Bo-Lo’Gne ボローニャ

Is it me or is baked dough getting more and more expensive? This is the first time I hear there’s a waiting list for a loaf of bread. Really. This is ridiculous, but true! Apparently if you put an order in today, your specially prepared loaf of bread will be ready in about 5-6 days. This phenomenon isn’t exactly news in Japan, where bread really is treated like a designer-slash-fashion item (as with most things in Japan). This is why it is also not surprising that this bakery I’m about to blog about is from – you guessed right – JAPAN! How boring.

But Japan really is making some quality dough, so much so that even a French graphic artist Jean Pierre Dardenne said: “Every time I go back to France, I’m surprised at how mediocre the bread tastes. Tokyo boulangeries have spoiled me.” Ouch. Japan: 5,185,714,371,483. France: 0.

Anyway, this pea-size of an exclusive bakery outlet is located on the slant of Aberdeen Street (between Caine Road and Stauton Street). Its been around for a month or 2 now?

Bo-Lo-Gne on Aberdeen Street

Bo-Lo-Gne on Aberdeen Street

Danish Pastry from Bo-Lo'Gne

Danish Pastry from Bo-Lo'Gne

MY GAWDNESS THIS DANISH BREAD IS SOOO DELICIOUSLY, FLAKELY, BUTTERY AND PASTRY-LY GOOD!!! I ❤ AND EMBRACE THIS BREAD LIKE NO OTHER!!! No. I refuse to describe this piece of bread like it was some culinary marvel and be all pretentious that there’s a big difference between pastry with 64 layers or 128 layers or whatever the magic number is. To me, its one more fold. And to me, its pastry … pastry from a bakery whose name I can’t even pronounce (if its Bologne, then yes, I can pronounce it. Not “Bo-Lo’Gne”. WTF. Kind of sounds like the music I make when I chunder.) Here are some more photos from OpenRice.

The truth is, this pastry is pretty good. Was it the best I’ve ever had? It’s definitely up there in the top 5 best pastry in my books. You can definitely tell they use quality ingredients and spent a lot of time folding (and “caring”, as pastry chef like to call it) the dough as they were preparing it. I do not doubt the passion and dedication they’ve put into making this a great pastry, but … I think there’s bad pastry and there’s good pastry. This is good pastry. End of story. I just don’t understand what the hype is about. Sorry.

Expensive? Yes! Worth it? Debatable. Will I go back, yes definitely. I think it’ll be a great breakfast to wake up to … also if you’re feeling dandily … Danish. HUR.

Here’s the intro to the bakery on their pamphlets and website homepage:

“A legend said that Bologne was the first person who caused the boom of Danish Bread in Japan. Being made in Kyoto, it became popular throughout the entire Japan country and is known as the magical bread. It is made by a unique skill so as to form a beautiful marble pattern, and to become crispy outside and soft inside. Its slightly moistened, sweet flavour is just like the taste of luxury cakes.”

Sugar: HK$18
Chocolate: HK$18
Blueberry: HK$20
Strawberry: HK$20
Marmalade: HK$20

August 26th Edit: I official retract some statements I made earlier. When I first blogged about this joint,  it was a typical case of “bashing it without trying it”-type of thing. So I finally tried the pastry loaf this morning, which took like 4 days from order to pickup. Its like a loaf of white bread, except its was a creamy pastry with hundreds of layers … creamy golden colored, not too buttery which I appreciate very much. I toasted it so that some of the buttery crust becomes slightly crunchy and then I added a fig jam spread. OMG, the best damn thing ever. So soft and chewy. I still think the Danish pastry isn’t much though 🙂 But the loaf is amazing. Must try.

Siu Yeh Rating: 9/10

Note: Photos taken with BlackBerry Curve 8900.

Bo-Lo’Gne ボローニャ
Shop 1, G/F., 41-49
Aberdeen Street, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2950 0600
Fax: +852 2950 0669
Website: www dot bolognehk dot com

Hokkaido Day 3: Pirka Teppanyaki (Part Two)

Next in line …

More Goodies from the OTHER World

More Goodies from the OTHER World

Kobe Beef Sirloin at 100g (for each person) … possibly one of the finest piece of raw beef I’ve ever seen …

Freshly Harvest Salad

Freshly Harvest Salad

Before the chef goes on his mission to grill those sacred Kobes, we were served this freshly harvest salad with Japanese Garlic / Onion dressing (I don’t remember). It was really fresh … but the lettuce just tasted like really fresh lettuce. The tomato tasted like really fresh tomatoes … the carrot tasted like really fresh carrot, you get my point. Although I don’t remember whether that was pumpkin or sweet potato … anyway …

Seal Both Sides to Contain the Juice!

IMPORTANT: Seal Both Sides to Contain the Juice!

Just place the meet on the teppanyaki at high heat and let the marbling on the beef do its job. Here, the chef is sealing the juice from both sides of the beef to contain the juice within.

Meanwhile ... in an open space in front of us ...

Meanwhile ... in an open space in front of us ...

Meanwhile, we didn’t think we ordered enough food so we ordered some more sushi to fill us up 🙂

Our Steak Turned into Strips ... and then into Cubes

Our Steak Turned into Strips ... and then into Cubes

And the next thing we noticed, the chef’s already dicing the Kobe steak into cubes …

Kobe Beef Sirloin 100g

Kobe Beef Sirloin 100g

And here you have it: Kobe Beef Sirloin …

3 Different Types of Dipping Sauce for Your Kobes

3 Different Types of Dipping Sauce for Your Kobes

There were 3 types of dipping sauce for your steak. From left to right (if memory serves me correctly): Japanese gravy, spicy paste (but not that spicy), and sour vinegar / soy sauce?

3 Different Types of Salt for the Steak ...

3 Different Types of Salt for the Steak ...

And 3 More Different Salt Still ...

And 3 More Different Salt Still ...

Followed by 6 different kinds of salt to choose from. I don’t remember all the different kinds of salt but there was “normal” sea salt, sesame sea salt (the one in black), garlic sea salt (the one on the far left in the second photo) and then there’s a pepper sea salt (the one in the far right in the second photo) …

Its all About the Finishing!

Its all About the Finishing!

Here’s a little something about salt / sea salt in general and I was told this by an extremely talented, self-taught and soon-to-be-restaurant-owner chef, whom shall remain unnamed, until he opens his restaurant in late March.

He once told me that all salt taste the same if you dissolve them in water. So whether you use the cheapest salt that you find in a convenience store near you or use the most expensive of sea salt from the Mediterranean, if you put it in water, its all the same. The difference lies in the finishing.

And why does the difference lie in the finishing? Apparently, its how big the grain of salt is and how it interact (read: melts) in your mouth as you eat it. In other words, its the surface area that comes in different size and shape. That is what gives you a different texture and taste … of course, the sesame, pepper and garlic flavours help also … Anyway, you can probably see from the photo above, that the salt is actually small pieces of shaved salt from a bigger piece …

Ingredient for the Teppanyaki Fried Rice

Ingredient for the Teppanyaki Fried Rice

Final dish of the night …

Add Fried Egg, Diced Beef, Diced Mushrooms, Diced Onions and Mix with Rice

Add Fried Egg, Diced Beef, Diced Mushrooms, Diced Onions and Mix with Rice

Teppanyaki Fried Rice to fill us up even more!

Add Some Soy Sauce and Mix Some More ...

Add Some Soy Sauce and Mix Some More ...

Flatten?!

Flatten?!

We didn’t think there was anything special about the fried rice, except that the chef flattened it and make sure both sides are crunchy before serving, which I thought was a good touch … the result?

Teppanyaki Fried Rice

Teppanyaki Fried Rice

A really good bowl of teppanyaki fried rice! A little bit oily, but overall, incredibly satisfying!

Hilton Special Dessert

Hilton Special Dessert

Alas, we were too full to fully appreciate the dessert. In any other night, we would’ve found the dessert to be extremely well done … but tonight, the quality (and quantity) of what we had just 10 minutes prior was so satisfying, this was one of the rare nights where I didn’t have a second stomach for dessert.

This has got to be one of my most memorable teppanyaki experiences ever.

Siu Yeh Rating: A rare 10/10!

I’m tempted to give it a little lower given the price. At ¥75,000+, this was not cheap … this was even more expensive than Dakota Prime! But we were on travel … and it was well worth it.

Pirka at Japanese Dining REN
Hilton Niseko Village
Higashiyama-onsen, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun
Hokkaido, 048-1592, Japan
Tel: +81 (0) 136 44 1111
Fax: +81 (0) 136 44 3224
Email: chefjapanese.niseko@hilton.com
Website: www dot hilton dot com/worldwideresorts

Hokkaido Day 3: Pirka Teppanyaki (Part One)

This was probably one of the most eagerly anticipated meal of the trip. The few days prior, we had been so busy skiing / snowboarding and exploring the area, we haven’t really sat down for a long, proper and relaxed meal. And having only had a few pieces of chocolate for lunch that day, we were starved.

As mentioned in my previous post, our reservation was for 5:30PM. We got there at 5:15PM (that’s how hungry we were!), but Japanese culture = timeliness, and we were refused entry! My goodness. You definitely can’t be late in Japan, but no, you can’t be early either. You have to be on time. Its a love / hate thing.

No problem … that wasn’t going to spoil my evening.

At 5:30PM sharp, we were shown our seats. The decor was impeccable and like most restaurants in the hotel, we sat facing a background with the famed Niseko powder, and floodlights delicately angled to give a dimmed glow on the trees outside (almost like an artificial backdrop).

We waited eagerly to be fed, and with extremely high expectations too. The stage was set.

View from Our Seats

View from Our Seats

The Arrangements

The Arrangements

The above is me trying to be all artsy-fartsy.

The Premium Malts

Suntory: The Premium Malts

I needed some alcohol in my system and so I went for the Premium Malts from Suntory. Apparently, this beer won Japan’s its first Grand Gold Medal in the Selection of Beers division at the 44th Monde Selection in Brussels, Belgium back in 2005. And according to its website, “it uses 20% more malt than ordinary beers and twice as many aroma hops (compared to other Suntory products)”. It was light-medium bodied, clear gold, lots of carbonation (it makes burping out my full Chinese name easier) and of course, very malty. According to Beeradvocate.com, you’re supposed to taste grape peel and apple, but I guess I’m not quite there yet.

Such a Good Design ...

Such a Good Design ...

Anyway, back to food. We got ourselves the Hana Course and here is what’s included:

Hana Course

Seasonal Sashimi
Sauteed Foie Gras with Truffle Sauce
Hokkaido EZO Abalone Steak, Shark’s Fin Sauce with Grilled Seasonal Vegetables
Freshly Harvested Salad
Kobe Beef: Sirloin 100g or Fillet 80g
Steamed Rice or Steamed Garlic Rice Ball with Wagyu Beef Soup, Miso Soup, and Japanese Pickles
Hilton Special Dessert
Petits Fours and Freshly Brewed Coffee and Tea

Complimentary Oyster Quiche

Complimentary Oyster Quiche

To begin with, we were served this complimentary Oyster Quiche. You would’ve thought a custard made from eggs and cream on a pastry crust would be quite heavy. Surprisingly, this quiche, which was served warm, turned out to be not too creamy and had a thin pastry crust that wasn’t oily at all. Most importantly, it was topped with just a thin layer of cheese, so that didn’t overwhelm the oyster taste inside.

Seasonal Sashimi Platter ... and Seasonal It Was ...

Seasonal Sashimi Platter ... and Seasonal It Was ...

A seasonal sashimi platter with 4 items. We ended up eating everything on the plate except for the paper (holding the raw clam on the far left) and the plate itself, because everything was just so fresh. In particular, I really like the raw squid rowed around seaweed … they were all really fresh and this was one of those rare dishes where I thought the presentation really give it bonus points; not that the sashimi needed any help.

Our Chef de Partie ... Mr. Ogawa-san

Our Chef de Partie ... Mr. Ogawa-san

Here’s our chef for the night … seen here preparing something else for folks sitting next to us. Ogawa-san is very well-mannered, and an extremely well-trained chef. I was kind of disappointed he didn’t do any stunts, but I suppose chefs at his level don’t need to resort to such performance. “The food will speak for itself …” I almost heard him say.

Cooking White Raddish

Cooking White Raddish

Here I thought he was boiling some scallops … but it turned out they were raddish! Why you ask? Please continue reading …

Carefully Handling the Foie Gras

Carefully Handling the Foie Gras

Ogawa-san, seen here, carefully cooking the foie gras until its golden on both sides (as well as to take out any excessive oil / grease coming from these livers … they’re so fat!)

Can't Wait To Eat ...

Can't Wait To Eat ...

Here we were wondering when he’s going to flip them.

Such a Simple (Seemingly) Pairing ... but So Powerful

Such a Simple (Seemingly) Pairing ... but So Powerful

Not before long, the foie gras was done and he had carefully cut in half, each of the radish and placed on the center of the plate. Followed with the foie gras on top of the radish.

Sauteed Foie Gras with Truffle Sauce

Sauteed Foie Gras with Truffle Sauce

Add a bit of spring onion and truffle sauce and there you have it: Sauteed Foie Gras with Truffle Sauce.

I was just amazed. I was amazed at how something seemingly so simple and obvious (i.e. pairing foie gras with raddish? that’s elementary!) can be so powerful. The foie gras itself was heavy and oily, but having it with boiled raddish, which itself is light and bland makes for a completely new experience. It was almost like eating raddish with foie gras flavour … okay, that didn’t come out right. Imagine eating foie gras with the texture of soft raddish … it was crunchy in the raddish sense (好爽?), and then the really powerful foie gras and truffle scent / juice / flavour just hits you in the head like you just got hit by an 18-wheeler (not that I’ve had that experience). And you know what they say about truffle? How it unlocks a hiddle taste bud? The feeling was something myterious like that. Man, I was left happily crippled and wanted more of where that just came from … Ogawa-san? What’s next?

Hokkaido Abalone, Fresh Potato and Portobello (?) Mushroom

Hokkaido Abalone, Fresh Potato and Portobello (?) Mushroom

“Hai, Abalone” he says.

Actually, there’s never been any interaction between him and us other than “Hello” … I was clearly hallucinating …

Teppanyaki's are so fun to watch ...

Teppanyaki's are so fun to watch ...

Mid-sections of both a potato and some kind of Portobello mushroom look-alike. What a waste … what happened to the other 2/3 of the potato and mushroom? Japanese is all about quality.

Ogawa-san Separated the Abalone from Shell like He's Breathing Air ...

Ogawa-san Separated the Abalone from Shell like He's Breathing Air ...

Meanwhile, we got a little impatient and wanted a raw abalone in our belly and got this to chew on while he did his thing.

Awabi (Abalone) Sashimi

Awabi (Abalone) Sashimi

Here (below), our chef is cooking the abalone shell to sterized it, for use as a food holder later.

Meanwhile, on the Teppanyaki ...

Meanwhile, on the Teppanyaki ...

Remember what I said about him not having to do any stunts to show his samurai-class? Well, he threw all 3 pieces of abalone in the air, diced up the abalone in less than 2 strokes (yes, in mid-air) and it landed like …

Ogawa-san Diced-up the All Abalones in 1 Stroke at the Speed of Light

Ogawa-san Diced-up the All Abalones in 1 Stroke at the Speed of Light

THIS! I was shell-shocked.

Ready to be Served ...

Ready to be Served ...

Clearly, he’s not human.

Hokkaido EZO Abalone Steak, Sharks Fin Sauce with Grilled Seasonal Vegetables

Hokkaido EZO Abalone Steak, Sharks Fin Sauce with Grilled Seasonal Vegetables

Pour “Shark’s Fin Sauce” on top of the abalone and there you have it … Hokkai … wait, did you say Shark’s Fin Sauce?! Yes. How bling is that and completely unnecessary. By the way, it was also my first time having shark’s fin in cream sauce. How awkward. But this was the best, most flavourful, most bling bling piece of rubber I’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong … this dish was done amazingly well, and I’ve always appreciated abalone for what it is … but to me, abalone’s a little too chewy. To be fair though, the abalone was cooked maybe medium-well? So it was chewy enough that it took only a couple bites (less than 8 bites?) to swallow. The potato and the mushroom was out of this world. The chef pick it up from whereever he came from.

To Be Continued …

Pirka at Japanese Dining REN
Hilton Niseko Village
Higashiyama-onsen, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun
Hokkaido, 048-1592, Japan
Tel: +81 (0) 136 44 1111
Fax: +81 (0) 136 44 3224
Email: chefjapanese.niseko@hilton.com
Website: www dot hilton dot com/worldwideresorts

How the Chinese beat Pizza Hut in China

I got this from an email forward titled “How the Chinese beat Pizza Hut in China” and found it very amusing. I remember doing something similar at a local Pizza Hut when I was a kid, of course, not piling up nearly as much. Actually, I haven’t dined inside a Pizza Hut in so long, I’m not sure if they even have a salad bar anymore. Its not a surprise Pizza Hut had to adopt a “1 visit to the salad bar” policy … but if anyone can bend the rule, Chinese can!

The Base

The Base

"The Pillar"

Second Base:

Securing the Pillar

Securing the Pillar

The Second Storey

The Second Storey

Preparing the 3rd Storey

Preparing the 3rd Storey

Putting Pressure in the Middle

Putting Pressure in the Middle

My Favorite Peaches!

My Favorite Peaches!

Fill Those Spaces with Corn!!!

Fill Those Spaces with Corn!!!

Preparing the 3rd Storey ...

Preparing the 3rd Storey ...

Where are the Security Guards?

Where are the Security Guards?

Mayo Acts as Glue

Mayo Acts as Glue

5th Storey

5th Storey

And Finally ... 7th Storey

And Finally ... 7th Storey

1 Salad for a Group of 10!

1 Salad for a Group of 10!

And if you thought that was good … check this out …

PAGODA!

PAGODA!

I Think That Reads 20+ Inches Tall

I Think That Reads 20+ Inches Tall

PAGODA WITH SNOW!

PAGODA WITH SNOW!

At the end of the email, it says that “Pizza Hut is suffering huge losses in China” … which adds to the humour of these pictures, but I’m not so sure if they really are. YUM! Group seems to be doing especially well in China …

Now if only they have “Pizza Bars” … “Dear Valued Customers, one visit to the pizza bar please” … use your imagination 🙂

Shanghai Tatler “Best” Restaurants

Bought the Shanghai Tatler Best Restaurants guide the other day and my takeaway after flipping through the Edipresse Group publication for about 15 minutes? Not very credible.

While that’s not to say the restaurants they’ve listed aren’t any good (in fact, most of them are excellent choices), but most of them are clearly chosen for the expats and upper middle class & above segments. That’s no surprise, of course, given that Tatler itself is a publication catered to the same segments, although I would like to see more “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants. Who says the uber-wealthy folks can’t and won’t enjoy a RMB 20 meal? I know many who do, and they’re definitely “Tatler”-class.

The problem with the so-called “Best Restaurants” guide is how the restaurants get rated in the first place. Of course, they don’t tell you how, but apparently (from sources I’d rather not elaborate) you can do the following:

  1. Artificially influence ratings by enticing your patrons to “recommend” restaurant to the guide; or
  2. Place advertisements in Tatler publications and VOILA! “Look, your restaurant just suddenly showed up! Its crazy!”

Hmm, no. Not the way to write a “best” guide.

Here’s a word of advice to the Tatler folks: You don’t put an advertisement of a restaurant on the cover of a restaurant guide (please see 1st photo). “Squilla with Pepper Salt of Noble” – Is that even a famous Shanghainese dish?! I’m afraid not. Perhaps, this dish would be more appropriate on the cover of Hong Kong Tatler Best Restaurants (or a Guangdong version).

6 pages of advertisements follows the table of contents, which is then followed by a 7-page advertorial of the top restaurants in the city, where some restaurants were conveniently mentioned … ehh, I don’t know about that.

In any case, I didn’t get a feeling the guide was unbiased at all.

“Squilla with Pepper Salt of Noble” … I’m sorry, I still can’t get over that. Where are Tatler’s copywriters?! Why would they even allow such ads to be placed on the cover? That’s almost as bad as English translation of local Chinese menu in Beijing before the Olympics (see 2nd photo).

Despite all of this, and in their defense, they did choose a handful of very decent restaurants: Art Salon Restaurant, Coconut Paradise, Cui Ting Xuan Chinese Restaurant, Danieli’s Italian Restaurant, Fu 1039, Jade on 36, Karaku, Lake View, Lan Na Thai, Lost Heaven, South Beauty, T8, Yi Cafe …

Just seems so sold out. Perhaps Tatler should just stick with their monthly socialite / celebrity photo album and leave restaurant reviews to somebody else.

Final Note on Shanghai Trip

Alas, the trip was far too short and due to circumstances, I wasn’t able to choose restaurants I would like to go to. I went to Bali Laguna for their Thai food and Element Fresh for their relatively healthy alternative – where I saw Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard (they were in town for some friendly matches before making their way to Beijing for the Games), but neither visits deserved a post. Actually, the service as Bali Laguna was horrible.

The list of restaurants I had wanted to try for the first time, or restaurants which I would like to go back remains long … very long.

Just off the top of my head, restaurant I would like to go back includes: South Beauty, Yu Xin Chuan Cai, Moon River, Laris, M on the Bund, Jean Georges, MoonSha, Jia Jia Tang Bao (the best xiao long bao in town), Jade on 36, Pingchuan, Fu 1039, 1221, Haiku, Karaku (TEMPURA!!!) and the list goes on and on …

Restaurant I would like to try? Well, don’t even get my started!

The point is Shanghai is becoming a city with an increasing number of world-class, quality restaurants that deserves some write-up. The restaurants are also developing at lightning speed; pace so fast it’s hard to play catch up. Lucky for us, Zagat even came up with a Shanghai Restaurants Guide. While it may not be as comprehensive as one for New York, Tokyo or Paris, don’t be surprised to find one of that calibre for Shanghai in the next couple of years.

Stay tuned for more about Shanghai here at Siu Yeh! If you’re making a visit to Shanghai and would like some recommendations on where to go for food or fun, drop me a message!

Enoteca on Anfu Road

August 8 – Day 8
Lunch @ 1:00PM

Here’s an excerpt from That’s Shanghai magazine of the wine bar:

“With many affordable options and an accessible menu, Enoteca is the perfect pre-dinner destination for both novice and expert aficionados”.

That may be so, but they’ve forgotten to mention the most interesting aspect of the bar. After sipping a particular wine you like, you can walk into their wine boutique and purchase the wine (the one you just drank) at retail prices – what an interesting concept.

However reasonable it may be, the wine is still cheaper in Hong Kong, thanks to its non-existent wine tax. But if you’re a resident of Shanghai, perhaps that is a good option for you.

Enoteca
53-57 Anfu Road (near Wulumuqi Road)
Tel: +86 21 5404 0050