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

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Wai Kee Noodle & Cafe (維記咖啡粉麵)

So I got a little tired of looking for places to eat in Hong Kong Island. The cool thing to do now  (for me anyway) is to venture out into the heart of Kowloon (Tsimshatsui, Jordan, Yau Ma Tei, Shamshuipo, Prince Edward, etc.) and even Kowloon City … because there are just so many small finds there that have rich histories and not-your-usual-type-of-food.

Case in point (or point in case, whatever floats your boat), in my quest to explore a little more of Kowloon, I was recommended this place called Wai Kee Noodle & Cafe (維記咖啡粉麵) in Shamshuipo. Apparently, its been around since 1957 and they have 3 stores side-by-side (well, a real estates agency got sandwiched in between) and their specialties are:

  • Milk Tea, Coffee (奶茶, 咖啡)
  • French Toast (咖央西多士); and
  • Pig’s Liver and Beef Noodles (豬潤牛肉麵)

We got there at around 1PM and usually, there would’ve been a long line-up already, but we got lucky. Surely enough, as we left the restaurant, there was a small queue outside the restaurant.

Anyway, part of the reason why I think the restaurant saw a rise in popularity is because Donald Tsang came here to eat a while back and there was a picture of him on the wall. It was just like the British-days (pre-1997) when Chris Patten would go around the city having herbal teas and egg tarts.

Anyway, this is what I had which is the Pig’s Liver and Beef Noodles (豬潤牛肉麵). For noodles, you get to choose between variations of vermicelli and instant noodles. I had the latter.

Pig's Liver and Beef Instand Noodle

Pig's Liver and Beef Instand Noodle

Pig's Liver and Beef Vermicelli

Pig's Liver and Beef Vermicelli

I don’t know what all the fuzz is about. It was really just instant noodle with beef and pig’s liver and I can’t really taste the beef either. The soup base isn’t the really flavorful type you would expect from say, Kau Kee … it was more the really clear broth (清汤) that cooked the beef and livers. Hence, all that residue from the liver’s blood floating on the soup. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as I had expected. That said, however, the liver is pretty fresh and even after sitting in the soup for a while, it was still chewy / tender … and wasn’t too tough or flaky.

French Toast

French Toast

What was good though, was the French Toast (咖央西多士), which I had after the noodle. It wasn’t too oily and the “咖央”, which is the filling, whatever it is (I still can’t quite describe it) isn’t too sweet, which is good. I believe the filling is a a mixture of butter, sweetened concentrated milk and syrup and it was done just right. I would go there just to have another French toast right now!

Wai Kee Noodle & Cafe - The Original Shop! Circa 1957

Wai Kee Noodle & Cafe - The Original Shop! Circa 1957

I’ll go back for the French toast and milk tea next time!

Siu Yeh Rating: 5/10

Note: Photos taken with an iPhone

Wai Kee Noodle & Cafe (維記咖啡粉麵)
62-66 Fuk Wing Street, Shamshuipo
Kowloon, Hong Kong
(Exit B2 at the Shamshuipo MTR exit)
深水埗福榮街62及66號地下
Tel: +852 2387 6515

Starbucks in Xi’an, China

Pretty impressive design for a Starbucks in Xi’an, no?

Starbucks in Xian, China

Starbucks in Xian, China