Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ice Cold Beer's Wings and Pizza

Chicken Wings and No 5 Pizza

Here's an updated photo of Ice Cold Beer's wings and Number 5 pizza given how crappy the previous photos were (9 Emerald Hill Road, 6735-9929). It's still the same stuff - crispy thin pizza crust and super light chicken wings with a hint of shrimp paste and Chinese wine in it. Put that together with cheap beer after a number of stressful work days and it all comes together nicely.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Revisiting Shiraz in Singapore


With the demise of Banoo, I've unfortunately had to go more upscale to neighboring Shiraz for my Persian food fixes. So here is an updated photo of Shiraz's koobideh. It was lip-smackingly delicious, but I really wish that they would provide a larger serving of rice. This teeny little serving in the corner of the plate left me unsatisfied.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Back to UA's Old School Biz Class

Smoked Salmon, Duck Pate with Pistachios and Vegetable Crudite with Ranch Dressing

I was happy to find that my upgrade request got cleared on the return leg today. Unfortunately, the plane itself hadn't been upgraded, so I got stuck with the old business class seats, featuring those airplane-plugged power outlets, tiny non-VOD screens (yes, that's Indiana Jones in the background), and seatbacks that can recline into you. I'm not complaining - it was still business class after all (and on the upper deck with lots of generous storage, no less). But yeah, it's tough when you've been spoiled by the new version.

Oh - and Charlie Trotter was featured on the menu again today. His dish wasn't pictured above, but the tangy yellow sauce used in the Grilled Mahi Mahi was too sweet for me. Sure, stronger flavors are required in order to appease our tastebuds in the low air pressure, but if it were cranked down a bit, I probably would have liked it a lot more. I am happy to be seeing more of his meals on UA either way, and eagerly anticipate the next one.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Flames Coffee Shop and Bakery

Corned Beef Hash and Eggs

I could nitpick on a number of things in my breakfast above, be it the room temperature eggs, the scorched corned beef hash, or the orange juice from concentrate. But I really didn't mind any of that this morning. I just wanted to hit a classic American diner, and this retro South Bay chain fit the bill. There's something oddly appealing about pulling oneself up to a counter and getting served truck-stop-style. Besides, a good dousing of Tabasco helped to bring about satisfaction.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Quick Run for La Vic's Orange Sauce

La Victoria's Tostada and Orange Sauce

There it is again: the infamous orange sauce from La Victoria...sitting next to a carne asada tostada this time. The food itself was nothing special, but continually squeezing out more of that rich sauce kept the excitement going. I just hope that the bottle that I'm packing into my check-in bag doesn't explode all over my clothes.

Gumbo Jumbo Cajun Fusion, San Jose

Gumbo Jumbo

One very interesting trend that has popped up in parts of the US lately has been Vietnamese-owned Cajun restaurants. This may sound like a very odd cultural clash, but there are eerily coincidental similarities between the two cuisines: they were both influenced by the French, they both depend heavily on rice and chili peppers, and some have even argued that banh mi is not that much different from a po'boy.

It apparently all started with the large Vietnamese population in Houston, which has since spread it out to other Vietnamese centers in the US: Little Saigon in Southern California and of course San Jose up north. And while the Vietnamese enclaves of east San Jose probably would have provided a lot more selection for us tonight, we came to a slightly more upscale one in downtown instead (80 North Market Street, 294-8626).

"Upscale" was pushing it a bit though. If anything, the place was rather tacky-looking, be it in the snot-green crockery or the techno music playing overhead (flashbacks of a nearby French-Vietnamese fusion place could not be avoided). The food was more important though, so we got right down to business by asking for a pound of boiled crawfish, plus some gumbo and blackened catfish.

It turned out better than I would have expected. The crawfish were frustratingly difficult yet fun to eat, the gumbo was thick and hearty, and the catfish was just what I was looking for. So where did the Vietnamese influence come in? Well, the crawfish came with lime and salt/pepper mixes on the side for you to dip into, while the catfish came paired with coconut rice on the side. As out of place as it may have seemed, in many ways it worked, and elevated it all into something that I kinda liked.

Still, none of this was so exciting that I would run back right away, especially since the spicy seasoning that we requested for the crawfish was hardly spicy at all...I was really hoping that the Vietnamese influence would crank up the heat on all of this. And if I were to come back here again, I'll be sure to hold any main course orders until later (my catfish got cold tonight because they brought out main courses before we even made it halfway through the crawfish).

I do want to try heading out to the competitors on the eastside though, as well as maybe the ones down in SoCal next time I'm there. Either way, I'm glad to have found that this seemingly odd pairing of cultures turned out to be less out of place than it initially sounded.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Late Night Post-Drinking Hot Dog

Hot Link

Here was just a late night post-drinking hot dog...or hot link, actually. It was my fault for tossing all of that stuff on top as it made what was already a salty sausage even saltier. But one can't exactly expect Hot Doug's-like dogs in these sorts of situations.

Loch Duart Salmon from Left Bank

Loch Duart Salmon

This was a Scottish salmon dish from a small chain of Bay Area brasseries called Left Bank. The food was fine and tasted like it looked; it was more amusing to me that they snuck in some fava beans underneath (cue: The Silence of the Lambs).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tanglewood, San Jose, CA

Corn Chowder...sans chowder

The dish pictured above might look a bit puzzling, but that's also because it was incomplete. It was Tanglewood's corn chowder, but it was missing the chowder itself, which got poured in by the staff from a kettle afterwards. It turned out to be unexpectedly sweet, although I realized later that was because they used local Brentwood corn.

Anyway, this place (334 Santana Row Suite 1000, 244-0464) was a dressed-up restaurant that leveraged local ingredients. I wasn't a huge fan of the mild sweetness in that corn chowder, but I did enjoy the rich earthiness of the mushroom pasta - perhaps even more than Michael Mina's truffled mac & cheese from the other day.

While my mixed feelings tonight meant that I wouldn't come running back in an instant, there were a number of other items on the menu that I am curious about. Besides, I rushed off tonight and forgot to give that absinthe contraption sitting at the bar a go, so if anything, a return visit just for that is in order.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Simplicity of Arby's Roast Beef

Large Roast Beef Sandwich

As nasty as such processed meat might seem, I can't seem to pry myself away from this stuff. I just love how simple the roast beef sandwiches are: nothing but thin slices of meat on a bun, allowing me to load up on as much Horsey Sauce as I want. I never even bother with anything else on the menu.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Étouffée from Roux Louisiana Kitchen

Crawfish Étouffée

Here's a cup of the crawfish étouffée from Roux down on San Jose's Santana Row (3055 Olin Ave, 249-8000). It was fine, as was the blackened catfish that I picked up for a main course. But at the end of the day, this was in a plasticky shopping center that I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way for...although a return for drink and/or the beignets that I seemed to overlook on the menu tonight is still a possibility. Otherwise, I think I prefer to wait for the next trip to New Orleans.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Artichoke, Beer, and Indian Fry Bread

Artichoke and Beer

I love hitting up weekend festivals in the States - not only for the kickback environs in the warm summer sun, but also because of all of the varieties of food. Granted, much of it consists of the usual fare like kettle corn and tri-tip sandwiches, but today the Almaden Valley Art & Wine Festival was running, and I was ecstatic when I found some stall called Artichoke Enterprises serving its namesake vegetable.

They of course had the simple steamed variety that was available either hot or cold, but they also had some French fried artichoke hearts and even some outrageous versions topped with all sorts of sauce and crab meat. I stayed on the healthier side by sticking to the steamed version, and didn't even bother with that mass-produced ranch dressing that they gave. A couple draft beers went along nicely with this light snack, and I couldn't be happier upon finally reaching the meaty heart at the bottom.

Indian Fry Bread

Unfortunately, I couldn't keep the light theme going, as my eyes had spotted another stall selling something called Indian Fry Bread. At a quick glance, it almost seemed like some kind of naan unattractively topped into a pizza-like form. Only when I looked closer did I realize that "Indian" was not about India, but rather about Native Americans (the store's name was AV Cactus, after all). Yep, this stuff was apparently created a couple of hundred of years ago when the US government provided rations of flour and lard to the Indian reservations. Top it off with beef, beans, and cheese, and it became known as a Navajo taco. This I had to try.

Based on appearances alone, one would think that it looked like nothing more than a Mexican tostada, and honestly, it didn't taste that different. But what was definitely different was the bread underneath. All of the lard used in it gave it a fluffy crumbly consistency akin to buttermilk biscuits, and admittedly I had trouble keeping my hands off of it as a result. How's that for a true taste of America for you?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Michael Mina's Arcadia in San Jose

Foie Gras Sliders

When I heard that Michelin-starred Michael Mina had opened a steakhouse here at the San Jose Marriott (100 West San Carlos Street, 408-278-4555), I definitely wanted to come give it a try. But rather than taking the red meat route tonight, I zoned in on one of his classic dishes instead: the Whole Fried Chicken with Truffled Mac & Cheese. This wasn't battered fried chicken like the Colonel does. This was one whole bird dunked into hot duck fat and peanut oil, eliciting an evil grin on my face.

It turned out to be a delight to eat, especially since I wasn't expecting to find its thin crispy skin subtly separated from the moist meat underneath. In that sense, it was a bit like Peking Duck; in fact, the entire bird was carved tableside too, but was of course served without the scallion and wrapper treatment. Only afterwards did I realize that the skin separation was achieved by inserting sliced truffles under the skin before cooking - I'm quite surprised that I hardly noticed when eating it (too busy wolfing it down, I suppose), but in retrospect it was very fragrant. Either way, the truffle oil aroma was very pronounced in the delicious Mac & Cheese, making it a great extension and complement to it all.

But I was a bit let down by the duck fat fries that were screaming at me from the menu. Similar to my experience at Hot Doug's in Chicago, I didn't quite find any huge difference in aroma resulting from the use of duck fat; it just tasted like normal fries. I wasn't particularly overwhelmed by our appetizers either: a set of foie gras sliders and even lobster corn dogs. As playfully creative as they were, the pear chutney for the foie gras was a bit too sweet for me, while the minced lobster meat inside the little corn dogs wasn't exactly the solid chunk of lobster tail that I had envisioned.

Well, that chicken was definitely worth coming back for. And yeah, a quick taste of the filet mignon proved to be very tender, so I'm sure that the steak after all would be a good choice. As with most of these posh places though, try to come with someone with an expense account. No doubt this place gets a lot of its customers from the nearby businesses in downtown.

$1.50 Hot Dogs from Costco

Costco's Sinai Kosher Polish Sausage

Costco isn't exactly a place that one goes to for good food. Indeed, most of the items available for sale at the snack bar look downright revolting. But the $1.50 hot dog and drink package was something that was always hard for me to refuse, especially considering that it included unlimited drink refills and featured Hebrew National hot dogs and Polish sausages.

At least, it *did* feature Hebrew National way back in the day. Now it looks like they have changed to some Sinai Kosher brand, which I understand to be a result of Costco ditching its old Price Club legacy.

Well, after having slathered deli mustard and onions on top of it all, I couldn't quite taste the difference anyway. I guess I'm just fascinated with cheap hot dogs (not to mention ballpark-style onion dispensers), regardless of how it tasted.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hawgs Seafood Bar, Campbell, CA

Steamed Clams

Not to be confused with Hog Island Oyster Company in San Francisco, Hawgs Seafood Bar claimed to be the "Best Seafood Restaurant in the Silicon Valley." Given my love of simple local seafood, I wanted to give this place a try to see how it stood up to that (1700 West Campbell Avenue, 379-9555).

Of course, being in the 'burbs meant that it was located in that ever-classy and heritage-rich institution known as a strip mall (ugh!). But I was somewhat encouraged by what I saw from the outside: it was an open kitchen with countertop seating and specials listed on a chalkboard, complete with happy hour items. Plus, they had what appeared to be a brew of their own, so we plopped ourselves on down and grabbed pints of their Boars Blonde Ale...exactly what I wanted to kick off a session at a raw seafood bar.

Without even bothering with any main courses, we pretty much spent our entire time bouncing around the appetizers: raw oysters on the half shell, steamed clams, clam chowder, and so on. They were all fresh and exactly what I was looking for, particularly the savory steamed clam broth as well as a rather unique clam chowder that they called Newhattan-style, or a cross of New England and Manhattan styles that tasted much better than it sounded. Unfortunately, the Hawgs Salad was nothing too special, and the ahi sashimi was a yawner, especially when you live in Asia and have been spoiled by what's available in Japan.

Maybe I'd rather hit up places like the Swan Oyster Depot instead, especially how Hawgs' strip mall locale lended it some unattractively plasticky elements rather than any form of character. But I liked the bar service, and the food did the job in the end. More importantly, it certainly saved us the long trek of heading all the way up into the city. With fuel prices the way they are these days, this was a very welcome fallback.

Artichoke from Sonoma Chicken Coop

Wine Grilled Artichoke

This was the Wine Grilled Artichoke from Sonoma Chicken Coop, a group of shops in San Jose that based on the name alone would not have been a place that I would have wanted to go to. But I needed a nearby meal before rushing off to a meeting in the afternoon, so we popped on in for a quick bite. Besides, having artichokes on the menu wasn't going to require much more convincing for me.

The good thing was that I liked what they did with these, as the flame grilling and wine marination gave it an appealing aroma that one doesn't get from more simpler forms of preparation. I also gave their "Roost-tisserie" chicken a try, which turned out to be very tender and juicy. But they put so much of their warm lemon vinaigrette sauce onto it that this thing was literally dripping in olive oil.

So while the food was better than I thought it would be, it was in many ways still the cafeteria-like chain that I had feared in the first place. Frankly, I also worry about getting anything other than the rotisserie chicken here, especially given that pathetically lifeless pizza slice that they puzzlingly tossed onto each plate. But if I'm in a bind again and need something quick, then at least I can take comfort in the fact that this place is far beyond that nasty Swiss Chalet place in Canada.

United's New International Business Class

Continental Breakfast

Yay! I finally got a plane this time with the new international business class seats. And this was definitely leaps and bounds beyond the old one, with a large VOD screen, lie-flat seats with simple controls, and a standard power outlet. It was a bit weird getting a seat facing backwards, and the seat was a bit more cramped than I would have thought, but it turned out alright in the end.

Yes, I prefer this over Air Canada's Executive First Suite and probably even UA's old first class seats too. I am sure that SQ's new super-wide business class has this one beat, but I'm not complaining, especially since United doesn't show a bunch of annoying ads at the beginning of its movies like SQ does.

Food-wise, it was still the same stuff though. And yes, that is Adam Sandler in You Don't Mess With the Zohan that you see in the background (too bad that they weren't serving any hummus on the plane!). Note to self: the HK lounge's shower facility doesn't have toothbrushes, so be sure to grab one from the amenities kit on the plane next time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Refreshing Bowl of Soto Ayam

Soto Ayam

Here's a another bowl of soto ayam from a random hawker in Singapore. I'd never seen the use of diced tomatoes in it before, but I slurped this light yet savory thing up in seconds.

Ah Yat Style Braised Beef on SQ

Cold drunken chicken salad and Ah Yat style braised beef brisket in red wine with vegetables and steamed rice

I'm not sure why it took me so long to realize this, but maybe one of the reasons why I've had so many bad airplane meals out of Hong Kong was simply because I never ordered the Chinese meal. So tonight, I figured that I'd give it a try, even if I really wanted the other meal instead.

Yeah, it made a difference. The cold drunken chicken to start was laced with a fragrant touch of alcohol on top of some pickled Chinese cucumbers, while the "Ah Yat-style braised beef brisket" sat in an easy-going sauce that helped to shovel down the rice on the side. (Presumably Ah Yat refers to the Hong Kong abalone chef, but I'm not quite sure what "Ah Yat-style" entails...can anyone explain?) I could easily envision eating a proper version all of this at a local Cantonese restaurant. Now I know: next time, order the Chinese meal when leaving HK.

Oh - and what a difference a half-loaded plane made too. Getting an entire row to myself in Economy Class let me spread myself out in comfort, while cabin service moved at lightning speed. Sure, it was still the old-school seats, but this experience was much more peaceful than on the flight up. And despite a 35 minute departure delay, somehow our arrival into Singapore was only 10 minutes late. That was a welcome consolation given how this was my third delayed flight (a rarity in Asia in my experience) in a timespan of just over one week.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sole from A. Hereford Beefstouw

Grilled Whole Dover Sole

Finally have I found the will to break free from the chopped sirloin that I usually get at this place. Today I got the grilled whole Dover sole, which was served on the bone but unfortunately just wasn't that satisfying. Sure, it was fresh and had a nice grilled aroma, but next time I'm pretty sure that I'm reverting back to the chopped sirloin, especially since it's 40% cheaper than this HK$335 (US$43) fish.

Lung Kee Noodle, Mongkok, Hong Kong

Spicy Tendon Noodle

I normally pass on tendons. But this place had me thinking otherwise (104D Hak Po Street, 2390-3990). See, I was told by a colleague in passing that there was some famous beef noodle place around here, so I went on a hunt tonight. I wasn't sure what the name of the restaurant was, and there were a million late night noodle shops around here, so it took quite a while to find it. But when I did, I realized that this was that body builder place that Bourdain went to.

No, pictures of ripped dudes on the wall aren't exactly my cup of tea. But if the food was supposed to be good, then so be it. I got some kind of a spicy beef tendon noodle, whose ultra soft tendons didn't even resemble the rubbery things that I've come to dislike, and I wolfed this bowl down with ease, especially with the assistance of some nice firm eggy noodles and a light but spicy broth. The bowl was pretty small though, so I also got a bowl of wonton soup to go with it. This one was good enough to clear quickly too, although somehow I just can't seem to break my affinity for Mak's.

Anyway, this place was a b*tch to find, especially since Hak Po Street isn't exactly a very long nor large enough street to really show up on any maps. So here are the GPS coordinates as best as I could obtain: 22.3167 degrees north by 114.1774 degrees east. They were open until 12:30 AM on this Tuesday night. Don't look for any big restaurant - it was really just a little corner shop with an alleyway for seating.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Street Food in Mongkok, Hong Kong

Some kind of sticky rice and pancakes

This was from a random late night street vendor off the streets of Mongkok here in Hong Kong. The big pile on the right was of course sticky (long grain?) rice, into which she cut up some of those Chinese sausages along with some pickled vegetables to boot. It didn't taste as great as I thought it would though. It was very black-and-white: if you ate some of the pickled vegetables with the rice, it was very salty. If you ate some of the Chinese sausages, it was too sweet and fatty. There was nothing that really pulled it all together. At least it was only HK$11 (US$1.40).

I was, however, much happier with those savory pancake things in the background, which were thrown back onto the grill upon ordering but with some more of those salted veggies before folding it up and cutting it into pieces that you could poke with a wooden dowel. I got much more excited about this grease bomb, which incidentally turned the white blotting paper that it was wrapped in into a clear sheet instead. Nice.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Matthew Moran on SQ Econ Class

Stewed chicken in red wine garnished with pearl onion, sauteed spinach and tagiatelli pasta

I forgot to book my usual Hindu meal on SQ this time, but that turned out to be a good thing as a Matthew Moran creation was featured as one of the options tonight. And I liked it. Sure, the chicken was tough and dry, but I liked the mildly spicy and tangy edge of the red wine stew that was used, so much that it probably would be pretty darned easy to eat when served in a proper restaurant.

Notice the new SQ trays being used here? Unfortunately, that did not necessarily mean a new SQ plane. Yup, once again on this run to Hong Kong, SQ used a plane with old school seats and non-VOD screens. Heck, they didn't even come down the aisle with a standard drink service...instead it was just pre-poured orange juice for you to grab off a tray. I'm sure that was for efficiency purposes on this relatively short flight, but still, it made SQ look like any old boring airline.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mixed Mushroom Risotto from Cedele

Mixed Mushroom Risotto

Here was the mixed mushroom risotto from Cedele. One could argue that it was a tad watery and could have been richer, but at a casual S$16.90 (US$11.50), it did the job.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ever Had Boiling Hot Coke Before?

Hot Coke with Lemon

This was a new one for me. Everyone knows that room temperature Coke is disgusting, and it must be served on ice instead. So it was a bit of an eyebrow-raiser when I saw this on the menu of a local Hong Kong-style dessert cafe here: Hot Coke with Lemon. "Really? That's boiling hot Coke?? Ugh - is that any good??," I asked. Apparently it's used as a remedy up in Hong Kong when you're sick. OK, this one I have to try.

Not surprisingly, all the carbonation was gone, so it was flat. But it was actually much better than I thought it would be, especially with the Cantonese way of overloading hot drinks with lemon slices. It tasted like hot sweetened tea with lemon, and in many ways was similar to the honey lemon tea that one brews to soothe sore throats...although a bit more syrupy and artificial. Indeed, if someone had told me that I was just drinking hot tea without mentioning Coke, I probably would have believed them. OK that was a pleasant surprise. Maybe I'll try the ginger version next time I'm in HK.

Milk-based Fishhead Beehoon

Fishhead Beehoon

Here's a bowl of fishhead beehoon from a random shop here in Singapore, but I think they used milk rather than actually getting the white color out of the bones. Sure, maybe it was cheating, but it did make the broth rich enough to be delightful to drink.

An Assortment of Strong Indian Beer

Indian Beer

Here were a bunch of different brands of Indian beer that I saw at a supermarket in Singapore today. This wasn't exactly Kingfisher...many of these appeared to be malt liquor-like, with some labels that went so far as to proclaim that they were made for men. I didn't actually try these though. Just as I started to grab a couple bottles to bring to the checkout counter, flashbacks of that nasty stuff I tried last month came screaming back to me, prompting me to reconsider.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Nadaman, Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore

Aoi Kaiseki

I've never really liked kaiseki. To me, it was kinda like watching The Piano: I could respect its value as an art form, but gosh - was it boring! Yet we'd been wanting to come down to Nadaman's Singapore branch for quite some time now (22 Orange Grove Road, 6213-4571), mainly because of its fame in Japan. And while they had a la carte menus that looked enticing, I stuck to the kaiseki since that's precisely what they were known for.

So, as expected, out came the pretty little porcelain cups filled with tiny bits of fish and vegetables, none of which was anything to get too aroused about (although that tofu-looking thing in the photo was impressively deceiving...it was actually "walnut mousse" instead). Things got a bit more interesting when a few slices of top-notch sashimi came out, followed by a rich and silky simmered wagyu as well as a sizeable kamameshi pot to close. But those aside, I still couldn't really get too excited about it, and instead found that my head (nose) kept getting distracted by the teppanyaki stations in the corner.

So in the end, my take on kaiseki is still the same. I can understand why it is so respected given the tradition, labor, and quality of ingredients required, but emotionally it just doesn't get me excited enough to justify the high price tag (in tonight's case, S$160 or US$110), especially since I was still hungry afterwards. (By the way, matsutake, which was featured multiple times during tonight's meal, still just tasted like a common mushroom to me.) The a la carte items on Nadaman's menu did look quite enticing though - if someone is willing to foot the bill for a visit to Nadaman again, then at least I've done the kaiseki there already and can thus move on to some of the more interesting things available.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Unlucky on UA Tonight

Grilled sole filet with lemon caper olive sauce, buttered rice, creamy savoy cabbage, sauteed broccoli, and turned pumpkin with apple spiced oatmeal crumble with vanilla sauce

In hindsight, it was really good that I stopped to grab that plate of salmon at the airport tonight, seeing how my flight was delayed by two hours (one of which, mind you, was sitting inside an un-air-conditioned airplane cabin in the stuffy Hong Kong summer heat while we were stuck at the gate). But when we finally did get airborne, this grilled sole dinner came out quickly, and tasted better than its appearance suggested. Too bad that I didn't get one of those planes with the new Business Class seats that United recently sent out to Asia though. Better luck next time.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A New Beer Machine at UA's HK Lounge

United's HK Beer Machine

Whoa - that was new. I had to stop to look again to be sure, but it looks like United has put in a pair of self-service beer taps near the back of its lounge in Hong Kong. It no doubt took a cue from the push-button convenience of their beer machine at Narita, but without the automated tilting and head-topping action that one could only come to expect of a machine in Japan.

It was a bit amusing though in that it only dispensed the beer into tiny little paper cups. If you were fortunate enough to find a glass available next to them, it still didn't fill the already-miniature-sized (and unchilled) glasses all the way up given how it was perfectly measured for the paper cups instead. But at least it was a step up from some of those refrigerated cans of the past.

Caviar House & Prunier, Hong Kong

Scottish Salmon

I probably didn't really need to get this given how dinner is going to be served soon on the plane. But I've noticed these guys at HK airport for a while now and was always curious, especially after also having passed by them at Heathrow not long ago too. Plus, with all of the no-so-healthy-food from the past two days, I gave in to curiosity and sat down at the posh bar today to get a light fix, despite having eaten so much salmon last week already.

It came as a bit of a surprise that these guys were sold out today of the Swiss Balik salmon that they seemed so proud of serving here, so I settled for the Scottish salmon instead. Frankly, I wouldn't know enough to be able to tell the difference between the two anyway. Indeed, the rich yet refreshing taste of this one easily satisfied me, even if the salad on the side was dressed a bit too heavily. Well, at least now I have a reference point should I decide to hit these guys up again next time I swing through HK.

Nga Tim Cafe, Coloane Village, Macau

Caldo Verde plus a Ju Pa Bau in the basket on the right

Coloane Village was a very quiet place, but at least there was this open-air Macanese place (8 Rua Caetano, 2888-2086) next to the Church of St. Francis Xavier to grab a bite at. Many of the usual local dishes were available, including fried clams and African chicken. I went for a few things that I hadn't tried yet though, including caldo verde, a Portuguese vegetable and sausage soup with olive oil, as well as some foil-wrapped baked vegetable dish. Admittedly, neither of them were so exciting that I jumped for joy at them, but I'm sure that many of the other things available here would have been worthwhile.

I also took this chance to grab a ju pa bau, or a local pork chop bun that was nothing more than a small pan-fried pork chop shoved into a roll. It was fine - it was a bit like a Vietnamese banh mi, but without any sauces nor veggies to go along with it. Such simplicity meant that it was very dependent on the pork carrying the bulk of flavor, and apparently locals are quite heated in their debates about which shop makes the best one. I'm not sure if Nga Tim is the right place to get something like this (there was a stall across from Lord Stow's that we probably should have checked out as well), but I did want to try this once before leaving.

Lord Stow's Bakery, Macau

Portuguese Egg Tart

We decided to make a run down to Coloane Village today to check out where the Portuguese egg tart was supposed to have been invented. While these still left a sinister oil stain on your napkin underneath, these buttery things were lighter than Margaret's from yesterday. In that sense, I think I prefer Margaret's over Lord Stow's, precisely because I felt much more guilty about eating the former. I guess that there was some mischievious pleasure in eating something that you knew couldn't be good for you.

Well, if you do come down to Lord Stow's, of course check out the original bakery (1 Rua do Tassara, 2888-2534). But if you walk about 100 yards in either direction, you'll also find the cafe offshoots where you can sit down in air-conditioned and serviced comfort. I couldn't really find much else around the Coloane Village area to make me feel like it was worth the effort to come all the way down here though.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Singapore Noodles from Macau

Singapore Noodles

Here's a plate of Singapore Noodles from a random Cantonese noodle/congee shop in Senado Square called Meng Un (Unit Number 7A, 2832-2538). This thing was pretty darned greasy, but they loaded up on the curry powder, and the shrimp were super firm. I'm still so impressed with how fresh the seafood is in Macau.

Next door was a dessert shop called Leitaria I Son (2857-3638) selling some kind of "double-skin steamed milk" dessert. I'm not sure if I understood what the deal was with this double-skin stuff, as I couldn't see any skin on it at all. But this smooth milk-based pudding of sorts was comforting and refreshing for 16 Patacas (US$2).

Margaret's Cafe e Nata, Macau

Portuguese Egg Tart

Portuguese egg tarts are practically required eating here in Macau, so we came down to Margaret's Cafe e Nata (Gum Loi Building, 2871-0032) to grab what we were told was one of the best around. The crust on these was sinfully rich and flaky, while the custard was much more caramelized than their HK-style counterparts. I'm sure that if you eat more than a few of these, you'll be begging for a nap afterwards.

This shop is a bit hard to find though as it's tucked into a small alley. The geek inside of me wants to give GPS coordinates of 22.1888 degrees north by 113.5472 degrees east to help, but the fact of the matter is that walking into an alley is going to mess up the readings anyway. So it may be best to just walk into Hotel Sintra and ask for directions. Basically exit the hotel, turn left into a northeasterly direction, cross Avenida Infante D. Henrique, and then look for the first alley on your left - there should be a sign pointing in the direction of the cafe too.

Wong Chi Kei Congee & Noodle, Macau

Wanton Mee

As we passed through Senado Square, we stopped at this shop as it was famous for its bamboo noodles (17 Largo do Senado, 2833-1313). I recall these noodles to be tastier than Wing Wah in Hong Kong, although admittedly I haven't eaten enough of either to be really confident in that claim.

Only after getting their business card on the way out did I realize that these guys have expanded into Hong Kong...not only at the airport but also right on Wellington Street near my favorite Mak's Noodle. For some reason, I've still got this perception in my head that nothing can beat the eggy-taste of Mak's. But I'll easily come down to this place as a close second if I need to. Besides, the clear oil-based hot sauce here was a big winner in my books.

Sampling Snacks off the Streets of Macau

Selling Barbequed Meat

There sure is no shortage of snacks here in Macau. As we walked down Rua do Cunha today, we were accosted all around by vendors offering samples of their goodies, including barbequed meat that was reminiscient of Singaporean bak kwa, but oftentimes cut much more thickly. The samples I tried were also a bit less sweet and aromatic than what we can get in Singapore. But there was one variety that was so spicy that I practically started choking on just a little sliver. Just be careful when approaching some of the vendors on the street as many of them walk around with sharp scissors pointed at you.

Handing out almond cookies

Local almond cookies were also often handed out on the streets. Unlike the flatter American version that I had envisioned with an almond on top, these were much stubbier and featured almonds mixed into the cookie dough instead. I think I prefer the American version.

Dried Fish

And while salted dried fish aren't exactly a street snack, it was interesting to see a bunch of shops on Avenida Almeida Ribeiro hanging all sorts of varieties there for your choosing.

Henri's Galley, Macau

African Chicken

Contrary to how it might sound, African Chicken from Portuguese restaurants in Macau is neither African nor Portuguese. It is a local Macanese creation, and we came down to this place (4G Avienda da Republica, 2855-6251) to give their rendition a try. It came out covered in a thick sauce that really wasn't that spicy, but instead consisted heavily of coconut and peanut butter. I had initially envisioned something similar to the Portuguese chicken from South African chain Nando's, but instead we got something reminiscient of Southeast Asia.

Don't get me wrong - the sauce was rich and unique enough that it was a delight to mop up the sauce with some bread on the side, and I'm glad that I tried it. But the savory-inclined, sweetness-aversioned person inside me really wish it were more like Nando's instead.

I did enjoy another one of their specialties though: some Macanese seabass sitting on a bed of grilled tomatoes, onions, potatoes, and bell peppers. These grilled slices of ultra tender fish were a delight to eat, and didn't even require that coconut-y chili sauce on the side thanks to how fresh it was. Between this and the clams from last night, I realize now that fresh seafood is the name of the game in Macau.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Petisqueira, Macau

Fried Clams

This was a completely random selection as we walked through Taipa Village tonight (15 Ruo s. Joao, 2882-5354). Well, this cozy checkered tableclothed venue seemed to be pulling in the crowds. Besides, when in Macau, Portuguese food is a must, right?

We of course had to get some form of bacalhau, and thus went with the bacalhau a escondidinho, where the cod was roasted and served with potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and a heavy dose of olive oil. It was a bit on the salty side, but that I suppose that comes with the territory.

We were probably more impressed with the (stir) fried clams, which were super fresh and drenched in garlic, oil, and chili pepper flakes. Was this considered more Macanese than Portuguese though? Either way, we were glad to have had it, along with all of the other goodies like chorizo and gambas.

The Return Leg on Air Canada

Smoked Salmon in Vodka with Red Onion, Capers, and a Dill Cream Cheese with Cucumber Roll and Mesclun Salad

Here was the appetizer on the return leg today (yep - salmon again). And while this was refreshingly delicious, I couldn't quite say the same about the main course and the breakfast. Come to think of it, I guess I never really cared for Air Canada's meals, but at least the second time around on these narrow herringbone seats was much better. I'm looking forward to seeing how United's new seats stack up to this.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Canadian Drink Roundup

Clamato and Fruitopia in Canada

Finally it's time for a local drink update. Clamato might not necessarily strike one as being anything too unique given its availability in the US. But for some reason, Clamato is a huge thing in Canada - specifically to make a Caesar, or a Bloody Mary but using Clamato instead. I learned the hard way though that Ontario law prohibits the serving of alcohol before 11 AM, so this Caesar had to be virgin. Well, I like Clamato, so I still enjoyed it.

True Blue and VH2OFruitopia, on the other hand, was an interesting one as that brand had died in the US a while ago, and yet it was still very commonly available north of the border. There was nothing too spectacular about the two drinks on the right - they were both fairly light and fruity.

Rickard'sAnd of course we can't forget the beer. There were of course Molson's Canadian as well as Rickard's here in the photo. They were mass-produced, but I didn't mind them that much. I do regret not having spent a bit more time exploring many of the local breweries around here though. There were also a lot of vineyards around, but I'm not much of a wine person. And I wasn't a big fan of all of the ice wines that were commonly served at the end of our dinners this week; they were just way too sweet for me.

Canada's Tim Hortons Doughnuts

Tim Hortons Donuts and Coffee

Our gracious hosts took a lot of pride in introducing us to this seemingly ubiquitous chain of coffee and donut shops across Canada this week. Everywhere you looked, there was a Tim Hortons store. There was always a huge line of people there, and it even had its own lingo (a "double-double" was a coffee with two creams and two sugars, while "timbits" were donut holes). Judging by appearances alone though, it just looked like plain ol' donuts and coffee. Was there really anything that different about these?

Not really...they pretty much tasted just as I figured they would. They certainly weren't bad, but they didn't give me any of the emotional bang that Krispy Kreme or even Cafe Du Monde provided for a morning sugar bomb. Some of my Bostonian colleagues seemed to prefer their beloved Dunkin' Donuts too. I'm sure that Canadians will staunchly disagree; it looks like there's no end in sight for the ongoing Canadian-American rivalry.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Capon Breast, Anyone?

Chardonnay Braised Capon Breast

Capon was being served today after a week of catering at a corporate event. What the heck was capon? It was a castrated rooster, which was supposed to yield some very tender and fatty meat...it sure turned out to be some of the juiciest breast meat I'd ever had. But taste-wise, I couldn't quite detect any huge difference with normal chicken, so I won't exactly be yearning for this again. At least I learned something new, including the fact that it is pronounced KAY-pen rather than like the name of a 1930's gangster.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Changing My Mind About Salmon


Being caught up at a corporate event for the past few days hasn't quite allowed me to get out much around here. But the good thing is that the catering has been surprisingly good, perhaps because they insisted on nothing but local produce and ingredients. I was fortunate enough to be able to catch the local heirloom tomato season while I was at it too.

But the thing that was probably the most eye-opening for me throughout all of this was the salmon. I normally pass on salmon, in part because I was practically force-fed it as a kid and just got so sick of it. But the salmon here has been so rich and fatty that I continued to eat it every day this week, be it in a grilled or smoked form.

Now, I don't know if all of this salmon has been caught here in Toronto or not, but it was still Canadian and hence local to me. I'm having such an unexpectedly good time with all of the fresh seafood and salad around here, and may very well just focus on such items the rest of the way out.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Lick's Homeburgers & Ice Cream, Toronto

From left: Poutine, Lickshake, and Homeburger

A colleague of mine from Toronto recommended this place, noting immediately after suggesting it that she was "really craving a Lick's burger all of a sudden." It has apparently become a bit of a chain around Toronto, but I made sure to come down to the original Queen Street East location, especially since it was in the Beaches on a perfectly nice and sunny day here today.

They had a few healthy choices like salads, Nature Burgers, and some "ultimate" soy option available, but silly-me went straight for what were probably some of the most artery clogging choices on the menu: a "homeburger," poutine, and a milkshake, the last one of which was really more of an afterthought given how they seemed to be doing a brisk ice cream business here too.

It turned out fine, as did the homeburger, even if it was a bit salty. That was probably my fault, as I told them to load everything onto it, including their "Guk!" sauce and a bunch of spicy peppers, which ended up overloading the taste. But the patty was also a bit too lean in my opinion, so I suppose that all of those condiments were needed to compensate for that.

Anyway, the other thing that I was really after here was the poutine, a Canadian creation of French fries topped with brown gravy and cheese curds. I found it very comforting to eat, but I was also a bit disappointed at how similar it was to chili cheese fries, except of course that it used gravy instead (did they use plain cheddar cheese here instead of curds?).

Well, similar to that other discussion about getting Montreal-style bagels in Toronto, I probably couldn't expect anything too outrageous here when there is probably much better poutine to be had in Quebec. Either way, I really owe my cardiovascular system a break now, especially since it just came off that Buffalo Wing Festival from yesterday. Whew!