Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dinner at Hokkaido Dairy Farm Restaurant

Funny how man suddenly crave for a specific sort of food when in despair. The impulse for food comes like a flood and swamps your body, moving your legs to walk in the direction for that restaurant.

That 'food' need not be particularly expensive nor fancily made - in my case, the image which pops up first in my head when i feel like sh*t are usually the simple yet hearty and comforting ones like sandwiches, and stuff. Despite my love for luxury dishes like lobsters and steak, i feel equally satisfied eating local chaa-chan teng foods.

Hokkaido Dairy Restaurant is a place I usually head to when i feel down, the reason being still unknown - is it because of the comforting portion of serving, the taste of the Hokkaido milk, or the general atmosphere of the store(s)? Uncertain it remain. But one thing im pretty sure with is that it definitely serves one of the best - and the most comforting - sandwiches in Hong Kong.

This may not be the best in town but it is most easily accessible, having 3 stores across HK island. That accounts for my presence at the store in this late evening - I just happened to stop by after wandering around my place for like, 15 minutes.

The place was somehow empty when I arrived. Settled on a seat adjacent to the window, I basically could order without having to look at the menu. I came here with a desire to eat something with my claws, and thus sandwiches would be what i have. The only thing that mattered was that whether i was going to order the plain egg sandwich or the more scrumptious, yet more weighty bumper's sandwich, which i heard carries not only eggs but also meat like the Cha Siu and Spam. Doubted, i asked a staff for the answer and she, after glancing me from top to toe, estimating my capacity at eating, banned me as she thought i could only manage half of the monster. Fine - bring me the scrambled egg sandwich, toasted with an extra of $2. A drink was included with the set and i ordered a hot ginger and honey drink (another extra $5 incurred).

[caption id="attachment_216" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Hot Black Ginger and Honey"][/caption]

The wait was brief before my drink came. Dark, opaque with swirling steam, the thing did not look appealing to drink. A sip of it tasted warm and sweet - still a nice drink in the hot summer.

[caption id="attachment_217" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="The wet plate"][/caption]

The staff should have paid more attention to the tidiness of the utilities however, as i find way too many annoying water drops on my cup plate.

[caption id="attachment_218" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="The sandwiches with bouncing bread"][/caption]

Then came the sandwich with bouncing bread - untoasted. I asked for a return and soon after 3 minutes the monster revisited, this time with a tougher shield. My extra $2 was worth the pay as the bread were perfectly toasted, despite a little whiter than what i would usually prefer. It was crunchy on the outside and chewy in the inside, and it had a sweetness of the egg white in it - yum. It wold taste equally great if eaten alone, naked without the butter and stuff.

[caption id="attachment_219" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="monstrous but yummy."][/caption]
The scrambled egg was not as great however as it was slightly overcooked. Folded and wrapped instead of freely scrambled, there were little juice and moist although it tasted okay - a few shakes of pepper would further enhance the flavour however. It tasted best eaten piping hot.

Quickly finishing my meal, the place got louder and louder as more OLs rushed in for dinner. Surprised at the popularity of the place for dinner, and not wanting to occupying the table for too long, i paid and left both physically and spiritually satisfied.

A soul food it is to me, something that will keep pulling me back...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Breakfast - Cheung Heung Yuen

What constitutes a good breakfast? To me, breakfast is the most important meal of the day as it is the first you eat after fasting over the night - thats where the meal gets its name from. Friends who know me well must learn my passion for breakfast - a good one is the prerequisite for a successful, fruitful day which follows.


Now to answer the question the literal way: what IS a good breakfast? For me, the answer is simple: a good cup of drink, my personal preference being a local Lai-Cha, or a nicely pulled latte; plus something simple and heartly, say, a slab of thick, nice and crunchy toast topped with peanut butter and condensed milk, or jam. I dont usually have a bun for breakfast.

That apparently does not apply when i visit Cheung Heung Yuen, one of the very few chaa-chan tengs which serve awfully thin toasts (which i hate) but still i am in love with.

What keeps pull me back is their backyard bakery, which freshly produces a large variety of Hong Kongese bread, sweet and savory, for eat-in and takeaway. I have tried its famous Gai-mei bun with lotus seed paste which was unique and tasty; as well as the red bean paste bun which vaguely resembles the shining sun. This time i want to try something different. Sadly, I was late this morning and not many were left on the big metal baking trays. The coconut bun looked tempting and thus i made my pick, and ate it with an iced lai-cha.



The drink was a little disappointing - it would taste better without the ice which kept melting and diluting the milk tea - a waste it was! Should have ordered it hot despite the boiling 29C summer out there.



The bun had a soft texture and yet was still a little chewy - eating from the outmost rind, the interior of the bun was covered with the seasoned flakes of coconut. It was really tasty and i appreciate how the shape of the bun (layered into circles/rolls) has helped to even out the distribution of the flakes and thus the thing was balanced in flavour, as the usual buns would be stuffed with a lump of oversweetened fillings while the bun on the outside remain bland in taste and dry in texture.


This place makes its own lining papers for its bun too!



Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter! - Easter Afternoon Tea@The Lounge, Four Seasons Hotel, Hong Kong.

We learnt from the magazine that The Lounge@Four Seasons Hotel would be offering an Easter afternoon tea set which includes not only the afternoon tea tower as well as a tableful of festive snacks and smallbites, including the extremely cute-looking Lemoncello cake in the shape of chicks and the macaroon with the bunny's ears. Who could have resisted such nicely shaped and made sweets? So we went, despite not being able to make any reservations in advance for they accept only walk-in reservations. It was pure luck that we could reserve a table when we arrived at 2:15, and the waitress said she would give us a call when everything was ready.

After a stride around IFC mall we received the call at 2:45, as promised. The place was already half-full when we arrived, with the biggest crowd being around the supply table. No wonder - the table was covered with a rich variety of nicely crafted (and mouth-watering too!) sweets, including the nicely crafted chicken cakes, macaroons, and many more!

The table would not be opened until 3pm and before that we need to decide what tea we were to have. It was a difficult one to make as numerous choices were available. I kinda regret not ordering a latte but the ginger peach tea as i felt kinda drained of energy in the lazy afternoon. The tea was okay too, being full-bodied with the natural sweetness and aroma of the peach and a light hint of gingery spiciness - perfect to sip with the afternoon tea.

It took time for the afternoon tea tower to be ready and we quickly sneaked out to help ourselves with the snacks and sweets. Everyone started digging in at three o'clock sharp and we had a hard time struggling to get a spoonful here and something there. Replenishment was quick, to our relief, and emptied plates were quickly re-filled with the beautiful chick cakes and rabbit-shaped macaroons.I basically tried to sample with what looked good to me - pardon my greediness!

The Pan D' Oro and Raisin Pudding(right) and the Black Cherry and Almond Crumble(left) might not be as attractive in appearance as the other delicies, yet both tasted heavenly.
The bread pudding was quite smooth to taste, so rich and you could still detect the sweetness of butter on the slices of bread, now softened and melted after soaking up the egg pudding mixture. The bread were nicely arranged and the exposed top of the slices were baked till crunchy, yet not overburnt - it was just alright. The thick vanilla sauce was much appreciated too - had a hard time pouring out from the tall jug but it had a rich taste of the natural vanilla and went very well with the soft bread pudding.

The Black Cherry and Almond Crumble surprised me. Not being a fan of cherries, the crumble was extremely tasty nonetheless. With the whole cherries cooked in syrup in the base and large crumbles and crushed almonds on the top, the dessert had two contrasting yet nicely balanced texture and flavour. The cherries were soft and the crumbles were VERY fresh and crunchy. It tasted good of maple syrup and yellow sugar and i love their coarseness. Both baked desserts were so good that i actually helped myself to a second (and large) serve to both! :)

The Classic Tiramisu was served in tall glasses and was a popular item - was it because of the dessert or the Easter egg on top of the glass cup? Anyway, it was a truly authentic interpretation of the 'classic' Italian dessert - at least the original ingredients were used. Ladyfingers were used instead of the horrifying spongecake; mascarpone cheese and egg yolks were clearly used. The crumbs of toast on top were crunchy; there could have been more cocoa powder but the taste of the dessert itself was really nice. It was fresh as the ladyfingers were still crunchy, contrasting with the softness of the cheese. It was really nice - the only thing i got to complain would perhaps be the lack of liquor (an adaptation to suit the taste of the children in an Easter's festive meal?)

Another popular item on the supply table got to be this cute little chicken, in fact a Lemoncello cake. It was the focal of the various cameras flashing and flicking before the supply table was opened. Luckily the plate was soon replenished that i could secure myself one of this, despite being so careless in cracking the crust of it. My bad! The chick was made of crushed spongecake and marzipan - the recipe(click for the recipe) was attached in a weekly magazine two weeks ago - and it was quite nicely crafted, despite not being very tasty. A little oversweetened it was. It was also a waste how many customers actually took the chick just for photo-snaping instead of eating and i saw numerous of it being sent away and dumped. :< Why take if you dont want it?

There was also the Granny Smith macaroon with the bunny's ear. How cute! Even the coolest person would not be able to hold back but smile at the cute little thing - imagine a bunny hiding itself in the bush, exposing only its long ears - how imaginative and thoughtful of the chef! It tasted good too, with the common issue with macaroons being the unbearable sweetness, this one in front of me was moderate and, as a matter of fact, it tasted quite refreshing due to the thin and crunchy green apple strips between the two layers and its sourness balanced the heaviness of the greenapple cream sandwiched between. The macaroon itself had a thin and crunchy crust, and the interior was moist, however not sticky to the teeth - a nicely made macaroon for god knows how hard it was to make one with such high standard! The bunny's ears and the bush were also edible - being made from marzipan - and i happily ate the whole thing within 2 bites, not wanting to waste any of it as a way of showing my appreciation and respect for the chef - people who took it and leave it on the plates and stuff were not doing justice to him and his artwork, and for this i condemn and despise.

Next was the French pastries on the silver tray...being petite in bite-size, i could try a round of everything without stuffing myself to death. There were six cute little snacks, 3 being made of chocolate. I ate according to the intensity of the flavour and thus started with the lightest pear tartlet (the green little one).

Being a fan of light and refreshing tartlets, the pear tartlet was definitely my cup of tea. There were two layers in the tartlet, with pear compote filling the top of the more intense base, ultimately laid on a thin later of pastry. Light and refreshing - perfect to eat in an early summer afternoon like this!

My personal favourite among the six got to be the Lemon tartlet on rice crispies. The lemon meringue was shaped into an oval and its light crust cracked as i bit into it, and the runny meringue came rushing out. Perfectly sour it was, the soft cream was appropriate balanced by the extra-crunchy rice crispies. :)

The chestnut Millie Feuille was relatively speaking too heavy; the chestnut cream was too intense and i struggled to finish it.

The chocolate mousse on the stick (resembling an ice stick) was good, with bits of crunchy hazelnut in the silk-smooth chocolate mousse. It was also handy to eat with the tiny little woodstick (which also made it super-cute on appearance).

The chocolate brownie was really dry and tasteless, to my disappointment, and the biggest disappointment got to be the chocolate truffle nicely decored with a bright-red raspberry. The truffle was just too much for me - it was intensely chocolatious and was too sweet to finish. :(

I also attempted to finish the Carrot cake so nicely decored with icying sugars being shaped into tiny little carrot sticks. It looked good and tasted good too, and the cake had just the right moisture and texture - not too rich but you could smell the rich taste and aroma of the carrot, which was said to be the same as what's used in Caprice. :)

The trilayered afternoon tea tower swiftly came as we were so busily indulging ourselves in the arrays of sweet-and-cute Easter festive snacks....

Top deck: the sweet bites of panna cotta, pineapple puff, cheesecake on thin pastries, and (again!)  strawberry macaroons.

Middle: of course, there were the plain and raisin scones. They were quite big in portion and it was beyond my ability to finish two on my own! It was a pity to waste as they were, indeed, very nicely baked. They were of the appropriate moisture and texture; not too flaky when cut open, and the crust was the best to taste. What you should not skip is the clotted cream scooped to form an enlongated oval shape; although fattening, they certainly tasted good. Two jams were available - the sweeter raspberry compote and the sourer but refreshing apricot jam. Both were equally tasty. What a pity that i did not have a bottomless stomach to fill!

Lower deck: the savoury bites. Apart from the classic finger sandwiches, there were also the egg salad on English muffin, smoked salmon in puff pastry, onion and egg quiche and the parma ham roll.

Traditionally speaking the lowest deck of savoury bites should be first eaten, followed by the scones and lastly the sweet snacks and bites on the top deck. So we obliged...

First: a round of the fingersnacks. My favourite among the four was the egg salad on English muffin as there were the right amount of mayo which mixed perfectly with the cubes of egg white. A dash of fish roe further enhanced the flavour, and the muffin base was lightly toasted and so lovely - it reminded me of the Egg Benedict, another personal favourite of mine for brunch, lunch or dinner.
The puff pastry was stuffed with smoked salmon and was tasty; the onion and egg quiche was also good, with the onion so finely chopped and mixed in the egg custard on the ultra-thin crust, although i would personally prefer a thicker and yet more crunchy pastry.

The parma ham roll was given an Asian twist - being poked through with two thin bamboo sticks - and yet it tasted 'Italian' with the flakes of parma ham rolled between two savoury crepes. Nice! :)

The finger sandwiches were the most classic component of an authentic English afternoon tea set. The ingredients have hardly changed over the decades, and you can always expect to find smoked salmon sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches or simple ham sandwiches. The bread are somehow dry and bland in taste which was a huge disappointment, but the smoked salmon between the wholewheat bread is where the focus should be on. The sandwiches were of the size of mahjongs so that it could be finished neatly within one bite.

And finally the top deck of sweet delicies. We were almost full after stuffing ourselves with the festive snacks on the supply table we enthusiastically helped ourselves, we had to almost struggle to finish the sweet bites on the toppest dish. They were good tho; its just that we were way too full!

First was the cheesecake mousse on puff pastry; this was one of the most unorthodox way of dealing with the classic and simple recipe of cream cheese, vanilla mousse and custard. The creamcheese was made into a lighter mousse like dome, on top of which rested a richer cake of vanilla mousse, and the vanilla seeds were visible - and it was indeed rich in vanilla and, as the creamcheese mousse was relatively speaking lighter, the petite snack was not too heavy to finish. Together with the thin and crispy puff pastry, it could easily be done within one bite.

Second was the funny-looking pineapple puff pastry. It sorta resembled a pineapple bun - something signature of Hong Kong - and the pineapple custard just rushed out when i lightly bit into the puff. The custard was light and refreshing, but i dislike the thin but hard layer of 'card' on top of the puff.

Last was the bright-red strawberry macaroon. A brother to the Granny Smith Macaroon on the supply table, this french snack was equally good, although in a different way. The green apple macaroon was special because of the thin stripes of green apple in between the layers, giving it a crispy, fresh and organic sweetness and texture; you do not find fresh fruits but a thick and sweet strawberry compote in this one. It would be unbearable heavy and sweet had it been as big as its green brother, but due to its reduced size i was able to handle the macaroon with jam, which was indeed, very tasty.

There were other snacks on the supply table which i did not try but i think they were worth given a credit here: there was this Seasonal Fruit Salad, and the Blueberry Floating Island, and the Easter Festive Hot Chocolate Drink with Vanilla Mashmallow, the Easter Cross Buns, and of course, the Easter chocolates! Kids would certainly be excited by the sight of the colourful spread of snacks in front of them which they could just freely help themselves to! :)

We ate slowly until five o-clock. Several tables had been turned and new customers had been coming. What a luck that we had managed to come over by two something to secure a table by three! The lounge was a truly comfortable place to sit, rest, chat and of course, eat, but something i found annoying was the waiteress and waiters who kept chatting and gossiping when they walked around. Their service was okay, and my teacup was constantly re-filled and plates changed on a regular basis, but it would be better if they could keep their voice lower - customers come here for a relaxing afternoon, not a noisy one.

The afternoon tea set plus buffet costed us a good fortune of $265 per head (+10%) - a luxury indeed! However, given the high quality of handicraft and taste of the snacks, the relaxing environment, the happiness that the cute-looking festive snacks had managed to give you - it was worth the pay. Afterall, grown-ups do not get that much of chance in which they could indulge themselves in pure happiness and joy just with the sight of cute cakes and sweets, and forget about the worries in their lives - somewhat escapist, but this Easter afternoon tea had truly been a therapeutical one.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

JAR (Just A Restaurant) - Just a lil' Hotter

早已是芝士魔的我,早前在一期以芝士為專題的雜誌中,注意到jar(just a restauant)的存在:之後也在其他途徑知道這裡午餐有做semi-buffet set lunch,晚市的menu也好像很對口味,所以一直都想來試試:之前想來吃午餐但訂不到位,這晚,終於到可以訂到枱,可以來吃吃看看了.:)

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