Soho Place (聚豪坊) on Caine Road

July 14, 2009 Edit: This restaurant is open for business again.

This new restaurant I’m about to talk about is one you’ll never be able to try (i.e. no amount of money will you get you a seat here) … because I think they closed down already … effectively making this the most pointless entry ever. Soho Place opened its doors to the public about a month ago … operated for about a week and was closed for the last 3.

The renovation and everything is pretty nice too (not great), but imagine throwing that kind of money into rent, renovation, kitchen equipments, utensils, staff, uniform and countless other things … only to try out for 1 week? Hmm … I wonder what the problem is. So, as the professional food blogger that I am … I will call to ask what’s up and to send my regards (another real time blogging here).

Wow. Their number wouldn’t even connect.

Anyway, during that one week that they were operating (maybe for trial?), I did manage to squeeze a Sunday lunch there. When we got there at 12PM, we were one of the first tables … but when we left at 1:30PM, I’d say 14 of the 19 tables were filled. So it remains a mystery why they place is closed if they’re doing well. But maybe on Sunday businesses are good … from Monday to Friday, I don’t think anyone would eat there.

The manager prides himself in the fact that Soho Place is the only Chinese restaurant on Caine Road (ever since Tai Woo 太湖 Seafood Restaurant on Castle Road closed its doors a couple months ago). Err .. I guess now we know why?

So here’s the menu at Soho Place.

Menu at Soho Place (聚豪坊)

Menu at Soho Place (聚豪坊)

And here’s what we had: Salt and Pepper Squid, which was pretty good.

Salt & Pepper Squid

Salt & Pepper Squid

Umm, I don’t remember ordering shark’s fin and I don’t think this was. It was pretty much the same kind of broth / soup but without the shark’s fin, which for environmental and ethical reasons, I really enjoyed. When we drink shark’s fin soup, its really the soup anyway 🙂

Shark's Fin Soup? I forgot ... I doubt it was though!

Shark's Fin Soup? I forgot ... I doubt it was though!

This spring roll was also pretty good (looks like their fried stuff is not bad). The shrimp is fresh and the amount is pretty generous … I mean the whole spring roll was like eating shrimp dumplings but the outside is crunchy. Definitely an A for this dish.

Shrimp Spring Rolls

Shrimp Spring Rolls

They had 菜螃蟹 (egg white and crab meat) on the menu, which I thought was pretty odd considering I saw somewhere that this place is a Cantonese restaurant. So what’s a Shanghainese dish doing here? Well, the manager claims that they intend to include dishes from most popular Chinese cuisine into their menu … eventually (but I guess never is more appropriate now).

This dish was so-so. I can only take the egg white … I don’t think I can taste the crab meat at all.

菜螃蟹 ... in a Cantonese Restaurant?

菜螃蟹 ... in a Cantonese Restaurant?

Yeh … maybe you didn’t miss that much.

But this is the fastest I’ve ever seen a restaurant fold. Or maybe business was so good the first week, they’ve decided to take a break.

Soho Place (聚豪坊)
Shop A-D, G/F., On Fung Bldg.
110-118 Caine Road, Mid-levels
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 3968 0328
Fax: +852 3968 0327

Here Are 50 Reasons Not to Eat Out on April 20: Gourmet London

Here Are 50 Reasons Not to Eat Out on April 20: Gourmet London
2009-04-14 23:00:01.3 GMT
By Richard Vines

April 15 (Bloomberg) — Here’s a tip: April 20 is the night of the year to avoid dining out in London. It’s the date of the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards and you’re more likely to see a top chef there than in a restaurant.

Joel Robuchon will head to Freemasons’ Hall from Paris, Daniel Boulud from New York, Ferran Adria from Barcelona and Tetsuya Wakuda from Sydney. They will join U.K. counterparts who include Heston Blumenthal, Marcus Wareing, Rick Stein, Fergus Henderson and possibly Jamie Oliver — he’s filming. In case you wondered, Gordon Ramsay won’t be there. He’s out of the country.

It promises to be quite a gathering — there are 500 people on the guest list — for awards that are greeted in the food world with a mixture of both amusement and annoyance, as well as a touch of boredom.

The top three places have gone to El Bulli, the Fat Duck and Pierre Gagnaire — in that order — for three straight years. China and Japan don’t feature in the Top 50 and the Asian winner is usually Bukhara, an unexceptional eatery in New Delhi.

This year, new panelists have been named in an attempt to freshen things up. I am one for the first time. I have no idea who everyone else voted for, but I can tell you who will win the Lifetime Achievement award. It goes to Robuchon, Michelin’s favorite chef, the organizers said in an e-mailed release.

Red Eaters

There’s good news for steak lovers in London who can’t get enough even now that Goodman has joined Maze Grill, Hawksmoor and other restaurants that cater to those who like their meat red. Palm Restaurants plans to open a London branch on May 25 on the former site of Drones, on Pont Street. The look will be similar to that employed in the U.S., with banquette seating, hardwood floors and caricatures of famous customers. The menu will feature favorites such as lobster, creamed spinach, New York cheesecake and, of course, USDA prime-aged steak.

Blumenthal was one of the judges last week in the finals of the Roux Scholarship, which seeks to recognize and support the U.K.’s most promising young chefs. (The age limit is 30.) He’s busy after the Fat Duck, which won the Best Restaurant award in 2005, was closed for more than two weeks following a breakout of the norovirus. Blumenthal is popular in the industry and received plenty of sympathy from fellow judges who included four members of the Roux family — Michel, Albert, Michel Jr. and Alain — and chefs Gary Rhodes, Andrew Fairlie and Brian Turner. I was a judge, too, so I know. The winner, Hrishikesh Desai, of Lucknam Park, near Bath, stood out at London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel on April 6 when finalists had to cook Brill Cherubin, an Escoffier recipe.

Miami Fab

Hakkasan, the Chinese restaurant known for being fabulous, is to open its first U.S. branch on April 19. Hakkasan Miami, in the Fontainebleau hotel, Miami Beach, will replicate the venue’s formula of fashionable food and cool cocktails. It’s more than a year since the restaurateur Alan Yau sold majority control of Hakkasan and its sister Yauatcha for $60 million to Tasameem, the property arm of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. There’s already a Hakkasan in Istanbul and Yau last month opened a second London branch of his budget Chinese eatery Cha Cha Moon at the Whiteleys shopping center in Bayswater.

Yorkshire Portions

David Moore, co-owner of Pied a Terre and L’Autre Pied in London, has opened an eatery in Harrogate, in northern England. Van Zeller — the chef is Tom van Zeller — uses local Yorkshire ingredients in its modern British cuisine. I’ve yet to make it there but I did finally try the cooking of another Yorkshire chef, Anthony Flinn, at Piazza by Anthony in the Corn Exchange, Leeds. Portions are large for dishes such as warm salad of Bury black pudding with a soft-poached egg, and fish pie with creamy mash. My family is from Yorkshire and I can’t say how welcome such good cooking is. In my home town of Doncaster, I’ve given up trying to find a restaurant serving food I would want to eat.

(Richard Vines is chief food critic for Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

Learning How to Cook with TC (The Result)

So here it is … Tony’s dishes prepared in about an hour (except for the braised pork beef cheek) for a group of 12-13? Imagine what he could do if he had actually given it a little more thought, creativity and if he had more time to cook!

The Set-up

The Set-up

Here I was taking a photo when everyone’s eagerly waiting to stick their forks in …

Linguine with Clams and Sea Urchin

Linguine with Clams and Sea Urchin

If there’s one thing bad about the dish (not bad per se), it would be that there’s too little pasta 😦 I think TC might’ve accidentally left a bag of groceries at the supermarket because he was in such a rush, which is also the reason why there is so little pasta (we had to make-do with what we had in the kitchen) and there aren’t any anchovies in this dish … otherwise, it’d bring out even more flavours.

Clams were fresh, sea urchin was fresh … the linguine was cooked just right (yes, “to the teeth”) and the broth was just amazing.

Stewed Pork Cheek

Stewed Pork Cheek

Then came the braised pork beef cheek … I kept saying “pork beef cheek” … I don’t even know if that’s the right term!

Edit: Oh I was totally wrong, it was beef cheek. How silly of me.

So Tender ...

So Tender ...

The tendon and the meat itself was so tender … carrots and celery was cooked until very soft and juicy. I didn’t think anything was wrong with this dish, but Tony was disappointed that it wasn’t as flavourful as he’s hoped. I’m guessing its because he didn’t have enough time to prepare the dish.

Lotus Leaf-wrapped Sweet Potato and Pork Marinated with Shaoxing Wine

Lotus Leaf-wrapped Sweet Potato and Pork Marinated with Shaoxing Wine

And lastly, the lotus leaf dish with pork, sweet potato and glutinous rice.

The Shaoxing Wine was Reciting a Poem to Me ...

The Shaoxing Wine was Reciting a Poem to Me ...

The texture of the rice was just like what you would expect from the 珍珠雞 during dim sum. The sweet potato was really soft by now and had absorbed a lot of the juice and fat from the pork. For an “experimental dish”, this was pretty darn good.

And finally, somewhere in the middle of us enjoying the food, an uninvited, but welcomed addition joined our table.

An Unexpected Guest Showed Up ... It Came Aged and Sophisticated

An Unexpected Guest Showed Up ... It Came Aged and Sophisticated

Suntory Whisky “ROYAL” at 86 proof! Its been sitting inside a cupboard for a long time … I’m not much of a whisky drinker, but damn … I actually enjoyed it. It tasted every bit like premium and aged whisky, but what was so good about this was the aftertaste. It was slightly sweet and left a really comfortable (yes, comfortable!), warm, sweet coating along the back-of-mouth / throat area. Awesome.

Unfortunately, that was also the only bottle.

Learning How to Cook with TC (The Preparation)

So who the heck is “TC” anyway? Good question.

You may remember when I was explaining a little somethin’ somethin’ about salt in a previous post? Well, it was “TC” (or Tony) who told me about it. Please excuse the secrecy surrounding his identity but he’s currently in the process of putting together a very hush-hush operation: he’s opening a restaurant, which specializes in classical Italian cuisine … with a twist 🙂 … and while I’m dying to be the first to blog about his restaurant’s soft opening, I can’t be the one to let the cat out the bag. Not until later.

Anyway … so we have these gatherings every now and we alternate between BBQ and Tony’s cooking. This was his night. But with less than 3 hours of sleep that previous night (from partying too hard), he had not given much thought about what to cook. It was when he was on his way to the supermarket, that he thought he’d preparing the following dishes (with no fancy names to disguise what they really are):

  1. Braised Pork Cheek
  2. Linguine with Clams and Sea Urchin
  3. Shaoxing Pork with Sweet Potato and Glutinous Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaf (which was an experimental dish)

Unfortunately, the braised pork cheek was prepared hours before I had set foot into the kitchen so I did not document the making of that dish.

But without further ado, let’s get started on the preparation for the other 2 dishes. You’ll need:

A couple sweet potatos, some celery, some nice tomatoes, a few pieces of [large] lotus leaves, some glutinous rice, linguine (or spaghetti … whatever tickles your fancy), fresh clams (small ones and big), anchovies, lemon, pork, shaoxing wine (for marinate), copious amount of olive oil, parsley, garlic, white wine, salt, sugar, pepper … the usual condiments, et cetera, et cetera.

The Ingredients ...

The Ingredients ...

The first dish we’re going to prepare … is the experiment dish I was talking about earlier: the Shaoxing Pork with Sweet Potato and Glutonous Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaf.

Get a grater and start shaving the skin off of the sweet potato and place them in water. Start boiling a pot of water to put the sweet potato in later.

Shaving the Sweet Potatos ...

Shaving the Sweet Potatos ...

You want to cook them slightly (but not too much) because they’re going into the steamer later. So, what is that Tony? Boil them for 3-5 minutes at high heat? I’m lost already.

Boil'em ...

Boil'em ...

Then, throw the lotus leaves into cold water to make them wet. They’re no good in the steamer if they’re dry … or you wouldn’t be able to get the lotus leaf scent to transpire into the food inside.

Dip the Lotus Leaf in Water ...

Dip the Lotus Leaf in Water ...

A couple hours ago (omg, my cooking instructions are so not in order!), Tony had already marinated these fatty pork with Shaoxing wine and … umm, something else (I will find out for you).

)

Pork Marinated in Shaoxing Wine, Baby 🙂

Take those sweet potato out when they’re half cooked and start chopping them into thin slices.

Thinly Slice the Sweet Potato after Boil ...

Thinly Slice the Sweet Potato after Boil ...

Then, cut the lotus leaves into smaller pieces and place a layer of glutinous rice on the leaf. By the way, the rice should’ve been placed inside cold water for a good half hour so that its easier to cook inside the steamer. Then gently place the fatty pork on the rice, followed by a few slices of the sweet potato.

Time to Wrap it ...

Time to Wrap it ...

Roll them up tightly …

Pack it Tight!

Pack it Tight!

And tie them like so.

Then Put Them in the Steamer!

Then Put Them in the Steamer!

Place in steamer for 45 minutes (?). That was easy wasn’t it?

Next up!

Fresh Clams ... Small Ones ...

Fresh Clams ... Small Ones ...

Fresh clams … these are the small ones. You want the big ones too …

Tomato Concassé

Tomato Concassé

Make tomato concasse on the side for use later.

Put Them Clams on High Heat and Fry a Bit Before Adding White Wine ...

Put Them Clams on High Heat and Fry a Bit Before Adding White Wine ...

Heat frying pan up and place generous amount of olive oil in. When ready (i.e. when the oil is hot enough), throw in the clams and tomato concasse and let it cook for a bit. Remember to stir a bit and let it sit for a minute or so before pouring in the white wine. Put a lid on it and let it cook for about 5 minutes.

) The Essence of the Pasta Dish ...

Clam Broth 🙂 The Essence of the Pasta Dish ...

After 5 minutes, pour the clam broth into a bowl for use later – don’t pour this away! This stuff is the essence of the pasta dish! Take the clam out and separate clam from shell.

Cook the Linguine ... You Know the Drill ...

Cook the Linguine ... You Know the Drill ...

Meanwhile, start cooking the linguine in boiling water (just water) … I used to have a habit of putting a bit of olive oil in the boiling water so that the pasta doesn’t stick to the pot. Apparently, if you do that, then the linguine forms a layer of olive oil around it and it’d be harder for the pasta to absorb the juice / sauce.

Chop Up the Parsley ...

Chop Up the Parsley ...

Anyway, start chopping the parsley …

The BIG Clams ...

The BIG Clams ...

Here, we’re seen cooking the bigger clam … the same process we used cooking the smaller ones.

Start Preparing The Linguine Dish ...

Start Preparing The Linguine Dish ...

Now place the big clams on the plate and add some of the smaller clams that we separated from the shell …

Take Out the Half-cooked Linguine

Take Out the Half-cooked Linguine

Take the half-cooked linguine from the pot and place them into a frying pan with heated olive oil (and garlic cloves if you wish) and stir …

Throw in the Rest of the Concasse ...

Throw in the Rest of the Concasse ...

Then pour in the clam broth and add a handful of tomato concasse … and cook until al dente 🙂

Mix'em Up!

Mix'em Up!

Mix some more …

And Serve ...

And Serve ...

And place the linguine on the clams that has already been prepared. Add fresh sea urchin on the pasta and serve.

So how did these dishes turn out? Stay tuned for more …

Hokkaido Day 5: 小尊政壽司 Masazushi in Otaru

On our final day in Hokkaido, we only had time for one more meal … and had I known about Sushi Zen, I suppose we would’ve just stayed in Sapporo. Instead, we took at 30-minute JR train ride to Otaru (quite a bit of trouble for lunch don’t you think?), which is a sea-side town northwest of Sapporo.

The town was known for its port and at one point, the Otaru Canal (小樽運河), ran through the middle of the town, but now only a portion of it has been preserved.

Otaru Canal Warehouse (小樽運河)

Otaru Canal Warehouse (小樽運河)

Otaru Canal (小樽運河)

Otaru Canal (小樽運河)

So, having seen the canal (the only tourist attraction we had time for), we randomly found a sushi restaurant to fill us up, which turned out to be pretty decent. Here’s Masazuhi using Google Map.

The restaurant is on the second floor and has very clean design and decor. The staff team is very accommodating and very well-mannered (as you would usually expect in Japan).

Masazushi in Otaru

Masazushi in Otaru

The chefs do their thang after we made our order …

Chef Preparing Our Food at Masazushi 1

Chef Preparing Our Food at Masazushi 1

Chef Preparing Our Food at Masazushi 2

Chef Preparing Our Food at Masazushi 2

And while we wait for the chefs to prepare our sushi platters, we poured ourselves soy sauce for the sushi … AND for the sashimi.

Soy Sauce for Sushi ... and Sashimi?

Soy Sauce for Sushi ... and Sashimi?

Masazushi is one of only a few Japanese restaurants I’ve been to that serves both soy sauce for sushi and soy sauce for sashimi.

Japanese soy sauce brands such as Kikkoman develops sauces which ranges from light, sweet and mild to dark, less sweet and rich. As a general rule of thumb (and correct me if I am wrong), sashimi uses the lighter one while sushi would be better paired if it had been dipped into a slightly richer / darker sauce. The logical reason I guess is because sushi has a block of rice, which itself is … bland, I suppose. Its all about the balance! … Yeh .. yeh, I’m right.

“The balance of sweetness and saltiness, as well as a special blend of natural ingredients, pairs well with wasabi (Japanese horseradish paste) and heightens the flavor of sushi and sashimi” … an excerpt from the Kikkoman website.

Sushi Platter at Masazushi in Otaru

Sushi Platter at Masazushi in Otaru

They were all so good and fresh … but what stood out in particular was the roe on rice. The roe was slightly bigger than most of what I’ve tried before, but much juicier and much more complex (probably a bit sweeter as well).

Uni, Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp), Hamachi (?) and Toro Nigirizushi

Uni, Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp), Hamachi (?) and Toro Nigirizushi

The marbling on the toro almost looks like marbling on an A5 Kobe!

Toro Sashimi - Cut 1

Toro Sashimi - Cut 1

Toro Sashimi - Cut 2

Toro Sashimi - Cut 2

Here, we were given 2 different cuts of toro sashimi to try. Both equally as good … but subconsciously, it feels like the second cut is better … probably because it was thicker. They should just give me 20 ounce of it to chew on …

Toro Sushi ... Again!

Toro Sushi ... Again!

Tako Sushi and Something Else (Sorry, I Forgot)

Tako Sushi and Something Else (Sorry, I Forgot)

We had tako sushi and something else as well, I can’t quite remember (I’m going to have to get back to you) … but its a really fatty fish, and is usually consumed half grilled, as you can see from the photo.

In the end, I almost want to say “this is as fresh as it gets” since we’re sitting in the north-most town in Hokkaido (even though the seafood might’ve still gone through a pretty elaborate supply chain), but I want to save that line for that day when I catch the fish from the sea 🙂

Masazushi (小尊政壽司)
Otaru, Hokkaido
Japan

Hokkaido Day 4: Ramen Alley in Sapporo

Again, using Google technology (and why not? Japan’s cities is one of Google’s most mapped-out places on earth!), you’ll find the Ramen Alley (ラーメン横丁) if you right click the arrow (right arrow) 5 times.

You’ll see a nightclub called “Club Taliswomen” (lol, I like how they just turned “Talisman” into “Taliswoman” which makes no sense), and the famous Ramen Alley is on its immediate left. Yes, the area is known for its nightclubs … there are literally, hundreds of them around. By the way, gentlemen, I’m sure the “Ramen Alley” excuse has been used numerous times … you might want to use something a little more creative … “Honey, I’m going to grab some ramen with some buddies tonight, … sorry its an all guys thing … don’t wait up tonight” just ain’t going to work!

Anyway, the place where we had our ramen was located right in the center of the alley on the left (if you are entering from the Club Taliswomen side).

The Ramen Alley in Sapporo

The Ramen Alley in Sapporo

I forgot which one it was …

¥800 Authentic Japanese Ramen? Deal!

¥800 Authentic Japanese Ramen? Deal!

I suppose 800円 isn’t exactly cheap for a bowl of ramen, but given the size and quality of the ramen, it was pretty good value. This meal also turned out to be one of the cheapest of the trip, but its definitely up there as one of the most memorable.

If you look closely at the menu, you’ll see something that says “四代目店主” … that means the ramen noodle joint has been operating for 4 generations now, and this chef (pictured below) is the latest bloke to run the family ramen business. Let’s all hope he has a child to continue the legacy.

Yes, the 4th Generation Chef is Frying our Ramen Soup-base and Stuff

Yes, the 4th Generation Chef is Frying our Ramen Soup-base and Stuff

Here, the 4th gen chef is seen putting garlic, spring onion, onion and some secret ingredients into the wok and frying it before adding the soup base.

The Best Damn Bowl of Ramen, I Have Ever Had ... So Far ...

The Best Damn Bowl of Ramen, I Have Ever Had ... So Far ...

The result? The best ramen I’ve had. The ramen noodle itself is also home-made. Its fresh, chewy and soft (but not too soft). It taste and feels as if it had absorbed a little bit of the soup on its outer layer. Yep … I’m that good with food now.

The soup-base which is pretty much just oil anyway … its really hot (also from the oil) and flavourful. Definitely garlicky, a bit soy-saucy (like I said, its thick!) and somewhere in there, I can almost taste sesame, corn and carrot.

Well, that’s the stuff that you can’t really see in the photo … but what you can see, the half-sliced egg, and the not-so-generous slice of pork was like a 3-point from the half-way line that sealed the game. The egg was boiled to a point where if you slice it in halves, the yolk is a little runny still … and that’s how you know its a good ramen egg 🙂 We used this egg-method to gauge the quality of the ramen joints in the alley.

The pork was also very well … porky. It wasn’t dry and it wasn’t cold … but that might be because it was sitting in a boiling bowl of noodle for so long. The only downside to the pork is, there’s too little meat (and too much fat!).

Gyoza

Gyoza

The gyoza was only so-so though … nothing to write home about.

Will I be back? No doubt. But then there are another 19 (assuming there are 20 ramen restaurants in the Alley) to try out … what to do?!

Ramen Alley in Sapporo
Somewhere in Sapporo (Check above Google Map)

Hokkaido Day 4: 二十四軒 Seafood Market (Part Two)

As mentioned, this restaurant is connected with the market next door, serving only the freshest of seafood “straight from the sea!”. The decor is pretty simple and while we were there at 3-4PM, there were surprisingly quite a few groups of people coming in to enjoy the seafood, and most of them are local! Somehow, that tells me we found the right spot.

Menu at 海鲜食堂 at Nijuyonken Seafood Market (二十四軒)

Menu at 海鲜食堂 at Nijuyonken Seafood Market (二十四軒)

Menu 2 at 海鲜食堂 at Nijuyonken Seafood Market (二十四軒)

Menu 2 at 海鲜食堂 at Nijuyonken Seafood Market (二十四軒)

Simple, but definitely a solid selection of cooked / raw food. Whatever you see in the market next door that you don’t see here on the menu, just tell me what you want and the staff will get it and prepare it for you 🙂

Sea Urchin at at 海鲜食堂 at Nijuyonken Seafood Market (二十四軒)

Sea Urchin at at 海鲜食堂 at Nijuyonken Seafood Market (二十四軒)

Uni taken straight from the spiky black echinoderms creature … thingy. A little watery though, I actually prefer the dry ones you find at most sushi restaurants. This is as fresh as it usually gets. But I’ve seen videos where people just pluck these things out from the sea, cracks it open and drinks it. Dayum.

I ❤ Uni with a friggin’ passion, you slimy little thing …

Toro!

Toro!

This toro was fresh, but definitely not the best I’ve had. If you look closely at the toro, notice there’s a spot in the middle that’s a little gray? Yeh … I thought that was a little weird, but it didn’t taste like its gone bad or anything … very awkward. BUT … still good.

Conch and Abalone

Conch and Abalone

Both crunchy and sweet in the Chinese sense (爽甜) … I actually prefer the conch a little more.

The bill came out to be around ¥20,000 … so I guess this isn’t as cheap as we had imagine. Then again, we did have some pretty expensive seafood … perhaps, we should’ve just stuck with cooked / grilled food.

二十四軒 (Nijuyonken) 西 28 丁目
Sapporo, Hokkaido
Japan