Epoch Coffee Bar & Desserterie on Star Street

There are 2 Epoch Coffee Bar & Desserterie’s – 1 in Taikoo Shing and another on Star Street, next to Yomama. (Speaking of Yomama, Siuyeh heard there’ll be a new location in IFC2 soon. Woohoo!). The one I’m blogging about is the branch in Wanchai, which apparently is a popular location amongst local film directors & screenplay writers (famous and not-so-famous) looking for inspiration to their next project(s). I once saw Alfred Cheung Kin-Ting (張堅庭) there so I guess what people say is true. I wonder why it is so inspirational. Is it the quiet neighbourhood of the Star Street Precinct? Or is the the music area equipped with professional sound system with “hard-to-find Chill Out, Lounge and Nu Jazz CD’s hand-picked by DJ Preston”?

Anyway, Epoch brews some pretty decent coffee but something else Epoch is known for is Tracy Tsui Sim Kwok, who works in the Taikoo Shing branch. She was the winner of the Hong Kong Grand Barista Championship and represented our city as 1 of only 2 International GBC Finalists in the Danes Grand Barista Championship 2009 about 2 weeks ago.

Here’s an excerpt from the official website:

Although Tracy didn’t manage this year a top three placing, her latte art and table settings were scored very highly by judges and amongst the best.  Tracy had a great following in Sydney, all travelled from Hong Kong and they get my personal award ‘ best cheer squad ‘.  Sitting in the front row, Tracy’s cheer squad roared with support as Tracy entered the stage and finished her session.  ‘Tracy, you did a magnificent job, I am personally very proud of you as I believe are your colleagues and the rest of Hong Kong Barista fraternity!  You’re a different barista from the experience of the HK GBC and now Australasia GBC; you’re the HK Grand Barista and I believe a role model for other baristas to aspire to in the profession of a barista ‘.  Please everybody send Tracy a note of congrats; she’s done HK proud!

So congrats again on a great performance!

Anyway, I dropped by for lunch the other day, so I thought maybe I’d do a write-up. Unfortunately, I’m not much a coffee drinker but I do drink cappuccino so viola! Epoch’s illy cappuccino. Good size; neither too little or too much – perfect for taking a few small sips. It is slightly leaning towards a chocolately aroma (with a hint of nuttiness fragrance), which I suppose is what makes a cup of cappuccino – also the reason I like it.

Cappuccino at Epoch

Cappuccino at Epoch

Almond Brownie at Epoch on Star Street

Almond Brownie at Epoch on Star Street

We had an almond brownie to go with our coffee, but it tasted a little stale as if its been sitting inside the jar for a little longer than it should’ve. So after a small bite, I had move swiftly on to the “pizza”. Nothing beats Mrs. Field’s 3 Chocolate Brownies.

Deluxe Pizza (on Panini Bread) at Epoch on Star Street

Deluxe Pizza (on Panini Bread) at Epoch on Star Street

I was expecting a traditional (round) pizza so imagine my astonishment when this came. Then I look at the menu on the wall again, and they did in fact print very clearly and in parenthesis “Pizza (On Panini Bread)” or something along those lines. How did I miss it?! It wasn’t even fine print. But no matter, because I love Panini bread so this was a good experience to try a pizza on Panini bread … or Panini with melted cheese, pepperoni and pepper strips, depending on how you look at it.

The bread itself was still a little spongy, so in a way the texture felt like soft thick-crust pizza from Pizza Hut, only the crust wasn’t as crunchy. I guess I prefer the standard pizza better. And after this, I realized I only really like Panani bread if was oven toasted and squashed, like the Chicken Pesto Panini we had afterwards.

Chicken Pesto Panini at Epoch on Star Street

Chicken Pesto Panini at Epoch on Star Street

Here, the pesto sauce was tasty enough, but the chicken was a little tough and a little too dry. Too dry in fact that even the melted mozzarella (or was it provolone?) cheese couldn’t really help. The grill Panani bread was good though!

Will I go back? Yes, I’d go back for drinks and coffee. The atmosphere and environment is definitely superb for a nice Sunday coffee with your favorite novel.

Siu Yeh Rating: 6.5/10 for food, 8/10 for coffee

Note: Photos taken with a BlackBerry Curve 8900.

Epoch Coffee Bar & Desserterie
12-14 Wing Fung Street
Star Street Precinct, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 3525 1570
Website: www dot epochcoffeebar dot com

What is Hong Kong People Lining Up for Today?

Hong Kong folks have this thing about queuing up for everything and anything that there’s a queue for. If there’s no line, then there’s “NO DEMAND”! And clearly, such simple economic theory will not elude even the average Honkie. This is arguably, one of Hong Kong’s favorite passtime! We love to do it … yet, ironically and hypocritically, we complain about it. I always see old grannies lining up for something and they say to themselves “Why do so many people line up for these things … don’t they have better things to do?!” … and there she is, lining up herself. lol … I love it … really I do!

Queue in Wanchai near the Computer Mall

Queue in Wanchai near the Computer Mall

If you think about it, over 90% of the line-up on the streets have (something) to do with food & drinks! Here are a couple examples:

  • Queue at McDonald’s when they offer Hello Kitty or Snoopy toys with their Happy Meals (a set of 30 or sth like that, all of which you’ll have to collect … and for limited time only! And then they end up sitting in a role on top of your TV set or on the dashboard of a delivery truck or van or sth) … Stereotype to the max!
  • Queue on the streets for freebies such as Pocari, Nescafe Milk Tea 3-in-1 packs, Red Bulls … what else?
  • Queue at popular restaurants (i.e. Australia Milk Company) and trendy clubs (Need I elaborate?) … Clubs you ask?! Drinks I say. Hey, that falls into this category too.

The other 10% is for:

  • Season sale at major labels and brand names
  • IPO’s (pre-Financial Tsunami days, think: Alibaba, Tianjin Port, etc.)

No, tissues don’t count because there’s no line-up for those … people just aim for the guy passing them out, get it and leave. Turnover is quick.

So, in this new column of “What is Hong Kong People Lining Up for Today”, we have …

Brands Chicken Essence!

Brands Chicken Essence!

Brand’s Chicken Essence! I’m not a big fan of chicken essence … to make things worse, their marketing campaign is to have you consume it cold. “雪冻黎飲, 精神嗮!” Gross!

No thank you … I already have trouble comsuming it hot.

Yomama So Fat, She …

… sorry, I just had to do it. Lame, I know. The name was just begging me to do it. But its good branding, no? Its sticky. “Let’s go to … Yomama!” … “Umm … What d’you call me?!”

I have to say though, I wasn’t a big fan of yoghurt ice cream. I love the plain old rich and milky-type of ice cream (i.e. Haagen Dazs, Ben & Jerry’s, Movenpick, etc.) and when I went to Yomama for the first time a couple weeks ago, I had the Green Tea flavour (regular size) with Nata De Coco toppings and didn’t think too much of it. I don’t usually eat yoghurt, especially not the ones that’s a bit sour and there’s a hint of that in this ice cream. Coupled with Green Tea (that is, Sour Green Tea now) flavour, I thought its a little weird. It wasn’t a bad experience though.

Yo Mama Frozen Yoghurts - 2 Flavours so far ...

Yo Mama Frozen Yoghurts - 2 Flavours so far ...

Toppings & Condiments at Yo Mama 1

Toppings & Condiments at Yo Mama 1

Toppings & Condiments at Yo Mama 2

Toppings & Condiments at Yo Mama 2

Then, I went there again last night and this time, I had the original flavour (Vanilla) and with 2 toppings: Nata De Coco (sorry, I love that stuff) and Mango. Not very adventurous … I know, but I already like it a little more.

Original Flavour + Fresh Strawberries + Mochi (Left) & Original Flavour + Fresh Mango + Nata de Coco (Right)

Original Flavour + Fresh Strawberries + Mochi (Left) & Original Flavour + Fresh Mango + Nata de Coco (Right)

Yomama’s got a bit of a cult following I think. I know people who would go there at least once a week and nephews of a good friend of mine go there every night after dinner. So I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like it as much as most people do because I’ve been ordering the wrong combo. Next time, I should just pile it on and get like 8 toppings … or perhaps try their recommended combo (picture below):

Customer Fave-futt

Customer Fave-futt

Hmm … Shaved Chocolate, Coco Pops, Oreos, Granola & Chocolate Syrup. It’ll be a large size and I’ll probably add some more M&M’s, Mochi & Nata De Coco on top of what they’ve suggested. Then I’ll take out a MARS bar that I’ll have brought with me and shove it in. Dinner is served. I shall call it, *drum roll* … The Siu Yeh Boogie.

Note: Photos taken with a Blackberry Curve 8900

Siu Yeh Rating: 7/10 and increasing

Yo Mama
16 Wing Fung Street
Wanchai, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2865 5600
Fax: +852 2865 5700

Wine Overload at One Harbour Road

How it all began … I lost a bet to a buddy of mine in badminton and the stake was: loser has to treat the winner to a fairly decent bottle of wine valued at no more than HK$ 1,500 to be savored with a group of friends. Ouch! Luckily for me, the event somehow turned out to be “everyone just bring a nice bottle of wine to dinner and we’ll all have it together”. Nice! No complaints there 🙂

The only problem was, we needed to find a restaurant where they won’t charge us corkage. We had 4 bottles (1 champagne and 3 reds) so corkage fee would’ve easily set us back HK$ 1,000+! Fortunately, my buddy Nick – the same guy I lost to in the bet (here’s your shout out btw) – knows the manager at One Harbour Road very well and the extra fees were waived. And that’s how it all started; great wine paired with great Chinese cuisine at One Harbour Road.

It was my first time there but the decor and ambiance reminds me a little bit like The Square (翠玉軒). Both are dimly-lit Cantonese restaurants (in fact, almost too dim for a Cantonese restaurant. I like them bright, loud and vibrant!), but One Harbour Road has an extraordinary view of Central and TST to brag about (See really bad photos below).

View of Central ... sort of

View of Central ... sort of

Well, if it wasn’t for the fogged up floor-to-ceiling windows … it would’ve been a pretty spectacular view of Central.

View from our Table at One Harbour Road

View from our Table at One Harbour Road

And here’s a view of TST.

In terms of food, I also find the 2 restaurants to be very similar as well. Maybe The Square is a little more creative with their dishes. I remember having a Spare Ribs with Strawberry Sauce and Strawberry Pocky (?!) the last time I was there. And then there’s the Fried Tiger Prawn with Orange Sauce. Maybe that’s why it was recently awarded a Michelin star? And they claim not to use any MSG in their food, which I think is true.

Anyway, I digress. So we started the night with a bottle of Krug … and normally, I would at least describe the champagne a little … but the champagne (as good as it was) was only to get us started while the other 3 bottles (the main attractions!) were being poured into decanters for breathing. They were, in the order we had them:

1990 Dominus Estate (USA, California, Napa Valley)
1995 Château La Mission Haut-Brion (France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan)
1986 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac)

3 of the best wines I've had ... so far

3 of the best wines I've had ... so far

BREATH BABY BREATH!!!

BREATH BABY BREATH!!!

It definitely helped that we had Albert from Sparkz school us about the different make, history and characteristics of each wine. Just from taking a sniff from each empty bottle, he was able to tell which wine we can drink first and which needed a little more time breathing. Amazing.

Over in the food department, we started the night with some extremely juicy and flavourful cha siu that was fresh off the oven. The sweetness from the honey and caramelized fat balanced out the saltiness from the soy sauce, not to mention how tender the meat was. This was definitely one of the best cha siu’s I’ve had in a while (the other really good cha siu experience I’ve had was at Tao Yuan 陶源 Seafood Restaurant in Wanchai). In retrospect, I wish I had saved a few pieces to go with Dominus we were about to have. But I was too hungry and couldn’t wait until the wine is ready.

The already-half-full plate of CHA SIU!!!

The already-half-full plate of CHA SIU!!!

And here enters the first star of the night: Dominus from Napa. We gave it about 30-45 minutes before we started drinking the first sip. By then it was still slightly premature, but all of us were anticipating the uphill hike to the moment when the wine would fully open up. And when it did, I was totally loving it. The color was a deep red, incredibly complex for a Napa wine, (almost Chateau-like, but no surprise there since the owner Christian Moueix also owns Petrus, which you’ve probably heard of) very fine and smooth with berry, black currant and earthy flavours. It probably took about another 30 minutes before it was completely ready. Part of the joy in drinking wine is the process of anticipating the opening-up of wine. You keep asking yourself “When is it going to reach its peak?”

Meanwhile, we had a Chicken, Pear and Snow Fungus (雪耳) Soup, which was a really smooth and hearty soup. It was pretty thick from the snow fungus and it lined the throat with a layer of all the nutrients from the pear and snow fungus, which has a soothing effect (润). HIGHLY recommended for those of you who has a sore throat from fried food or from a long night of karaoke. If it wasn’t for all the wine that we’ll be drinking, I think I would’ve had another bowl.

Chicken, Pear and Snow Fungus (雪耳) Soup

Chicken, Pear and Snow Fungus (雪耳) Soup

Anyway, while we were still waiting for the Dominus to continue breathing, the server had already poured our second red for the night, which was the 1995 Château La Mission Haut-Brion from Pessac-Léognan. Again, I took a sip just to see whether it was ready or not and it was still far from opening up. So all of us were swirling the glass like mad, hoping that the catalyst (air) would speed up the process.

The Haut-Brion thats also taking its time breathing ...

The Haut-Brion thats also taking its time breathing ...

But the mystery surrounding wine is, you never quite know when the time comes when it is ready or not. When you think its ready, the wine can get even better or it can go south pretty quickly, so what would you do?

Well, you can’t do much about it … so we ate some more and took little sips just to make sure our wine was still on the right track.

Crispy Chicken (炸子鸡)

Crispy Chicken (炸子鸡)

This is the Crispy Chicken (炸子鸡) which was almost identical to the one served at The Square. The layer of fried chicken skin was past-golden yellow, very crispy and very thin (very important) while the meat inside wasn’t dry as all and still retained its juiciness, but it was fully cooked … a sign that the dish was cooked just right.

Choi Sum (or was it Asparagus?) with Beef

Choi Sum (or was it Asparagus?) with Beef

Then there’s the beef and tofu dish.

All the while, everyone on the table kept swirling and swirling …

Braised Tofu with Bak Choy

Braised Tofu with Bak Choy

Braised eggplant and minced beef pot. Its the ultimate dish to go with steamed rice!

Braised Eggplant with Minced Beef in Pot

Braised Eggplant with Minced Beef in Pot

None of the food we ordered were really “heavy” per se, but each dish has very intense flavours (especially the eggplant pot) that, I think, really complements the wines we were having.

And then we kept swirling some more until finally … the Haut-Brion is ready! By now, I was pretty much done with the Dominus, which I thought was the best wine I’ve ever had. But that was until I tried the La Mission Haut-Brion again and that sent my senses off the charts. What was a very acidic / tannicky (?) wine 10-15 minutes ago is now an incredibly intense and smooth wine. Very fragrant dark berries scent. It just goes down really easy and the after taste that lingers was equally as elegant.

Then came the last of the 3 – a 1986 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, which after around 3 hours of decanting, is finally opening up too. Now it was a race to to savour both the Haut-Brion and Pichon Baron at the same time! The latter was opening up really quickly, almost like a spike … the fruit was still there in abundance, but the acidity is gone which is great. Like the Haut-Brion, it has a really long finish …

Just as I remembered there was still a quarter glass of Haut-Brion left, I took a sip and it was dead 😦 I almost felt like crying because thats probably like a couple hundred bucks there. My first time juggling so many different types of wine at once but it turned out to be a pretty fun experience.

In the end, I thought the dishes where nothing fancy (i.e. simple dishes), but they were really well cooked and goes very well with the wine. Until I try an ’82 Lafite-Rothschild, I think I’m pretty damn satisfied with what we had here!

Siu Yeh Rating: 9/10 for the restaurant, 10/10 for the wines!

One Harbour Road
7/F. & 8/F., Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
1 Habour Road
Wanchai, Hong Kong

18 Brook Cantonese Cuisine (十八溪粵菜館)

There are quite a few “All You Can Eat” hotpot places in town. I still remember when I was in highschool … back in the day when quality means less to me than quantity, my buddies and I would go to Hei Yuet Hotpot Seafood Restaurant (喜悅火鍋海鮮酒家) for HK$ 98 all-you-can-eat-AND-DRINK (!!!) hotpots. Can you imagine what a table of 10 pubescent boys can do to a business when there’s an endless supply of food and beer? We were their worst nightmare. Granted, they served some unknown “German” beer … which probably cost like HK$1 per can. I can never quite understand how a business model like that would work in HK, but apparently, it works for a few places. I try not to think too much about where they get their food though.

Last time I walked past Hei Yuet, I think I saw “HK$ 88” for the same deal. Probably a “Tsunami Price”. Lucky for them, my buddies and I are more concerned about our weight now … and we do appreciate good quality over quantity.

So where do you go when you want all-you-can-eat in Hong Kong but decent food? 18 Brook Cantonese Cuisine at the Renaissance Harbour View Hotel in Wanchai. For HK$ 188 + 10%, you get all you can eat hotpot (drinks are extra and that’s where they kill you on the margin). They give you a “complimentary” shark’s fin soup … which really is shark’s fin, but of lower (very low) quality, of course (see picture below).

Sharks Fin at 18 Brooks

Sharks Fin at 18 Brooks

You each get a pot to yourself (nothing new there), which is basically shabu shabu … you choose your soup base from around 10 options … and order whatever you want …

Shabu Shabu at 18 Brooks

Shabu Shabu at 18 Brooks

I just realized there isn’t much to talk about for hotpot. Their stuff is just really fresh (well, fresher than most places).

The End.

All You Can Eat Hotpot for HK$188

All You Can Eat Hotpot for HK$188

Not. Hahah …

Actually, it was a friend’s birthday that night and the lady who served us said we’ll get complimentary dessert as well as Sou Bao (壽包), which roughly translate into “longevity buns”. They’re white and pink and are shaped like a peach, but within, it usually contains really sweet lotus seed paste and egg yolk. Anyway, we did get our complimentary dessert, but it turned out we were charged for the buns too! Not that they cost much, but it just wasn’t right how they said its free, but ended up charging us. Maybe we ate too much.

While I wouldn’t compare this to Fong Wing Kee  in Kowloon City or Po Po Gourmet Hot Pot (寶哥味館) in Happy Valley, the quality of the food they serve is, I believe, above average compared to most other hotpot restaurants in the city.

Eighteen Brook Cantonese Cuisine
8/F., Convention Plaza
1 Harbour Road, Wanchai
Hong Kong
灣仔港灣道1號萬麗海景酒店8樓
Tel: +852 2827 8802

Fat Burger Finally Opening in Hong Kong?

After what seems like more than 9 months with at the QRE Plaza with signage that says “Fat Burger: Coming Soon” (or something to that effect), I thought it was never going to happen. I thought maybe the burger chain got into some bad disputes with the building owner even before they started operating. But now, the boards are gone and now you can finally see that something really is getting done inside!

I’ve had Fat Burger about 5 times at the Venetian in Macau and their quality has always been fairly consistent. Definitely not bad, but nothing fancy.

Fat Burger to Open Soon in Hong Kong?

Fat Burger to Open Soon in Hong Kong?

Especially with the burger craze in Hong Kong in the last couple of years, we’ve seen burger joints such as Duke’s Burger, Burger Republic, Atomic Patty, Shake ’em Buns to just name a few. Fat Burger will be having a tough time competing … and the economy’s not helping either.

Don’t you worry, I will pay you a visit.

Fat Burger
QRE Plaza, Wanchai
(Opposite Hopewell Centre)

Louis Steak House

In general, I think there are 2 camps of “steak houses” in Hong Kong. There’s the “authentic steak house” such as The Steak House at InterCon, Ruth’s Chris and The Mandarin Grill, etc. Then there’s the old-school local steak restaurants, such as Boston Restaurant (波士頓餐廳), and a few others that serve steak on a hot black metal plate where servers pour a copious amount of sauce on the steak and let it “simmer” in front of you (usually, your napkin is then used as a curtain to prevent all the sauce from flying all over the place and leaving a stain on your clothings)

Needless to say, the quality of the beef used in the second type of steak houses is usually sub-par and is known to be prepared with baking soda to make the meat a little more tender. That said however, local steak restaurants have a long history of culture and “style” so we can’t (or I can’t) draw comparisons between the two, because I’ll be comparing apples to oranges. Basically, some people like the first type and some like the second type.

I guess what it all actually boils down to is: Do you like to pour sauce (i.e. black pepper sauce or mushroom sauce, etc.) on your steak?

Anyway, I visited Louis Steak House recently (one of my dad’s favorite restaurants) and this steak house in particular, falls somewhere in the middle of the two camps I just mentioned, perhaps leaning a little towards the authentic steak houses. They meat is served very well, grilled … but if you want, they can prepare a sauce for you too.

This upscale local steak house has a long history (been around for more than 20 years I think!) and their decor and atmosphere has pretty much been the same in the last 2 decades. The decor is a very 1980’s Western restaurant with red and white checkered table cloth and a one-man band playing really cheesy songs from the Beatles, Elvis and hit songs from that era.

Most of the items on the menu are pretty good. In particular, all of their steaks, their fresh oysters, seafood soup, garlic bread, and their fish maw (花膠) … what’s not good, as we’ve recently discovered is their baked seafood rice. This is what we had:

The chefs are very creative in their food … in the traditional sense. Don’t expect them to come up with some new-age Bo Innovation X Wasabisabi-type dishes, but pretty much anything you request that is not in the menu, they can make for you (if they have the supply, of course).

Expect around HKD 500-700 per head.

Louis Steak House
1/F Malaysia Building
50 Gloucester Road
Wanchai, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2529 8933
Fax: +852 2865 1560
Website: www dot louissteakhouse dot supanet dot com