First Step to Becoming a Wine Sommelier!

In an attempt to become a wine sommelier, I’ve signed up for seminars at the Chinese Cuisine Training Institute at the Hospitality Industry Training & Development Centre, which is part of the Vocational Training Council (VTC).

Our instructor is Mr. Nelson Chow, the manager (F&B Operations & Training) of the Chinese Cuisine Training Institute at the Hospitality Industry Training & Development Centre, and he’s also the chairman of the Hong Kong Sommelier Association. He’s won numerous accredited awards related to wine and a track record to boast about, but only those “in the know” are aware of it … because he’s so darn humble.

Anyway, he’s a great instructor. VERY knowledgeable, funny and eloquent in his speech. Our class is from 7-9PM, but he usually goes on until late. Very late. On our first lesson last week, the class was from 7:30 to almost 11PM. He’s just really passionate about the subject and you can just stay after class and grill him on everything you want to know about wine.

Wine Tasting Facility at the Hospitality Industry Training & Development Centre in Pokfulam 1

Wine Tasting Facility at the Hospitality Industry Training & Development Centre in Pokfulam 1

Wine Tasting Facility at the Hospitality Industry Training & Development Centre in Pokfulam 2

Wine Tasting Facility at the Hospitality Industry Training & Development Centre in Pokfulam 2

Apparently, this is the 1 and ONLY wine tasting facility for students in HK. Others wanted to copy and follow, but failed. Or so I was told anyway.

2007 Talus Collection Pinot Grigio

2007 Talus Collection Pinot Grigio

2007 Talus Collection Chardonnay

2007 Talus Collection Chardonnay

2005 Marques de Caceres, Rioja

2005 Marques de Caceres, Rioja

Great Lighting Equipments!

Great Lighting Equipments!

Oooo … so fancy 🙂

The Balance Wheel ... OooooOo

The Balance Wheel ... OooooOo

There’s only about 12 students in the class, so its quite cozy. Definitely check it out if you want to learn a thing or two about wine!

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Shenzhen Laurel Restaurant (深圳丹桂軒飲食集團)

This is definitely one of my favorite restaurant in Shenzhen.

Apparently, they’re also 1 of 10 best restaurant groups in China for many years consecutively. The group has about 5-6 restaurants in Shenzhen, 1 in Macau’s StarWorld Galaxy and a few others in Southern China. The one that I usually go to (the only location I keep going to) is located on the second floor of the Shenzhen Century Plaza Hotel (深圳新都酒店). Its clean and the restaurant is separated by a smoking and non-smoking section the entire length of the hotel lobby (lol). The staff is attentive and most importantly, their food is of extremely high standards (for reasonable prices … well, compared to Hong Kong anyway).

So what kind of Chinese food do they serve? I would say a mixture of Chinese ethnic cuisine, but with an emphasis on Southern China cuisine. But you can still get  Kao Ya (烤鴨) or what we Cantonese call Peen Pei Aap (片皮鴨), which if I’m not mistaken, originated from Beijing?

An added bonus to why I love Laurel Restaurant so much is their emphasis on wine pairing. Obviously, they still serve a range of other Chinese liquor, but for a local Chinese restaurant to be so serious about wine is a quite refreshing concept to me. No really, they have decent, more-than-drinkable wine (not some RMB 30 bottle) everywhere in the restaurant and a pretty nice wine cellar. It looks like wine really is picking up in the mainland!

Beef Cubes with Onions (铁板牛柳)

Beef Cubes with Onions (铁板牛柳)

First up was beef steak chopped into cubes, served medium on a piping hot metal plate … so its still cooking right in front of you. The dish is nothing new, but its cooked very well … the beef is really juicy and extremely flavourful and not too chewy; all of which are signs that the beef is fresh, and wasn’t drenched in soda powder / baking soda and water (something you might find in the HK$ 48 lunch set at Steak Expert!).

Crabs with Vermicelli (粉丝蟹锅)

Crabs with Vermicelli (粉丝蟹锅)

Next was a Vermicelli Crab Pot. Whenever I order this dish, I’m not really ordering for the crabs. Its the vermicelli I want … because it had absorbed the flavours from the crab, plus generous amounts of garlic, spice and sauce. You’ll see its a pretty “dry” pot, but that’s because all the essence has gone into the vermicelli. Yum. Unfortunately, when I had this dish, the crab wasn’t as fresh as I’d hope for … the meat felt a little loose, which probably means it wasn’t as fresh as it should’ve been. Minus points here.

Roast Duck (烤鸭)

Roast Duck (烤鸭)

This is really good. But its not quite the same as Beijing’s Quanjude (北京全聚德) … but I can’t quite point my finger on why. I’m guessing the ducks from Quanjude is fatter and roast differently than the ones from Laurel Restaurant. In fact, the roast duck here at Laurel are pretty “lean” but Kao Ya standards haha … the layer of fat between the meat and the skin is really quite thin.

Anyway, the chef would come out, show you the roasted duck and ask whether you want “thin cut” or “thick cut”. Usually the latter includes a bit of meat on it as well … but I usually get the thin cut, which is literally just the roasted skin of the duck.

Place the skin in the wrap (sort of like a Pita, but very thin and less dry), add sweet sauce, cucumber, spring onion … and there you have it!

What left is a perfectly good skinned duck and they’ll ask you how you want it cooked. They dice the meat up and fry it together with anything you want. In this particular case, we had it with bitter melon (苦瓜), which I’ve conveniently forgotten to snap a photo of. I know … I’m not usually a fan of bitter melon, but its actually not bad. Not too bitter for a start.

Spring Onion Chicken

Spring Onion Chicken

This dish also made an impression on me. The way the chef prepared it was steam the chicken until its about 70% cooked, all the while being extremely careful not to let the juice out. Then he’ll fry the chicken on high heat (or flame) in a wok with a generous amount of garlic, shallots, onions, spring onion, ginger and parsley. Take the chicken out of the wok, chop and place neatly on dish before pouring all the remaining contents from the wok on the chicken. Its so good.

Pepper & Salt Frog Legs :)

Pepper & Salt Frog Legs 🙂

One of Laurel Restaurant’s many specialty dishes and also one of my favorite at the restaurant is the Pepper & Salt Frog Legs (椒鹽田雞腿). I order it every time and quality has been pretty consistent throughout. They’re deep-fried just right with the outside slightly crunchy and the insides cooked, but not overcooked (i.e. its still very juicy inside) … hmm … not to mention, its not too salty and there’s a good balance between the pepper and salt.

We had this other chicken soup too, but I forgot to take a photo of it … sorry! Their soup (both chicken and fish soup) is quite popular because they comes with a heavy dose of Chinese herbs (a mix of ginseng, dongguai, tongsum, red dates and kei chi / wolfberries); Not-quite-your-ordinary Chinese soup. I’m sure its different for everyone, but for me, it was one of those hearty soup that sits really well in your stomach and you feel warm all over … yeh, probably best for winter.

We Won RMB 500!!!

We Won RMB 500!!!

The bill came out to be about RMB 980 for a group of 5, which is neither cheap or too expensive (I’d say its a little skewing the higher-end, especially in China standards … but I’m comparing prices along the Bund in Shanghai, etc.). BUT, as we were doing our little “scratchy” thing on the fa piao’s (发票), we got RMB 500!!! You can’t really see it clearly though … I was using my iPhone … I wish I had my D60 so I get a good close-up of the unmistakable 伍佰元 . How crazy is that? I’ve gotten RMB 20 before, but winning RMB 500 is like … winning second or third prize to the Mark Six Lottery in Hong Kong … or so I was told. Apparently, there’s also RMB 1,000, 5,000 and even 10,000 but that’s exponentially harder to get … obviously.

So we basically got a 50% discount for the meal 🙂

Siu Yeh Rating: 9/10!

Note: Photos taken with an iPhone.

Shenzhen Laurel Restaurant (深圳丹桂軒飲食集團)
Shenzhen Century Plaza Hotel (深圳新都酒店)
深圳市建设路
Shenzhen, China

Good Grape Group Shiraz Evening

So I was invited to this wine tasting event that was co-sponsored by Zest, ASC Fine Wines and Culture Magazine. There were about 20-30 guests, all (or most) of whom are wine lovers, of course. The group is called “Good Grape” and apparently, they used to have this once a month and then it stopped for a year (for reasons I am not aware of) and this particular event was the first in 2009. The hosts will continue to organize these events once a month from now on.

The theme for the night was Shiraz. And for those of who (like me) who are still learning about wine, this varietal is more lending towards “spicy” flavours with descriptions (thanks JC) such as pepper, spice, cinnamon, thyme, liquorice and/or cedar. And if you can taste the fruits within, they usually are cherry, blackberry, blackcurrant, raspberry and/or strawberry.

Here’s the tasting menu.

Wine and Canapes

1. Two Oceans Shiraz 2008
Wild mushroom risotto spoon with smoked porcini, perorino and rocket

Two Oceans Shiraz 2008 paired with Wild Mushroom Risotto with Smoked Porcini, Pecorino, and Rocket

Two Oceans Shiraz 2008 paired with Wild Mushroom Risotto with Smoked Porcini, Pecorino, and Rocket

This was my favorite pairing. The risotto had really strong mushroom and truffle flavours and it goes really well with Shiraz, which as I’ve just mentioned, is very spicy. The parmesan shavings on the risotto definitely helped too!

***
2. Maison Bouachon Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2006
Poached chicken and onion tartlet

Maison Bouachon Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2006 paired with poached chicken and onion tartlet

Maison Bouachon Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2006 paired with poached chicken and onion tartlet

This pair, I wasn’t too fond of. For one, the Maison Bouachon is considered an “Old World” and as I’ve learned from JC from Grande Passione, rather than to make a Shiraz, old world wines tend to reflect the wine itself for what it is (i.e. all the hundreds of factors that made it a Maison Bouachon). The fact that it was 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre also made it not-so-Shirazy. But hey, what do I know. Since this wine wasn’t as strong as the other 3, the chef paired it with a chicken pie, which wasn’t as strong as the other dishes, so I guess it was a good complement.

***
3. Bridgewater Mill Shiraz 2005
Grilled beef fillet slice, red onion compete, salsa verde

(There’s no photo here because I was busy talking to JC, and when the food came, it looked so good I just shoved it in my mouth)

***
4. Leeuwin Estate Siblings Shiraz 2006
Black fig with gorgonzola

Leeuwin Estate Siblings Shiraz 2006 paired with black fig with gorgonzola

Leeuwin Estate Siblings Shiraz 2006 paired with black fig with gorgonzola

The Leeuwin is known to be a very solid wine and so it neither exceeded or fell short of our expectations. What was interested about this pair was the fig and the gorgonzola. The fig is, of course, very fruity and refreshing, but it was topped with a really powerful, buttery gorgonzola. Almost reminded me of my foie gras-raddish experience in Japan not too long ago; an unfamiliar taste mixed with an unfamiliar texture. Totally messing with my head.

Of the 4 Shiraz, I like them in the following order:

1. Two Oceans Shiraz 2008

Origin: Western Cape, South Africa
Varietal: 100% Shiraz
With aromas of strawberries, spices and black pepper. A medium-bodied wine with slight tannin, an abundance of berries with spicy and peppery nuances.
Pairing: Serve with red meat, game and pasta

4. Leeuwin Siblings Shiraz 2005

Origin: Margaret River, Western Australia
Varietal: 100% Shiraz
The wine is strongly fruit driven by lifted ripe mulberry, blackberry, and blood red plums, floral violets, mocha with balanced dusty vanillin pod also showing is hints of white pepper and spice. The palate is of full to medium weight with intense sweet black cherry, blackberry and plums, earthy spiciness, and long finish, fine grain tannins.
Pairing: Meat, grilled meat, game, pasta

2. Bridgewater Mill Shiraz 2005

Origin: Adeleide Hills, South Australia
Varietal: 100% Shiraz
The palate shows a natural dark berry spectrum with smooth tannin. This is a wine to savour now or shall thrive under careful cellaring conditions given the chance.
Pairing: Meat, grilled meat, game, pasta

3. Maison Bouachon Cotes du Rhone 2006

Origin: Rhone Valley, France
Varietal: 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre
Little red underwood fruits smashed (strawberry, blackcurrant, raspberry) with notes of peppermint. A supple attach, it reminds the over ripe fruits associated to sweet spices like vanilla with toasted notes.
Pairing: Chicken, lamb tajine, pot roast, game

And if you had stayed behind for dinner, here’s the menu at HK$ 178 per person:

Braised lamb ravioli, tomato, truffle butter
***
Slow-cooked duck, cous-cous, Morrocan spice-infused red wine sauce
***
Goats cheese souffle with beetroot puree
***
Pear and almond tart with mulled red wine reduction

If you’d like to join, feel free to leave a note and I’ll put you in touch with the organizers!

Tastings Wine Bar in Central

I’ve always wanted to visit the Wine Room at the Sheraton for the Enomatic wine dispensing machines, but I still haven’t had the chance to make that trip across the harbour. Coincidentally, I was introduced to Tastings Wine Bar located in an alleyway on Wellington Street, which also has the wine dispenser I was looking for. Here at Tastings, they had 5 machines! In comparison, Wine Room only has 3 and each machine is capable of holding up to 8 bottles of wine. That’s right! We’ve got 40 different bottles of wine to choose from at Tastings Wine Bar.

5 Enomatic Wine Dispensers at Tastings Wine Bar in Central

5 Enomatic Wine Dispensers at Tastings Wine Bar in Central

There are 3 amounts of pour to choose from: a taste (25ml), half glass (75ml) and a glass (150ml). Prices, obviously, are different depending on which bottle you choose, but the selection is quite vast and caters to a wide range of palette, so there are the relatively more affordable ones (South African and even Lebonese wine) and then there’s wine from Bordeaux (on the far right). Apparently, the wine can be kept for up to 3 weeks in these dispensers but most bottles are consumed on a daily basis, except for the Chateaus, which may take a little longer to consume.

Wine Stock at Tastings Wine Bar

Wine Stock at Tastings Wine Bar

I had a half glass of Opus One from the 2004 Vintage. I’m not an expert on wine (I’m learning), but if memory serves me right, it was a bit oaky and had a tinge of smoked berries. Here’s a description of the ’04 from their website:

The harvest of 2004 ended October 1st with the lowest per-acre yield since 1987. Showing a lustrous dark ruby, the 2004 Opus One presents aromas of violets, cedar, black tea leaves, black pepper and brioche. A soft, creamy entry gives way to a concentrated mid-palate; elements of cassis, toffee and cocoa round out the rich flavors of the wine. Intense.

Varietals

Carbernet Sauvignon 86%
Merlot 7%
Petit Verdot 4%
Cabernet Franc 2%
Malbec 1%

Skin Contact

25 Days

Barrel Aging

17 Months
New French Oak

Tastings was opened in July of 2008 and so its been around for only 7 months. They also offer a decent selection of cheese to pair with wine (and a box or 2 of chocolates as well).

Tastings Wine Bar
Basement, Yuen Yick Building (Close to Tsui Wah in Central)
27 & 29 Wellington Street
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2523 6282
Fax: +852 2523 6300

Restaurant Bobby Chinn is Overrated!

So before I left for Hanoi, I did a bit of research online on where I might be able to find popular / good restaurant … decent ones, of course (in the event that we can no longer handle street foods). One restaurant that consistently came out on top was Restaurant Bobby Chinn. Our “Lonely Planet Hanoi & Halong Bay Encounter” guide also mentioned the same restaurant and so we decided to give it a shot.

Restaurant Bobby Chinn

Restaurant Bobby Chinn

We made a reservation for 6 at 7:45PM and having got there on time, we still had to wait 10 minutes for our table. Meanwhile,  2 pairs of visitors came later than us, went in before us. To be fair though, the staff were probably setting up the table for us, a group of 5 … but still.

The decor inside was dimly lit and with all the red (silk) curtains draping about, I thought it was a liiiittle bit cheesy. And because it was so dimly lit, each one of us were given a magnifying glass with a built-in lamp so that you can see the menu clearer. I actually didn’t mind that; in fact, I thought that was quite a novelty. It felt as thought the restaurant was trying a little too hard making the decor “romantic”, but at the same time, it was fun.

I also like the menu a lot too … it seems Mr. Bobby Chinn has quite a sense of humour and I quote:

Creative Menu from Restaurant Bobby Chinn

Creative Menu from Restaurant Bobby Chinn

Restaurant Bobby Chinn
December 23rd, 2008 – January 31st, 2009

In the unlikely event of a terrorist hostage-taking situation in this restaurant, please DO NOT call the Russian Special Forces. I would rather be pecked to death by a duck! In the year of the rooster, otherwise known as “Cock” Bird Flu! It was NOT a promising year for Dogs in the “Year of the Dog” here in Vietnam. Last year “Year of the Pig”, sucked for every pig all over the world, (but that’s another story). Lets all hope for this continued trend in the “Year of the Rat” Now you can honestly say you ate in a restaurant where Cock, Dog and Rat were on the menu

Appetizers

  • Japanese Eggplant Salad with Haricots Vert, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Shallots, Soy Vinaigrette $9.00
  • Moroccan Beet Salad with Hazelnut Crusted Goat Cheese & House Vinaigrette $10.00
  • Warm White Bean & Seafood Salad, Finished with White Truffle Oil $11.00
  • Seared Day Boat Scallops with Braised Edamae and Truffle Pea Jus $18.00
  • Steamed Prawn Lotus Salad with Herbs and Chili Lime Vinaigrette $11.00
  • Tropical Seafood Ceviche, Mangosteen Coconut Truffle Jus $12.00
  • Duck Confit, Lemongrass Scented Lentils with Chipotle Sauce $16.00
  • Flour Tortilla Quesadilla’s with Mango Chipotle Salsa $11.00
  • Steak Salad with Eggplants and Chipotle Sauce $9.00″

And on the other page:

Entrees (Otherwise Known as Main)
Dumb cows that thought they were living in India or something. Lambs that had no idea about Islam & Cold-blooded seawater & freshwater creatures that didn’t have a chance or even a clue!

  • Grilled Prawn with Sweet Coconut Sticky Rice, Red Curry Sauce $17.00
  • Filet Mignon with Mashed Potatoes, Mushroom Red Wine Ragout $27.00
  • Symphony Of Flavours, the Chef’s Signature Bite-Size Appetizers $21.00
  • Mezze Platter, Vegetarian Nirvana on a Plate with Homemade Bread $15.00
  • Caramelised “Salmon” in Clay Pot, Cucumber Salad & Stir Fried Rice $18.00
  • Braised Lamb Shank, Gnocchi, Spinach, Pine Nuts and Raisins Lamb Jus $25.00
  • “THE BURGER” 180 grams of mouth-watering heaven and Truffled French Fries $15.00
  • Green Tea Smoked Duck with Black Sticky Rice, Baby Bok Choy & Pomegranate Jus $20.00
  • “The” Pan Roasted Salmon on Wasabi Mashed Potatoes, Vegetables, Ginger Demi Glace $20.00
  • Blackened Barramundi on Braised Banana Blossoms with a Turmeric Balsamic Vinaigrette $17.00
  • 5 Spiced Smoked Zealand Rack of Lamb with Apple Risotto, Red Wine Lamb Jus Reduction $30.00
  • Grilled Lemon-Scented Poussin with Gnocchi, Spinach, Pine Nuts and Sultans with Red Wine Sauce $18.00

If you are a VEGETARIAN, then it looks like you are pretty much screwed again! Have no fear, we have a very good Vegetarian Menu, but being a big tree hugger myself, I do not want to waste paper or ink (e.g. heavy petroleum distillate). I am sure you can understand. Price is negotiable if you wear Birkenstocks or Jesus sandals.

Bar Food, Side Dishes & Midnight Munchies

  • We tell you “You are beautiful” all night long. (Includes a signed copy of the menu.) $5.00
  • Mashed Potatoes, Sauteed Vegetables, Truffled Mushroom Pho Cuon, Garden Greens, Salmon Cha $6.50
  • Fried Calamari, BBQ Pork Ribs, Mac & Cheese $6.50
  • Grape Goat Cheese 8.00
  • Nachos $10.00

Restaurant Bobby Chinn Rules:
This restaurant is an Abba, Kenny G, and Gypsy King Free Zone. We also refuse to play any bands with more than one lead singer or matching sweater. Female Teenyboppers dressed like whores with synchronized dancing are also banned! To preserve the dining experience, we request that you are well versed in mobile phone etiquette (SILENCE). All our Poultry & Meats are Halal or as close as it gets to Kosher … Except the Pork of course! None of the staff were harmed (physically) to bring you quality food and service tonight, or ever. Children’s menu available upon request and duct tape is available for hyperactive children. Please do not ask us to split the bill other than by a number. We do not do “She had this, and I had 1/2 of that” very well. Please note that we have smaller portions at the same prices for Anorexics and those aspiring. Also this restaurant allows smoking, non-smokers, please refrain from farting in the smoking section, unless it’s a cigar. that you …”

ANYWAY, enough about the menu, let’s get right into the food:

We were given a complimentary starter; some sort of a sushi-like thing, actually I have no clue what its called, or what it is. All I heard was that it included foie gras and was topped with some sirloin steak? Personally, I thought it was a little odd to start off with that … it wasn’t really an “appetite teaser” if you know what I mean.

The Opening Act

The Opening Act

Then came our 3 appetizers for sharing. They were:

  • Fried Calamari (which actually isn’t on the Appetizers menu, we just wanted it)
  • Japanese Eggplant Salad with Haricots Vert, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Shallots, Soy Vinaigrette
  • Steak Salad with Eggplants and Chipotle Sauce
Fried Calamari

Fried Calamari

Japanese Eggplant Salad with Haricots Vert, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Shallots, Soy Vinaigrette

Japanese Eggplant Salad with Haricots Vert, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Shallots, Soy Vinaigrette

Steak Salad with Eggplants and Chipotle Sauce

Steak Salad with Eggplants and Chipotle Sauce

(last 2 photos taken with flash covered with napkin)

I quite like their appetizers; the calamaris were fresh and both the Japanese Eggplant Salad and Steak Salad was on par with what I had in mind. The eggplants were lightly salted, and the greens were also dressed with the right amount of vinaigrette. For the steak salad, the meat was tender and was cooked to medium, which make them quite juicy – just how I like my steak done too!

Burger with Truffled Fries

Burger with Truffled Fries

Then, for my maincourse, I had the Burger with Truffled Fries … the burger was just a normal burger with an average patty. They got my burger (medium well; I wanted to be a little safer and had gone with a slightly more cooked patty) mixed with my friend’s (medium rare) and when we told them about the issue, they just apologized and didn’t offer to replace my friend’s burger. Bad service.

Anyway, the burger wasn’t bad. As it turned out, my now medium rare patty was better than I had expected … but for what I’m paying, its definitely not a “gourmet” burger. It was on par with most burgers I can find in Hong Kong … except, the patty was a little on the dry-side here. What was an interesting concept was the french fries with a coat of truffle flavors – probably mixed with some truffle oil. It was a good touch, but overall, I thought it was a sad attempt in making this dish more gourmet than it really is. Without the word “Truffle” in the name, I can probably put together this dish at home.

Grilled Prawn with Sweet Coconut Sticky Rice, Red Curry Sauce

Grilled Prawn with Sweet Coconut Sticky Rice, Red Curry Sauce

I tried a bit of this and found nothing special about this dish either.

Symphony of Flavours, the Chefs Signature Bite-size Appetizers

Symphony of Flavours, the Chefs Signature Bite-size Appetizers

I definitely liked the name … and that’s probably what convinced my friend on the dish, but as it turned out … this was also nothing special. It felt a bit like arranging nicely on a plate what we could’ve got in a Thai / Vietnamese buffet dinner.

Green Tea Smoked Duck with Black Sticky Rice, Baby Bok Choy and Pomegranate Jus

Green Tea Smoked Duck with Black Sticky Rice, Baby Bok Choy and Pomegranate Jus

My friend got this duck dish and this apparently, wasn’t too bad (I didn’t try, so I couldn’t tell you whether its good or not).

Finally, this was a complimentary dessert: A Chocolate Taco.

Chocolate Taco

Chocolate Taco

The skin was bland and the chocolate cream (at least, that’s what I think it is), is a little stronger in taste – as in, I can taste some chocolate. But as you can see from the photo, there’s some condensation on the “taco” skin meaning it was probably in the fridge for quite some time and they’re probably going to throw it again anyway, so might as well give it out. But hey, this was a good photo isn’t it?

In retrospect, we probably went in with very high expectations (well, I did anyway) since people were raving about it so much and that “Hillary Clinton” visited the restaurant while she visiting Hanoi. The food was average, but prices were above-average even for US standards, but this is Hanoi we’re talking about. The bill came up to about USD 250 for 5 people (we had 2 bottles of wine, though), but consider this: Vietnamese pho noodle is selling at USD 1 per bowl across the street!

Points for Creativity

Points for Creativity

I believe part of the hype surrounding this restaurant is because there are so few gourmet restaurants in Hanoi. In fact, I can only think of Bobby Chinn outside of a hotel setting. And where else would you go if you’re sick of Vietnamese food? Well, I have lots of other choices in Hanoi … but for most expats, I suppose this is one of only a few choices.

Will I go back again? Very unlikely. We should’ve gone with Le Beaulieu Restaurant at the Sofitel Metropole Hanoi. I’d like for anyone who’s tried this restaurant to let me know what its like! Sorry Bobby.

Siu Yeh Rating: 5.5/10

Restaurant Bobby Chinn
1 Ba Trieu Street, Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi, Vietnam

Le Club at Metropole Hotel

The Metropole Hotel in Hanoi has been around since 1901 and is arguably one of the finest (and oldest) buildings in Hanoi. It houses designer brands such as Bally, Cartier, Chopard, Louis Vuitton, Mont Blanc, Salvatore Ferragamo, Sergio Rossi and Hermes. I might be wrong, but the hotel might just be the ONLY shopping mall in the whole of Hanoi. Anyway, I digress …

After an entire day’s trek around the city, we decided to stop by the Metropole for some drinks and we blindly ended up at Le Club, which is a bar / lounge / restaurant with seats indoor and poolside to choose from. Needless to say, we choose the latter (pictured)

Hanoi Metropole Hotel - View from Le Club 1

Hanoi Metropole Hotel - View from Le Club 1

Hanoi Metropole Hotel - View from Le Club 2

Hanoi Metropole Hotel - View from Le Club 2

I was there last week (Jan 5th to 9th) and so the weather was relatively chilly (I would say around 12-15 degree celsius, a bit like California weather), but they had outdoor (patio) heaters so that kept us warm. The environment was also really serene; the hotel literally separated us from all the honking and bustling-by of the motorcycles in the city.

Anyway, here are pictures of 2 of the drinks we had:

Black Martini at Le Club, Metropole Hotel, Hanoi

Black Martini at Le Club, Metropole Hotel, Hanoi

This had Grey Goose Vodka, Raspberry & Blue Curacao … this was quite strong …

Lychee Mojito at Le Club, Metropole Hotel, Hanoi

Lychee Mojito at Le Club, Metropole Hotel, Hanoi

This is what my “Friend #1” had 🙂 (If you’re reading this, Anx)

Hotel Sofitel Metropole Hanoi
15 Ngo Quyen Street
10000 Hanoi,  Vietnam
Tel: +84 4/38266919
Email: sofitelhanoi@hn.vnn.vn

Dakota Prime

THE. BEST. STEAK. EVER. PERIOD.

Yes, it was better than Morton’s Steakhouse.

Yes, it was better than the Steak House at the InterContinental Hong Kong.

Yes, it trumped all my other experiences involving steak.

And yes, the bill also topped the list.

Dakota Prime is not your average Steak and Seafood restaurant. I went there tonight with high expectations (I haven’t had a chance to come back since its grand opening) and the experience had probably exceeded my expectations.

Let’s get right down to business.

We started off with 1.5 dozens of “White Pearl” oysters (I arrived late, so I didn’t make that order and hence, I don’t know where these oysters originated from). They were really fresh … but most importantly, they was paired with a very fruity sauvignon blanc, which the waiter had recommended. I later asked for the bottle (so I can take a picture) and found out it is called Highfield from Marlborough, New Zealand! You can’t go wrong with white wine coming from that region … it almost tastes the same as Cloudy Bay.

Oysters from Dakota Prime

Oysters from Dakota Prime

New Zealand Marlborough Highfield Sauvignon Blanc

New Zealand Marlborough Highfield Sauvignon Blanc

Then came the Dakota Green Salad, which was dressed with the right amount of vinigrette and it also came with fried cheese around it (pictured). Dad had a lobster bisque (pictured). I can’t tell you how that was, but from what he told me, it was damn good.

Dakota Green Salad

Dakota Green Salad

Lobster Bisque at Dakota Prime

Lobster Bisque at Dakota Prime

Dad was on a roll tonight and went for a grilled lobster (pictured) before his steak even arrived. We all dug in and it was really juicy … again, grilled to perfection.

Grilled Lobster at Dakota Prime

Grilled Lobster at Dakota Prime

And finally came the reason why I was there tonight: 21-day Dry Aged New York Strip at 14 oz or 380 g. Apparently, they’re also branded as “Meyer’s 100% Natural Angus USDA Nebraska Beef”, which is “Fully Traceable From Farm to Table, No Hormones and No Antibiotics” (pictured)

21-day Dry Aged New York Strip at Dakota Prime

21-day Dry Aged New York Strip at Dakota Prime

My brother had the “Snake River Farms American Kobe Beef ‘Gold Label'” with Bms of 8-12 at 14 oz or 380 g (pictured).

Snake River Farms American Kobe Beef "Gold Label"

Snake River Farms American Kobe Beef "Gold Label"

The steaks were paired with Cabernet Sauvignon called Unity from Napa’s Fisher Vineyard. Very smoky / oaky, dry and quite smooth (easy to down) and doesn’t leave much of an after taste, which I like.

Wine List (Wine by the Glass) at Dakota Prime

Wine List (Wine by the Glass) at Dakota Prime

We ordered 2 Macaroni & Cheese with Truffle sauce (pictured) as side dishes for our steaks, but we later found out that these “side dishes” are meant to be shared. They came in a pan and the 1 portion is enough for 2 … (at HK$60 for a side dish, they better be!). We thought they’d be a small scope of Mac & Cheese next to your steak. If you are going to visit the restaurant, here’s an advice: Don’t order 2 of the same sides dishes!

Macaroni & Cheese with Truffle Sauce

Macaroni & Cheese with Truffle Sauce

After all that, we couldn’t handle dessert so we called it a night.

It was definitely not cheap, but it was very satisfying. For:

  • 18 “White Pearl” oysters
  • 3 glasses of New Zealand Marlborough Highfield Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2 bottles of Voss still water (800ml / bottle)
  • 3 glasses of Napa Valley Fisher Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1 Lobster Bisque
  • 1 Dakota Green Salad
  • 2 Meyer 14 oz NY Strip
  • 1 Snake River 14 oz Rib Eye
  • 2 Macaroni & Cheese with Truffle sauce
  • + 10% service charge

The damage came to HK$ 5,600. Ouch. But it was so good.

Siu Yeh Rating: 10/10

Dakota Prime
7/F., LKF Tower
33 Wyndham Street
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2526 2366
Fax: +852 2526 3626
Website: www dot dakotaprime dot hk
Email: info@dakotaprime.hk