sure about the giant bees.
A trip to the Vic Market is always worthwhile.
As is an afternoon or two at the MCG.
Visiting mates in the Yarra Valley; it felt so good to be back in the Bush.
Vineyards at the excellent Warramate Winery.
Bushrangers Bay at Mornington Peninsula after an enjoyable walk in.
Yes you do see 'wild' Kangaroos in Australia.

Napier Hotel

210 Napier Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne
Visited 2nd January 2010

Saturday night in Melbourne and it's time for a final fling before a way too early flight back to Hong Kong Sunday morning. The inner city suburb of Fitzroy is home to a great assortment of old-school Aussie pubs, but for food the Napier is perhaps my favourite. Housed in a hundred and nineteen year old building the pub is tucked away in a backstreet just opposite the old town hall (once upon a time Fitzroy use to have both a mayor and a football team). Inside the decors a mix of traditional charm with wood panelling, stain glass windows and modern cool with plenty of cool art, plus the odd piece of football memorabilia. The crowds a mix of the area; professional and bohemian, old and young, all are welcome.

Sure the Napier's a pub and the menu's a pub menu, but it's good. If you want a parma, burger or fish and chips they've got it, but there's plenty more interesting options including kangaroo, seafood, curry and the massive 'bogan' burger. I ordered a scotch fillet off the specials menu. The juicy, well cooked steak came with crunchy greens - broccolini and asparagus - and some rather tasty fat cut chips. I also managed to procure quite a bit of my mother's burger as its massive girth was well out of proportion with her appetite. Served on toasted ciabatta, with top quality bacon and a delicious garlic yogurt it was an interesting take on my usual pub favourite. The food at the Napier is really top-notch; the serves are exceedingly generous and quality of the ingredients is obvious. A pub cold beer is the order of the day and Melbourne brewed Mountain Goat 'Hightail Ale' on draft was the perfect choice.
The Napier's does everything a pub should, but does it perfectly. The bar staff are friendly and knowledgeable, to drink there's an interesting selection of beers and the ambiance is eclectic and welcoming - where else can my parents and such a crowd of my scumbag mates manage to mingle with the public? Oh and the food. The food's just want you want in a pub - big serves of well cooked, delicious grub at very fair prices. My steak was $23 and the burger I devoured half of was only $16, which all in all is pretty bloody good value. Back in Hong Kong - a land of happy, happy theme pubs and glitzy corporate bars - I'll miss the Napier, a true Melbourne pub.

What's With Dim Sims?

A Country Town in Australia
2nd January 2010

Who in Hong Kong knows what a dim sim is? While Chinese in origin, a dim sim or ‘dimmy’ is very much an Australian dish. I’d assume the name is the corruption of the Chinese ‘dim sum’. These popular snacks are available from takeaway shops, fish n chip joints and Australian Chinese restaurants across the country. So what is a dimmy? Basically it’s a big, nuggetty, think skinned dumpling filled with cabbage and pork or chicken and either deep-fried or steamed. They are traditionally served smothered in soy sauce. Driving back from the beach I called into an average looking take-away joint with the intention of getting Joey’s reaction to a dim sim. Tradition labels poor quality dim sim as being filled with a whole assortment of miscellaneous meat and so I was almost disappointed when the smiling proprietor told us he was from Hong Kong and hand-made all his dim sims. The verdict? Joey was almost laughing when she saw the “monster dumpling” and while there’s nothing dainty about a dimmy, we both enjoyed are little snack of Australian Chinese fusion.

Read about dim sims here.

Sunday, 3 January 2010


Port Philip Bay
2nd January 2010

We’re up before down, trying to beat the storm clouds gathering over the Bay. A group of us grabbed the required mountain of gear and headed out SCUBA diving in an attempt to get a feed or two of scallops. Port Phillip Bay is a massive body of water on which the city of Melbourne adjoins and lots of Victorians spend summers fishing, swimming and boating. I hadn’t dived in a couple of years so was hopelessly incompetent and retired from the adventure early. Before surfacing I did see a massive school of crabs that had swarmed for breeding and were churning up the ocean floor; an impressive sight. The others however did their job and returned with bags full of the fresh molluscs. Eating scallops is easy, but cleaning them is a different matter. Slaving away with a knife opening shells at least had that benefit of being able to munch on them, sashimi style, I worked. We had to head back to Melbourne, but took a bag of the fresh, juicy scallops for lunch. Pan-fried with and garlic and butter, they became the feature of a delicious salad. Fresh scallops gathered in the morning and eaten latter that day; oh Australia I’ll miss you.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Paradigm Hill

26 Merricks Rd, Merricks, Victoria
Visited 1st January 2010

A mate of mine had been raving about the Paradigm Hill Pinot Gris recently and when we passed the sign for their cellar door at Merricks Joey and I thought we'd drop in for a look. We were actually lucky that it was New Years day as they only open the first weekend of every month and public holidays. Entering the stylish, open building we were greeted by the proprietors of this family run business; George and Ruth Mihaly. This husband and wife team have 10 acres of north facing vineyard and, with aims of sustainability, the winery is carbon neutral. Firmly believing that they make 'food wines' you are not just poured a glass, but rather presented with a freshly cooked sampling plate to accompany each wine.

Matched with a white bean puree the Paradigm Riesling 2009 was lovely with attractive floral nose, great length and even a hint of minerality on the palate. Next stop was the Pinot Noir 'L'ami Sage' 2007 with a tasty local turkey and cranberry sausage. The fresh Pinot was all about cherries and spice, but was also extremely focused and structured. Well matched with a spiced lentil and carrot soup was the Shiraz 'Col's Block' 2007. This velvety, cool climate Shiraz was absolutely delicious and packed with pepper, spice, plums, cherry and a whole lot of seductiveness. To finish was the Finir 2009 accompanied by chocolate dipped pineapple. This spritzy Moscato was awash with citrus and pear flavours, had beautifully balanced sweetness and just screamed yum. Our visit to Paradigm Hill impressed me. The Mihaly's were extremely hospitable and it was great to chat to them about their wine, vineyards and life on the Mornington Peninsula. The food pairing was a relaxed and enjoyable way to try the wines; which were all excellent. Joey wasn't particularly fussed about drinking, but had a very pleasant time playing with Jemima their beautiful Golden Retriever. I certainly recommend a visit to Paradigm Hill or even just trying their wines. Visit winery website.

Friday, 1 January 2010

The Long Table

159 Shoreham Rd, Red Hill South
Visited 31 December 2009

New Years Eve down the Peninsula and instead of the traditional barbie and midnight skinny-dip of my youth, I found myself being all sophisticated and mature. We were invited through a friend of a friend for dinner at Red Hill's the Long Table and I was overjoyed to be spending new years with the lovely couple whose wedding I celebrated a year ago. Red Hill is a bit of a gourmet hub with a brewery, cheese factory, cafes, produce store and ensnarling ring of wineries. The restaurant is an open, airy affair featuring plenty of rustic bricks and timber.
They were running a special New Year's Eve dinner menu and we were restricted to a choice of four entrees, mains and desserts; though choosing still wasn't easy. To start I went with the crowd favourite; pork belly and scallops. The tender (but tiny) square of pork was accompanied by beautifully well cooked scallops, apple and a scattering of crunchy black rice; tasty stuff. Though tempted by slow cooked beef fillet for a main, I went with Port Lincoln seabass. The well cooked crisp fish was served with an enticing side of smoked potato, mussels and chorizo; again delicious stuff and obviously top quality ingredients. Joey's juicy chicken with pear, artichoke and witlof salad was also an excellent dish. I wasn't interested in dessert, but the little samples of cheesecake and chocolate bar I tried were superb. Their winelist is pretty impressive; it’s stacked with local offerings, alongside and a fair bit of interesting international stuff. However we kept things simple and went for carafes of the house wine. The white; a mystery local Pinot Gris was unfortunately pretty average, but the red was tasty; a delightfully, fruity local Pinot Noir cleanskin.
For me sweaty crowds vibrating at a doof or gazing vacant eyed at fireworks holds absolutely no attraction on New Year's Eve. I much prefer to spend the evening with friends; enjoying good food, wine and maybe even a bit of intelligent conversation. It’s never pleasant to work on New Year's Eve (and I’ve done my share), but the staff at the Long Table were outstanding; friendly, efficient, knowledgeable and most importantly possessing the sense of humour needed to get through the night. I was obviously impressed with the grub and considering it was New Years actually thought it was a pretty good deal at $50 for two courses or $65 for three. The litre carafes of Pinot were also OK at $30. If you ignore the spewing beachside suburbs filled with overpriced monstrosities, the Mornington Peninsula is a great spot for food and wine; the Long Table just another feather in its cap. A lovely evening.

Visit restaurant website.