Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Jamie's Italian, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Britain's favourite mockney has made his way to these shores by opening up a branch of his Italian chain restaurants. 

It's been open for nearly two months and my wife and I recently went there for lunch. The hype is still there as we waited an hour and a half (90 minutes) until we got a table.

We were placed in a compact table in the middle of the restaurant. The floor area not spacious but did not feel cramped during the full lunch service. It has a rustic Italian decor, probably similar to all branches. They have hanging cured meats as shown below and there's a noticeable dragon mural painting on of one of the walls for a local touch.
Lighting & Cured Meats
There is sufficient waiting staff so it was not long before our order was taken. 

I decided to go for the Fish in a Bag dish on offer and share a bruschetta with my wife for starters. We were advised that the fish would take a little longer, which was not an issue as we had order the bread to being our meal.

The bruschetta arrived first, as shown below. Dainty pieces of crispy bread with crab meat and apple shavings on top, served with mashed avocado and ricotta to the side. It was all nicely presented on a wooden platter. A bit small to look at but tasty combination of ingredients to make a good starter. The picture also shows the drinks we ordered; with the lemon and basil ice tea at the top and lemonade at the bottom.
The next dish to arrive, surprisingly, was the fish. This was odd in that we expected my wife's Prawn Linguine to arrive at the same time, along with the Roast Potatoes we were going to share. The food itself was really good. The cod was delicate and flaky and there were clams and mussels too, which were good. There was a hint of spiciness from the sauce and chilli. The cracked wheat provided the starch portion of the meal, which was like a crunchier cous cous and quite interesting as I had never had it before.
Fish in a Bag
The linguine did arrive, after we finished the fish and potatoes came soon after, both shown below. The potatoes were a small side dish and looked like mini baked potatoes as they had the skin on, rather than the classic ones used to when accompanying a Sunday roast, but were still tasty. The linguine was touted as 'famous'. I would not go so far as to saying it was excellent but the pasta was al dente, the prawns were present but nothing special, the sauce had flavour and not overflowing and it looked pretty enough.
Roast Potato & Linguine
We finished the meal off with dessert and tea. These did arrive at the same time and the pannacotta I ordered is slightly obscured by the teapot in the picture. This was firm and creamy with a sour berry sauce and was top notch. My wife's tiramisu at the forefront of the picture was good too with the liqueur and coffee taste just coming through without being too strong. The Earl Grey tea was served in a mix of a Chinese style teapot and modern transparent cup, which was different but fun.
Dessert & Tea
The muddled timings of food service maybe down to the Asian culture of sharing food when eating in a group but this was not what I was expecting from a Western restaurant. I believe they would be able to prepare the food at the same time if one requested it that way, I hope.

Overall it was good but for the wait we had to be seated and the price, it was not worth it. I would advise to give it a try if you have not been to a different branch in the world when the queues subside.

Food: 4/5
Presentation: 4/5
Service: 3/5
Setting: 3/5

Overall: 14/20

Total Bill: 673HKD, about £27 a head. 

We ate: All of the above, all ordered al la carte.

We drank: Lemon & basil ice tea, which had a strong basil taste.

I wore: Italian branded jeans.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Disneyland Hotel, Hong Kong

Disney is a fairly well known entertainment brand and we had afternoon tea at one of their hotels that make up the Hong Kong branch of their resort parks. The hotel has a very kitschy look and whilst only ten years old, is based a Victorian theme, which is not that bad aesthetically to be honest. Afternoon tea is held in the lobby of the building. Chairs are comfortable and elegant, with the tableware and crockery sharing the same elegance, shown in the picture below. The overall lobby space is a busy (and fairly loud) area though, with plenty of mainland tourists coming and going.
Table Setting
We ordered an afternoon tea set for two as I was with my wife. The tea came without too much of a wait. It was served by the cup and refilled, rather than giving us a teapot, which is our preferred method. Condiments were set out at the same time as the tea. The butter was cut into a Mickey shape for branding purposes as shown below.
Tea and Condiments
The tiered platter with food soon appeared. They were quite frugal with the scone, as they gave us one even though there were two of us. Presentation wise it was nice with the Mickey shape (again), but a little disappointing in their generosity. Taste-wise it was fine and not too dry; they also had clotted cream, which was good. 
Platter of Food
The sandwiches were on the second plate and numbered three, with the fillings being salmon, prawn and ham & cheese. The bottom plate had a selection of three cakes, one of which was a chipmunk cookie as shown in the photo above. These small nibbles were ok but with no standout item to write home about. 

A main course was included in this set. There was a choice to pick from and I opted for the mini Wagyu burger, which true to form was small and not very filling. It looked cute and was not bad in taste though.
Mini Waygu Burger
We expected better from this type of establishment. Service was standard as well without being exceptional although the staff make the effort to wear Victorian type clothes. Value for money could have better as well. Overall probably the low point of our fun day out to Disneyland.

Food: 2/5
Presentation: 3/5
Service: 3/5
Setting: 4/5

Overall: 12/20

Total Bill: 427HKD, about £18 a head. 

We ate: Afternoon tea set for tea.

We drank: Earl Grey Tea.

I wore: Sunday casuals, with no gimmicky ears.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Pang's Kitchen, Happy Valley, Hong Kong

This is a later quest at my local neighbourhood Michelin starred restaurant. Pang's kitchen received it's one star last year serving top notch Chinese cuisine. It is a short walk from where we live and was already full when we arrived, proving its popularity, even on a weekday evening. 

After a very short wait to prepare our table, we ordered some popular dishes off their menu, described below. 

Our first dish to arrive was sweet and sour pork, shown below. This had strawberries in it as the differentiator between standard dishes that usually have pineapple. There are also nice small portions of battered pork meat in a sour sauce, cooked with chilli pepper for a bit of heat. A really good and colourful dish to start with.
Sweet & Sour Pork
Fried rice with salted fish and chicken, pictured below, was the next dish to arrive. The fish are chopped small pieces that add some great strong seasoning to the dish, which is mixed with chicken and shredded lettuce. This was the best dish of the night, with everything fried really well and tasting great.
Fried Rice
The photo below shows stir fried vegetables as our third dish. It is served in an impressive looking clay pot to preserve the heat as it still has the sizzling noise when placed on the table. It was cooked simply and well, with the greens still having crunchiness and basic garlic seasoning for the flavour.
Stir Fried Vegetable
The food is impressive but you pay for that quality, although the amounts are generous and we ended up taking a doggy bag home. Being located in Happy Valley probably adds to the price as well.

The restaurant holds 40 people and is quite representative of Hong Kong in that it was densely populated (i.e. packed) when we were there. The interior is rather dated, reminding me of Chinese restaurants back in the UK, and the tableware was a bit used. The service, whilst not terrible, could have been a bit more hospitable, given its status. Overall it is worth a visit, primarily for their food. 

Food: 4/5
Presentation: 4/5
Service: 3/5
Setting: 3/5

Overall: 14/20

Total Bill: 458HKD, about £19 a head. 

We ate: All of the above.

We drank: Jasmine Tea.

I wore: Casual, 1 Michelin star attire.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Spices, Repulse Bay, Hong Kong

I am back here with my wife at the Repulse Bay Hotel building, this time lunching at another restaurant, Spices, which is also run by the Peninsula Hotel.

Given its name, this place serves food from the Indochina region, as testimony to the trade that occurred in the area. Indeed, as part of the table set up, there was a small pot of star anise on our table shown in the picture below, giving of an aroma reminiscent of liquorice sweets.
Star Anise on the table
Drinks were ordered first and shown below. I went for the Lemongrass Peach Tea and my wife went for the Honey Melon, a seasonal special on offer. Both were refreshing but a little too sweet, though.
Our Drinks Order
For food we ordered Tom Yum Gong soup and Lamb Massala curry, which arrived at the same time. Both looked appealing, with the curry in a steel pan on a heater. The lamb was well cooked tender. The curry sauce was not runny, and had good flavour and heat from spice. The soup did look small, which reflected its price as one of the cheaper items on the menu. It had very nice spicy and zesty flavour and contained good sized prawns and quite a lot of mushrooms. 

Steamed white rice was included in the price of the curry and the portion the waitress gave us was fairly generous in comparison to the soup.
TomYum Soup & Lamb Massala
The Morning Glory vegetable, pictured below, came soon after, which was stir fried with garlic and chilli. This was probably the spiciest (there is a bit of a trend here) dish we ate, although we asked for less chilli.
Morning Glory
We decided to go for a dessert after the mains and went for the 'Khao Niaow Ma Muang', or the Thai mango sticky rice pudding. This was the best course of the day. The rice was white and black as a variant, which was sweet and sticky; the mango was fresh and there was a coconut based sauce draped all over it for added sweet flavour, which cooled our palates from the hot main dishes.
Mango Sticky Rice Pudding
The decor has a colonial feel but not opulent and one can feel relaxed in this venue. It is fairly expensive but that does not seem to detract customers as the place was popular with the indoor and outdoor seats pretty much taken. The quality of the food is pretty good, considering the geographic range it covers. Service was good as well, although not as attentive as the Verandah, which was expected. If you are planning a day out in Repulse Bay then a visit to Spices will do no wrong.

Food: 4/5
Presentation: 4/5
Service: 3/5
Setting: 4/5

Overall: 15/20

Total Bill: 658HKD, about £20 a head. 

We ate: All of the above.

We drank: Lemongrass Peach Tea, Honey Melon.

I wore: 'Thai' purchased Fred Perry shorts.

The Verandah, Repulse Bay, Hong Kong

I am here with my wife at the Verandah, a restaurant that is in the splendid old Repulse Bay Hotel building. It is run by the Peninsula Hotel and we had a Sunday brunch there. The colonial building sets the scene with Classic Victorian interiors and elegant table setting, shown below.
Table Setting
As this was a buffet, there are going to be a lot of pictures of the food that we took and ate to follow.

My first visit to the counters saw me take little nibbles of Samosa, Spring Roll, Siu Mai, Har Gow and Scallop, shown below. These 'canapés' were all very well made, with the scallop being the nicest item and overall a good starter to get the brunch going.  After this course the restaurant informed us of a cancellation and moved us to a window seat, which was kind of them. Next up for me was a plate of freshly shucked oysters and sashimi, which is not pictured but tasted good and raw, nonetheless.
First Plate
More cold dishes followed after the seafood in the shape of the picture below (working clockwise from the 12 o'clock position): Papaya Salad; Parma Ham and Melon; Duck Terrine; Mozzarella and Tomato; and Duck Breast and French Beans. All items were nice, with the duck breast being my favourite from this selection, more due to personal preference for this fowl meat. 
Cold Cut selection
I decided on some soup before the main course and served myself a bowl of Cauliflower velouté with smoked salmon and croutons added as nice condiments. This soup had a strong cauliflower flavour, was light and foamy but not quite warm enough.
Roast beef was the main dish ordered from the menu. A slab of fairly red Australian beef was served with a very well crafted potato gratin and some cute little vegetables to the side. The beef was OK and not too chewy but the gratin was the best bit of this dish, consisting of thin layers of potatoes mixed with a tasty cheese.
My Main Course
My wife went for the roast chicken for her main, pictured below, which I have to say looked and tasted better then my beef.

Wife's Main Course
Onto desserts now, and to the left of the picture below was a cake selection and a tiramisu on the right. The cakes were a chocolate one, light mouse and creme brûlée. The tiramisu was made at the counter, where the ingredients and laid out and placed in a small tea cup. The chef made with the right quantities of coffee and kahlua, and the result was a fabulous tiramisu.
First Dessert Course
I decided to go for a freshly made crepe pancake next, with a banana filling that I accompanied with some strawberry ice cream, shown below. This is quite a standard item in most upmarket buffets around in Hong Kong, and this version was no better or worse than others I have had.
Lime soufflé followed, which was cooked out the counter. This was delicious, it was light with the sour lime going well with the sweetened egg mix. This was not the final last visit to the counters as I also got some water melon and pineapple, which are not pictured, and were the last things I ate that day.
It is pricey but there is a lot of very good food on offer so you will not leave the Verandah hungry in the three hour time limit you are given, and it does carry the Peninsula brand. It is quite busy so bookings are recommended, but does not feel overcrowded. Desserts were best, with the Tiramisu and the Soufflé the standout dishes of the day. The service is mostly by yourself as it is a buffet but there are a lot of waiters serving drinks and main courses as well as assisting in clearing plates. Tea / coffee is served after the main course, with the tea served in proper leaves, which you would expect from this type of establishment. There is a live band as well for entertainment. So all in all a very enjoyable afternoon in a grand setting that is worth a try from anyone.

Food: 4/5
Presentation: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Setting: 4/5

Overall: 16/20

Total Bill: 1400HKD, about £56 a head. 

We ate: All of the above.

We drank: Various fruit juices, Sangria and Earl Grey tea. These were all included in the price.

I wore: Smart Bally shoes.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Yee Tung Heen, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Yee Tung Heen is a Chinese restaurant nestled on the second floor of the Excelsior hotel in Causeway Bay, where my wife and I were for a Sunday yum cha lunch. 

The spacious table was neatly set up as expected in this type of establishment. The picture shows the table layout with condiments and Dragon's Well tea on a warmer. 
Table Setting
We proceeded to order off the dim sum dishes menu, with the Siu Mai and Har Gow arriving first, shown below. These classic dim sum dishes usually come in fours in normal restaurants but were served as threes here. These were well made and tasty dumplings, with good portions of meat inside them. A twist in the design of the bamboo steamer was that it was of square form, rather than circular.
Siu Mai and Har Gow
Next was the Rice Flour Roll of three different fillings of beef, barbecued pork and prawn. This is another popular dim sum dish that was done well here at this restaurant; with a good roll that was not too sticky, wrapping a hearty filling. The picture shows the dish before the accompanying soy sauce was draped over it.
Rice Flour Roll
The Spring Rolls followed after. Again the portion was slightly smaller than in other restaurants but it made up in the presentation (apologies for not rotating the picture) and quality as the outer was golden brown and crispy and the inner packed with tasty shrimp.
Spring Roll
We were still hungry after eating the above and I ordered Chicken Feet to fill me up more. This dim sum staple was in a nice black bean sauce and of a decent sized portion, in comparison to the previous dishes ordered.
Chicken Feet
Our last dish was Sesame Roll as dessert. Our first impression was that this was small, with only three pieces for the price of $45. However it was well crafted (the photo cannot make out the detail) and tasted good, which rounded off our meal nicely.
Sesame Roll
The food here was pretty good, although they could have been a bit more generous in the portion size and setting was very plush. Service was attentive and very professional for a dim sum restaurant. Dishes are pricier than standard restaurants in the city but not too bad value. If you want some upmarket dim sum then Yee Tung Heen is worth a visit.

Food: 4/5
Presentation: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Setting: 4/5

Overall: 16/20

Total Bill: 318.60HKD, about £13 a head. This included a 15% credit card discount. 

We ate: All of the above.

We drank: Dragon's Well Tea.

I wore: Casual jeans and hooded top, which were probably a bit too casual for this venue.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Tuck Room, Happy Valley, Hong Kong

I was not going to write anything but my experience at Tuck Room for dinner the other night led me to write about this place. Due to the sudden decision to write, there are no photos unfortunately.

It seems to be a wine bar / cafe and looks to be a fairly new place that is located in a back alley from a side street so hard to find, which was evident from the lack of people there when wife and I visited.

We may have been the only customers as when we walked in although there was a gentleman playing on his laptop and not really ordering.

The waitress took our order, then disappeared into the kitchen, so it appeared to be a one-woman show running this place.

My pasta dish came first, of which the pasta was not cooked long enough. It was served in a thick tomato sauce, which was not that good and also surprising as it was not green in colour as the menu noted the pesto sauce. This was only pointed out by the cook-waitress after we queried her. There was also a grand total of five shrimps. Generally, a disappointing dish.

The fish and chips for my wife came a few moments later. This staggered receipt of food was probably due to the fact that there was only one person cooking. It was served in a small thin plate, which looked nice but impractical for eating. The breaded fish portions were small and only the chips tasted nice and seemed to have been made in-house, but they may have come out of the packet.

I am not sure what Tuck Room is meant or trying to be. It has a wine night advertised and cigars are on the food menu, which they should probably concentrate on those two items rather than food. Western food is more expensive in Hong Kong so quality needs to justify the amount one spends but value for money and general enthusiasm of staff (considering this is a newly opened venue) is lacking here. 

Food: 2/5
Presentation: 3/5
Service: 2/5
Setting: 3/5

Overall: 10/20

Total Bill: 300HKD, about £12.50 a head.

We ate: fish and chips, shrimp pasta.

I drank: Iced caffe mocha, which cost about £4.

I wore: Down jacket.