Marouche Grill on Elgin Street

So I had dinner at Marouche Grill, a new Lebanese restaurants on Elgin Street in Soho.

If you’re looking for a review on the food there, then I’m sorry to disappoint because I wasn’t really paying attention to the food so much as I was the company, which consisted of a small group of local foodies sharing experiences and stories about all things food. There was this one memorable dish that I would recommend though and it was the Mouhamara (its a little spicy .. just to give you a heads-up).

Anyway, the dinner was organized by Dorothy So from HK Magazine as she’s writing a piece on local food bloggers. Some stories will and should probably stay within the group (sorry!) but she’ll likely share some of the other more media-friendly stories with you in the August 28th (edit) late September publication. I’m not going to be the one to spoil the fun, so pick up a copy then.

If you’re looking for a write-up on Marouche Grill, you’ll probably find a better piece (not to mention better photos) written by much more experienced local food bloggers whom I had dined with. Check out Peter’s blog at 吃喝玩樂, Elvina’s blog here, or KC’s blog here.

(Note: At the time of writing this post, only Peter has written about Marouche Grill).

Thanks for organizing Dorothy and good luck with the article!

SML in Times Square (Part 2)

Here’s what we had at SML at the trial dinner:

There were just too many dishes and our table was a little cramped and busy, so I had forgotten to take photos of the grilled prawns / chilli / garlic, meatballs / spicy tomato sauce. Whoops.

My favorite dish? (MUST GET)

  • classic lasanga al forno
  • meatballs / spicy tomato sauce
  • crostini / anchovy mayonnaise
  • veal escalope / sage-caper butter

My favorite dessert? (MUST GET)

  • citrus panna cotta / pink grapefruit & orange slices
  • caramel profiteroles / butterscotch sauce

Note: Here, “MUST GET” = just get it, I’m not even going to bother explaining. Its that good 🙂

Needs just a little improvement

  • Risotto – the braised ox-tail was terrific, but the risotto was a little too raw (I know its supposed to be little bit hard), a little too liquid and a little lacking in flavour
  • Gnocchi – also lacking a bit in flavour, definitely didn’t taste 4 cheese

House red were Moulin de Gassac Cab and Syrah (2007) and the house white was also a Moulin de Gassac Sauvignon Blanc (2007). But like I said, once they’re officially opened (today actually), I’m sure they’ll have a much more extensive wine list.

We had a LOT of food and wine, so even though the meal was complimentary, we wanted to see what the damage was. It came up to about HK$1,350 for 2, but I reckon we’d be pretty full eating just half the stuff we ordered (i.e. don’t use us as a reference. It isn’t HK$ 700 per head … unless you go completely nuts like we did. I’d say HK$ 400 per head is reasonable?)

So is it worth going to? Definitely! I think there’s still half of the menu I haven’t tried.

Note: Photos taken with BlackBerry Curve 8900

Siu Yeh Rating: 8.5/10

SML Bar / Restaurant / Patio

11/F., Times Square
Causeway Bay
Tel: +852 2577 3444
Email: info (at) smlrestaurants.com

Gianni’s Ristorante Bangkok

Nowadays, good authentic cuisines are becoming increasingly accessible in countries other than its country of origin. While you’re obviously able to find great Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong and China, you can also find great Cantonese restaurants in Vancouver, Los Angeles, New York amongst many, many other cities. One of my most memorable Japanese dining experience (other than in Tsukiji 築地) was in Toronto – believe it or not – at Hiro Sushi on King’s Street, of all places. (I wonder if its still around. Speaking of Tdot, is Susur Lee still around too? Ahh, the reversed menu!).

Anyway, in Thailand, there are a lot of good Italian restaurants and a handful of great ones. We asked a local (Thanks Duang!) and the top 2 picks were: Gianni’s Ristorante and Il Ristorante Zanotti.

We were going to visit Zanotti but couldn’t get a table until 9:30PM, so we opted for Gianni’s instead. As it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise because our local friend told us (I’m throwing all these “local” bombs around … because they are the voice of authority and I shall not be questioned :D) that Zanotti varies in consistency, while Gianni is the more consistent of the 2.

Bread Basket from Gianni's

Bread Basket from Gianni's

The bread basket was not bad, but would’ve been better if it was hotter. It was only mildly warm, but good selection nonetheless.

Complimentary Pate on Toasted Thin Bread

Complimentary Pate on Toasted Thin Bread

This was a complimentary foie gras pâté starter. Again, the toasted bread would’ve been better if it was a little more crunchy; a sign that it was probably sitting outside a little longer than it should’ve (or it was prepared too early in advance). But the pâté was very flavourful, perhaps a little saltier than I expected.

The seafood mains ... reasonable, no?

The seafood mains ... reasonable, no?

Genuine Parma Ham Sliced on Honey-Dew Melon

Genuine Parma Ham Sliced on Cantaloupe

This dish is generally pretty good in about 80% of the Italian restaurants I go to, because it really doesn’t require much. What it boils down to is whether the parma ham and cantaloupe is fresh or not, and how thinly shaved the ham is so you can wrap it around the melon before you cut it into pieces. This is definitely a pass.

Hokkaido Scallops Served 3 Different Ways

Hokkaido Scallops Served 3 Different Ways

From left to right:

1. Hokkaido Scallop with Avocado Puree: Rather than using butter, which generally goes extremely well with scallops (think teppanyaki), avocado was used to mimick that same texture and “body” (a bit of wine speak here). Unfortunately though, it doesn’t quite have that same “butteriness” to it than if butter was really used. As clichéd as it may sound: butter really has no substitute.

2. Hokkaido Scallop wrapped in Fried Squid Ink: This was a little teaser to what I was going to have as my main (see below). The fried squid ink was a little crunchy and has a strong calamari flavour to it, but it doesn’t fuse with the scallop as well as the other 2 did. I think that might’ve been because

3. Hokkaido Scallop with Truffle Sauce: This one I thought was the highlight of the dish. The generous amount of thick black truffle sauce was more than enough even when I selfishly took a spoonful of that and smeared it onto my half-scallop. There was still quite a bit left after this scallop was gone so I used the remaining of that sauce for the avocado scallop.

Overall, this was a symphony of flavours, which is a great start to the meal. It can also be quite filling too (those Hokkaido scallops are massive!) so I highly recommend sharing this appetizer with someone.

Lobster Bisque with a Dash of Coriander

Lobster Bisque with a Dash of Coriander

This was alright. I’ve had better lobster bisque and I think mainly because it was way too creamy and not enough lobster flavour to it, not to mention I like soup piping hot and this was only mildly warm. I feel like for lobster bisques, if its not “balanced” then it would be safer if it was leaning a little towards more lobster flavour than cream.

Some One-eyed Fish ... I forgot the name!

Some One-eyed Fish ... I forgot the name!

“A” for presentation. A “B+” for taste, although I didn’t order this but I did try a bit. The one-eye fish (apparently a delicacy in Thailand … can anyone verify?) was cooked until the fillet was golden brown on the outside and cooked just enough on the inside. It was very fresh, but I didn’t get much of the sauce so I can’t tell you what it was like together. Maybe YOU can tell me after you’ve visited.

Not-your-usual Spaghetti Bolognese

Not-your-usual Spaghetti Bolognese

The friend who order this had requested an extra big portion of the spaghetti bolognese and it was pretty darn big, although it doesn’t quite look that way in the photo. I tried to ask him to put his hand there as comparison … let’s just say he has pretty big hands.

I didn’t try it, so I can’t really comment on it, but from what I hear … its was pretty solid.

Squid Ink Linguine at Gianni's in BKK

Squid Ink Linguine at Gianni's in BKK

The best damn squid ink linguine I’ve ever had (I’ve only had it on one other occasion). Al dente was a given, nor would I expect anything less. It wasn’t dry like the last time I had it at I-don’t-remember-where. Is it creamy? Yes and no, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they used a bit of cream here, but anything thrown into this dish automatically gets diluted a little (i.e. less creamy) and gets dyed black. Its got very heavy seafood and calamari flavours and was actually a little spicy as well, although I can’t quite tell where the peppers were. I really couldn’t tell what’s what until I put the stuff in my mouth and work out what the texture was. I found about 6-7 pieces of calarmari, which I thought was neither little or generous. Overall, this was a great exotic dish and it really tasted a bit like ink (for those of your going “Oh right, like you’ve tasted ink before …”, I really have, although not intentionally. If you want to know, its Parker brand. Black.) … but in a good way.

Warning: After eating this dish, your tongue, gum and lips will turn completely black so this is definitely not the dish you want to get if you’re on a first date 🙂 And that’s not all that turns black. Think ahead.

Is it worth recommending to people? With a full-house (about 50-60 covers?) and good mix of Thai, foreign and 3+ tables of Honkie patrons (I’d like to think that a presence of Honkers is usually a sign of a good find) dining there , I believe the answer is a definite yes.

Bill for 7.5 people (the 0.5 was a spaghetti bolognese to-go for a friend travelling from Pattaya who missed the dinner) was 9,300 Baht. About US$ 37 per head? Definitely not bad at all … but we didn’t have wine.

Siu Yeh Rating: 8.5/10

Gianni Ristorante
34/1 Soi Tonson, Ploenchit Road
Bangkok 10330
Tel: 0 2252 1619, 0 2652 2922
Fax: 0 2652 2584
Email: gianni@loxinfo.coth
Website: www dot giannibkk dot com

Erawan Tea Room

You know how there’s always a restaurant that you have to go everytime you revisit the same cities? Its different for everyone. For me in Shanghai, it’d be Jia Jia Tang Bao and / or Xiao Yang Sheng Jian. In LA, it’s In-N-Out Burger or Pink’s Hotdogs. In Bangkok, it’s definitely Erawan Tea Room.

Why? Because they serve hotel-quality Thai food, in a hotel-quality environment, with hotel-quality service, but at Tsui Wah prices (per dish). Oh, all those mentions of “hotel” – that’s because the restaurant is managed by Erawan Grand Hyatt.

Erawan Tea Room by Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok

Erawan Tea Room by Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok

The bill for 4 grown men, ~10 dish plus drinks came out to be about 3,300 Bhat (or US$25 per head) and we were stuffed. Sure, you can find decent Thai food for cheaper prices and 800 Baht per head isn’t exactly cheap in Bee Kay Kay, but everything is relative and let’s put it into perspective – sometimes you just want a nice, quiet and easy meal away from the Bangkok heat and pollution, but you don’t want to get shafted by going to restaurants like Blue Elephant.

(By the way, if you really want upscale Thai cuisine in Bangkok, go to Naj. Prices are a little cheaper than Blue Elephant, but at least locals go there, and that alone speaks volume. Blue Elephant’s for clueless tourists too lazy to do a bit of research and too stuck-up to interrogate their hotel concierge. Sorry!)

Back to Erawan Tea Room.

The setting is like a nice cozy living room with comfortable (large) chairs and sofa, dimmed but not dim lightings, wooden blinds … the ambiance is just really .chill. (for a lack of a better description). There’s a touch of homeliness to the restaurant as well, as they have giant shelves surrounding the entrance where you can purchase fresh cakes, biscuits, scones, jam, tea, Thai snacks and treats made by the restaurant and even Erawan Tea Room tableware (i.e. plates, bowls and utensils). While I don’t know anyone’s who’s bought any tableware from them, I just like the idea that you can take a piece of the restaurant with you back home – perhaps, an explanation of why I like going back so much; its just like home!

Erawan Tea Room Interior 1

Erawan Tea Room Interior 1

Erawan Tea Room Interior 2

Erawan Tea Room Interior 2

Erawan Tea Room Interior 3

Erawan Tea Room Interior 3

That same balance you find in its decor and ambiance transcends, quite easily it feels, to its extensive menu and dishes. I should probably also add that for most dishes on the menu, you can either choose “S” for small portions or “L” for large portion and the prices are neatly laid out. (Yeeees yes, its not rocket science to offer 2 portions, but most restaurants don’t lay the information out quite so clearly and when you have to ask about it, and inevitably when you have to ask about the prices, its becomes that much more tedious … and not cool).

The dishes here are terrific. While I can’t quite say it was the best I’ve ever had, its definitely up there in to top 5. (I think I’ve had some pretty decent Thai food in Shanghai. Lan Na Thai, Coconut Paradise, Simply Thai and Thai Gallery were all pretty good. OMG, Banana Leaf (Hong Kong Plaza) is really really bad, don’t go!)

Phuket Promotion at Erawan Tea Room

Phuket Promotion at Erawan Tea Room

Lime Soda - My Favorite Drink

Lime Soda - My Favorite Drink

A real properly-made lime soda makes my day.

"Spicy & Sour Prawn Soup with Lemongrass"

"Spicy & Sour Prawn Soup with Lemongrass"

Tom Yum Kung – definitely one of my favorite soup other than lobster bisque. This one’s got a good balance between hot and sour (actually I didn’t find it spicy at all, my a friend of mine couldn’t handle it so I had his as well) and was quite garlicky and lemongrassy. As an added bonus, there was a generous portion of fresh river shrimp (I counted 8). In most other places, they’ll give you about 4?

Fish Cake & Green Mango Salad

Fish Cake & Green Mango Salad

The green mango salad was pretty spicy, but the sourness to the dish is definitely an appetizer in the full sense of the word. The fish cake is … well, its a fish cake. I don’t think they vary that much between restaurants … I’ve never had extremely good or bad fish cakes before. (Prawn / shrimps cakes different).

My Favorite Phad Thai Anywhereeee

My Favorite Phad Thai Anywhereeee

The Phad Thai at Erawan Tea Room is probably one of my favorite. Its leaning a little towards the sweeter side,but the mix of a whole lot of other flavours help counter that sweetness quite effectively. Its got a bit of fresh bean sprouts, dried shrimps, leeks, egg, onions, garlic, peanut all mixed with the noodle, which was so fresh it was chewy (but not the rubbery kind of chewy). The thin layer of egg wrap helps contain the heat and as you break it open, all the said flavours oozes out … then everybody fights their way to get first dibs.

Chicken in Green Curry at Erawan Tea Room

Chicken in Green Curry at Erawan Tea Room

(See red curry below)

Stir-fried Kailan with Crispy Pork

Stir-fried Kailan with Crispy Pork

I remember this Kailan dish to be slightly better last time I visited the restaurant. It wasn’t bad, but I guess the veggies getting a little “old” and so it wasn’t as fresh as I remembered. Nonetheless, a good dish.

Roasted Duck in Red Curry

Roasted Duck in Red Curry

We asked for mild for both the green and red curry so neither of the curries were that spicy. Regardless, they just go so well with Thai rice. Both the chicken and the duck was cooked well enough so that it wasn’t dry at all.

Steamed Whole Sea Bass with Chili and Lime Sauce

Steamed Whole Sea Bass with Chili and Lime Sauce

The cook deboned the fish so all that was left was fresh sea bass that we can scope with our spoon and get a bit of the chili and lime sauce. Great dish for lazy people like me. The fish was pretty fresh too and my friend who doesn’t normally eat fish (the same dude who gave me his Tom Yum Kung) liked it alot. And for 360 Baht, this fish was a pretty good deal.

3300 Bhaaaaaat! ขอบคุณ

3300 Bhaaaaaat! ขอบคุณ

I love this place. Need I say more?

(SEVEN) – inside joke.

Siu Yeh Rating: 9.5/10

Note: Photos taken with BlackBerry Curve 8900

Erawan Tea Room
Erawan Bangkok
494 Ploenchit Road
Bangkok 10330
Tel: +662 250 7777
Website: www dot erawanbangkok dot com/tearoom.php

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

Jia Jia Tang Bao (佳家汤包)

I voted on the Miele Guide a month or 2 ago and I’m really happy to see Jia Jia Tang Bao (佳家汤包) on the list! And then I realized I’ve been meaning to write about the restaurant since June last year (yes, 10 months ago) … and I still haven’t gotten around to doing it. I will do so right now.

Let’s just say no food blog would ever be complete if Shanghai was the subject and Jia Jia Tang Bao wasn’t mentioned. And that’s saying quite a bit about the restaurant already. If you think Din Tai Fung is good (well, it is), Jia Jia Tang Bao is better – by quite a bit … but DTF is still pretty good (notice I’m being very cautious not to aggravate the Din Tai Fung camp here). And if I were to ever put together a “Top 10 Best Culinary Experience I’ve Had”, this restaurant would also be up there on my list. Wow. Along with Xiao Yang Sheng Jian (小杨生煎馆), which I’ll briefly mention later.

Anyway, given how good this place is, I think it deserves a little story-telling about how I (or rather, my very good friend Vince) found out about the restaurant:

It was in late 2005 when both Vince and I were working as consultants in Shanghai and let’s be honest – what else is there to do then, other than watch pirated DVD’s, eat and clubbing? I think he grew sick of always dining at fancy restaurants (he stayed at the Marriott serviced apartments for 9 months, paid for by the client, of course) and so he went on a mission to scout out good local hideouts. Jia Jia Tang Bao was relatively unknown at the time and he found out about it by asking a taxi driver where he goes for xiao long bao, and you can’t really go wrong with that! Btw, I really think the restaurant should write Vince a cheque and cut him a piece of their profit for spreading the word back in the day … but we’ll have our legal department do that later.

And that was the original Jia Jia Tang Bao, which was located on Henan Nan Lu near Zhong Hua Lu Wen Miao Lu (Thanks for the correction there V). It was literally, a hole-in-wall restaurant with really dirty floor, tables, chopsticks, etc. You can probably fit about 10 customers inside the restaurant and another 10 outside. Opening hours are usually from 11:30AM to about 5-6PM; and that’s because they have limited food supplies every day. Once they’re done selling all their xiao long bao, they’re closed for the day. And just like Din Tai Fung, all of their xiao long bao’s are made fresh every minute.

Because of Huangpu District’s plan to expand Henan Nan Road, that original store had to make way for the district government. If you try to visit that same location today, you’d be standing in the middle of a very busy road. But the owner had strategically opened a newer (and cleaner) branch on Huanghe Road near Nanjing Road (north of People’s Square). This location has been around for close to 3 years now and continues to be frequented by a lot of tourists (mostly from HK), expats working in Shanghai and some locals as well.

Here are some pictures from the Huanghe Road restaurant and their fooooood:

Menu at Jia Jia Tang Bao in Shanghai

Menu at Jia Jia Tang Bao in Shanghai

If you try to visit the restaurant from 11:30AM to about 2:30PM (or maybe even 3PM), expect to wait in line for about 20-30 minutes. Either you go really early, like before 11:30AM, or you go after the lunch rush, which is around 3:30, but if you go any later than say 4:30PM – 5PM, you’ll risk missing out on some of the dumplings since they only make so much each day and if they’re sold out, then they don’t bother making any more!

Jia Jia Tang Bao at 4PM

Jia Jia Tang Bao at 4PM

See, no holes in the wall!

Here’s a Seaweed and Egg Soup (紫菜蛋皮汤), which cost RMB 2 and is absolutely tasteless and MSG-filled. I don’t know why I get this every time – I guess I like the seaweed, but I think its a good way to warm up for what’s coming next.

Seaweed and Egg Soup (紫菜蛋皮汤)

Seaweed and Egg Soup (紫菜蛋皮汤)

The Pork Dumplings. This can be quite salty sometimes, but it really brings out the flavour from the fatty pork, which is basically what the juice / soup is inside the thin layer of skin. I really like my xiao long bao skin thin, and while this might not be quite as thin as the ones from Din Tai Fung, the ones here are really damn close.

Whats even more important than thin skin, is how tough it is. I don’t think I’ve ever had a soup-breakage accident here unless the tang bao’s been sitting in the steam basket for much longer than it should’ve. You know that feeling when you think you have a good grip of the xiao long bao with your chopsticks, only to have the pork ball and soup fall out, leaving you with only the skin? Yeh, non-existent at Jia Jia Tang Bao. Its almost like they had a team research on the skin in a science lab.

Pork Tang Bao (纯鲜肉汤包)

Pork Tang Bao (纯鲜肉汤包)

Btw, if you want to try all of the different flavours, you must work your way up (i.e. have the “simpler” dumplings first … and then proceed to the more “complex” dumplings). Using the price of the dumpling to tell is generally a good gauge, but make sure you tell the lady at the counter that’s how you want it. During the lunch rush, they might just throw whatever is ready at you … which could potentially ruin your culinary experience there.

Here, we made sure the flow was:

  1. Pork Tang Bao (纯鲜肉汤包) – ¥7.5
  2. Crab Roe & Pork Dumplings (蟹粉鲜肉汤包) – ¥19.5
  3. Pure Crab Roe Dumplings (纯蟹粉汤包) – ¥81
Crab Roe & Pork Dumplings (蟹粉鲜肉汤包)

Crab Roe & Pork Dumplings (蟹粉鲜肉汤包)

Next up was the Crab Roe & Pork Dumplings (蟹粉鲜肉汤包) (above), which is a mix between what we just had and what we’re about to have. But I would say its still 80% pork and 20% crab roe. The strong and sharp flavours from the crab roe is unmistakenly there, but it was still pretty much a pork dumpling mixed with small orange oil drops from the crab roe.

Pure Crab Roe Dumplings (纯蟹粉汤包)

Pure Crab Roe Dumplings (纯蟹粉汤包)

All of their dumplings come in a dozen in a steam basket, but the pure crab roe dumplings come in 6 per baskets and they give you 2 baskets. At RMB 81, this is definitely not cheap by Shanghai standards, but what they give you is, as the name suggests … PURE crab roe, crab meat and crab roe oil / essence. Til this day, I have yet to find anything close to the quality / quantity of roe they give you in these pockets of culinary orgasm. Each piece of this dumpling is like eating a mouthful of the best part of a hairy crab – only without all the effort. Enough said.

What remains a mystery to me is that the hairy crab season is between late September to December of each year. So how are they able to serve this dish throughout the year? And how is it that the quality remains the same (assuming they have folks taking out the crab roe and meat from hairy crabs during the fall / winter season every year and put the stuff in the freezer).

Well, that’s not something I should dwell on anyway.

What I should really be concerned about is what a dozen of these pure crab roe dumplings would do to my cholesterol level after every visit. I swear, this or sea urchin will kill me one day.

Pure Crab Roe Dumplings (纯蟹粉汤包) - Close Up

Pure Crab Roe Dumplings (纯蟹粉汤包) - Close Up

Just look at that!!!

The Essence!

The Essence!

Our battle trophies.

One of the most satisfying meals you'll likely have

One of the most satisfying meals you'll likely have

This place continues to be one of my gratifying culinary experiences ever … but to those 2 ladies below … it was just another day at Jia Jia Tang Bao. Such simplicity and zero-pretentiousness = Shanghai’s most underrated restaurant.

Taking a break from the lunch rush

Taking a break from the lunch rush

Two items were sold out already as we were leaving …

If you're late, you might miss out!

If you're late, you might miss out!

Jia Jia Tang Bao  (佳家汤包)
Huanghe Lu (near Nanjing Road West)

Oh and if you’re still not full (although I’m pretty sure you will be stuffed) … look across the street and you’re find the equally famous Xiao Yang Sheng Jian, but that definitely deserves its own little post. Here’s a glimpse of the Huanghe Lu branch (not Wujiang Lu branches).

Yangs Fry Dumplings (小杨生煎馆) on Huanghe Lu

Yangs Fry Dumplings (小杨生煎馆) on Huanghe Lu

If you want to do it the Shanghai way, try visiting the restaurant in your PJ’s, just like that gentleman you see in the middle. It was like 4PM!

Waiting for the next batch of Sheng Jian Baos

Waiting for the next batch of Sheng Jian Baos

If you’ve never seen how real shen jian dumplings are made, have a look … it always amazes me how they’re able to handle a burning metal plate with ripped cardboards as grips.

Menu at 小扬生煎馆

Menu at 小扬生煎馆

These 2 are must-try restaurants in Shanghai. And yes, you can quote Siuyeh. You won’t regret it … but be warned. If you’re having more than 4 shen jian bao’s from 小扬生煎馆 for lunch, you can pretty much forget about dinner.

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