11/25 - I had a big list of places to go to and time was running short, so we had to pull another round of the "fourth meal" food challenge. First up, we went to Jordan to try the Australian Dairy Company. No fancy food here, just cheap eats. I thought we would be fine arriving a little later, but sure enough there was a long line out the door waiting for a table. They do not encourage you to sit around eating your meal and chatting, so you have to order quick, eat quick, and pay quick. To my dismay, the entire menu was in Chinese. There were no pictures to point to, but luckily I had researched beforehand and knew we had to have the scrambled egg toast. It was heaven, the bread was fluffy and the egg was barely cooked through. Kaela devoured the ramen noodles and we both enjoyed the steamed milk. Trust me on the steamed milk. Kaela said this is food we can make at home, all they do is throw the milk in the microwave. Not even close. I believe the milk is from a particular company and it has a sweeter taste than the milk in the US. Do not expect good service here, just expect to have a tasty meal at a reasonable price. I think our entire meal for the three of us was about $20.
I wanted to walk around a bit and hit Lee Keung Kee North Point Egg Waffles. There's usually a small line. The egg waffles were excellent, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. $22 HKD, which is about $3 USD. I couldn't resist the curry fish ball, so I got a stick of those as well. Those run $10 HKD, which is about $1.5 USD.
For lunch, I wanted to try Korean food so we headed to Chim Chim Mae. The restaurant is a bit hard to find since it's actually located in a small plaza. It does not face the street, there is an Italian restaurant that faces the street so don't mistake that for the Korean restaurant. The food was okay, nothing really worth mentioning.
We met up with some new friends for dinner. They had asked what we wanted to eat, so we suggested seafood. We went to Sai Kung, which I have never been to before. At first when they told us where to meet, I thought they were saying Saigon. To my surprise the restaurant they chose a Michelin guide restaurant called Cheung Kee Seafood Restaurant. What's interesting with these sorts of restaurants is you select fresh seafood and then select how you want it prepared. We picked out Mantis Shrimp, which in Chinese translates to peeing shrimp. Don't ask me how that translation works, just know that the shrimp is delicious and can not be found in the US. We had cuttlefish with wasabi or shrimp paste sauce, scallops steamed with garlic and scallions, razor clams, crab, and uni fried rice. All were delicious. I've cooked with uni before and it pretty much dissolves, but their fried rice had little bits of uni. 6 dishes total, cost was approximately $300 USD.
Another four meal day, I definitely will need to diet and exercise when I go home. The good thing about traveling to Hong Kong is that there is a lot of walking.
We spent an entire day in Mong Kok. Mong Kok doesn’t really have anything that is outstanding, but it’s really easy to spend a lot of time there. There are many street markets in Mong Kok so if you are looking for bargains, this is the place. Haggling in the street market is acceptable. I remember one time I went with my brother and watched him bargain down the price by of a $10 HKD item by $2 HKD, which if you do the currency conversion was approximately .25 USD. Waste of time if you ask me. The goldfish market is also located in Mong Kok, but sadly I no longer have the time or the aquarium to raise gold fish. We killed a lot of time at Langham Place, the 4D movie theater (or as the locals call it, the cinema) is located there.
We were a bit burned out with all the Michelin dining and decided to eat at a randomly selected restaurant. After doing a quick google search, we settled on an AYCE (All You Can Eat) sushi place called Banmoto. I’m a bit of a sucker when it comes to AYCE. The selection at Banmoto was huge and a bargain. You select menu items from a picture menu and then they bring you your selection freshly made. No pictures from this meal, but I can tell you what we ate. Geoduck sashimi, white tuna sashimi, salmon sashimi, tempura shrimp, tempura fish, tempura Japanese yam, yakitori beef tongue, yakitori pork belly, yakitori chicken wings, yakitori shrimp, baked scallops, stir fried scallops, unit sushi, Japanese beef, Japanese fried rice, udon, ramen, clam miso soup, crab congee, hot pot with clams, pork belly, fish, shrimp. They encourage you to try everything and don’t mind if you don’t eat it. Also included with the AYCE meal is all you can drink, Asahi beer included. Mochi ice cream thrown in for dessert.
I had asked Peggy before our trip how many dim sum meals could she eat. I was thinking maximum 3, she responded with 3. Good guess on my part. We had missed our meal at Yum Cha due to our late arrival into Hong Kong and while Mott32 served dim sum, the main reason we went to Mott was the duck. So it was time to have a proper dim sum meal. Tim Ho Wan has the distinction of being the worlds cheapest Michelin Star restaurant. I think at current time of writing this, they no longer hold that distinction. Here comes a mini rant, remember that I have certain expectations about Michelin Star restaurants. They tend to be pricey, the idea of a cheap Michelin Star restaurant is a bit of a contradiction. But I digress.
There are many Tim Ho Wan branches through out the world. I decided to select the one in Mong Kok. Mong Kok is described to be one of the busiest districts in the world and we had not visited it yet during our visit. The itinerary during our visit included visiting the following districts of Hong Kong: Tsim Sha Tsui, Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, and Mong Kok. The 4DX movie theater that I wanted to visit was also located in Mong Kok, so the plan was to have brunch and then catch a movie. Now, I know some people will scratch their head over traveling to a foreign and watching a movie but after days of walking and exploring, it was a nice way to relax.
I did not take pictures of our meal at Tim Ho Wan. The menu selection is fairly standard dim sum, Peggy had expected something different since this was a Michelin Star restaurant. I laughed at that notion. We ordered, the steamed pork bao, har gow, siu mai, sticky rice, pork ribs, shrimp noodle rolls, pork noodle rolls, congee, and steam vegetable. While the food is good and cheap (around $30 USD), there is no way it deserves a Michelin Star. Service is standard dim sum service, meaning they just bring your food to the table. It really feels like Michelin set the standards low in Hong Kong.
Yep, it did it again. I had an entire paragraph typed up and it didn’t save. Take two, let’s hope this time it saves. I debated whether or not to take a day trip to Macau. Peggy and I had been to Macau before the big casinos were built and I did not remember much about the trip to Macau. I remember we joined a tour and we were rushed through the city. Instead of staying with the tour for a yucky buffet lunch, we had wandered off by ourselves to eat the famous Portuguese pork bun sandwich. I planned the trip to Macau with the thought that we could always skip Macau, we did not have to put any money down and commit since it was just a ferry ride over. Do not let google fool you about the ferry service. The ferry runs quite regularly and the ferry from Macau back to TST runs until 10:30 at night. When I was researching the trip, it looked like we would have to take the ferry from Macau back to Sheung Wan instead of TST. I reserved two meals in Macau, one at Antonio’s and one at Mizumi. Antonio’s is Michelin rated and Mizumi has a Michelin Star. It’s possible to get to Antonio’s via the shuttle from the ferry to the Venetian casino. That was my original plan. However, as we walked through the Venetian, I got disoriented with directions and decided to take a taxi to the restaurant instead. A couple of interesting side bars here, I asked one of the hotel workers how to exit the casino. His response to me was which exit. Some common sense here, I’m lost, if I knew which exit why would I ask? Since we were traveling in Macau with Kaela, we were not allowed to walk into the casino. We had to take the long way around. While walking around the casino we found two places that I had intend to look for in Macau. One was Lord Stow’s bakery, known for their Portuguese egg tarts. The other was a beef and pork jerky place.
When we finally found a taxi, the taxi driver had no idea what restaurant we wanted to go to. It took a few minutes for me to pull out the menu that I had printed out from home and show him the address before he finally figured out where we wanted to go. He dropped us off and pointed straight so we figured we were close. The place that he pointed to was a Buddhist temple, so surely that was not the right place. Our phone service did not work in Macau, so google maps wasn’t an option. And of course I didn’t have a paper map of Macau. I learned in Hong Kong to get a paper map, that way there was some sort of a back up in the event google maps didn’t get you to where you wanted. I walked down a few streets but couldn’t find the place, finally Peggy asked someone. The good thing about Macau is that a good majority of people speak Cantonese. In Hong Kong, there are a lot of mandarin speaking people. My guess is people from mainland China came over to Hong Kong when Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain.
Eventually we found Antonio’s and there was a woman waiting for the restaurant to open. Turned out she was American and did exactly what we did, took a day trip from Hong Kong to Macau. Somehow she had walked over to the restaurant from the Venetian. Antonio’s is known for Portuguese food, so sausage and seafood would definitely make the menu selection. Kaela selected grilled pork, remember when I mentioned pork bun sandwiches? I can’t say that I am versed in Portuguese food but they definitely do pork well. I opted for smashed bread with seafood and Peggy decided on rabbit. Rabbit is an odd meat, it sort of tastes like chicken, but I only say that for a lack of a better way to describe it. The portions were huge, the American woman and her husband tried to order the seafood paella but were told that even though the menu says the portion is for two, it’s really four servings. Our three items could have been condensed down to two and it would have been plenty of food. Another side bar here, in my opinion, travel should require gluttonus eating. There is plenty of time to diet when you go home and unless you travel a lot, you need to experience the food and culture as much as possible. The food at Antonio’s was fantastic.
Since we were beyond stuffed from lunch, we decided to walk around a bit. The taxi driver had driven us past a bunch of eateries and I wanted to check them out. To our surprise there were a lot of choices, there was a restaurant that served shark fin for approximately $10USD. Yes, I know shark fin is banned. There were plenty of fresh seafood restaurants as well. From the street we were walking on you could clearly see one of the large casinos, we decided to walk there and take a little rest before dinner. Turns out the casino was the Galaxy. I’ve never heard of it before and don’t know if there is an equivalent casino in Las Vegas. I decided to try my luck and do some gambling. Most of the tables featured baccarat. My preferred game is black jack. I was hard pressed to find tables with the games you typically find in Vegas. After walking around for quite a while, I found 2 black jack tables, the lowest one having a $300HKD minimum. I was hoping for something along the lines of $100HKD. Reluctantly, I went to the cashier so I could play a few hands. Now I did not know this, but the exchange rate at casinos are quite good. The only thing is that they only wanted clean bills, nothing with stamps or markings.
After a short time at the table, we decided to walk around a bit more. The Galaxy had a nice free water show and an outside food court with a lot of interesting places to grab a snack/light meal. Our next meal reservation was at the Wynn and it was nowhere in sight. We grabbed a cab again. This time the cab driver asked us which Wynn casino? I was beginning to think something is surely wrong with the people in Macau. Why would there be two Wynn casinos? He then started to explain there is the old Wynn located in the old part of Macau and the new Wynn closer to where we were presently at. Finally dinner time rolled around and we went to Mizumi only to discover they were closed. How could that be? They had confirmed my reservation. We asked the neighboring restaurant and sure enough, they close on Wednesdays. We asked the same restaurant if we could eat there and were told they were fully booked. So here comes my rant again...
I’m rather convinced that the Michelin thing is full of shit in Hong Kong/Macau. Ah Yat, no reservations. Shang Palace, no where close to the service/quality of food in the US. Mizumi took reservations but we couldn’t dine there due it being closed. Bad luck? Now I know back in the good ole US, what to expect from a Michelin Star restaurant. I know what to expect from a Michelin guide/bib gourmand restaurant. The standards aren’t even remotely the same between the US and Hong Kong/Macau. So what gives? Can someone explain it to me?
Disgusted with the whole Wynn/Mizumi ordeal, we decided to cut the trip short and return to Hong Kong. The nonsense also ruined our appetite that evening. We decided to skip dinner and eat the fruit we had bought, the egg tarts from a couple days earlier (kept in refridgerator, egg tarts are good for a few days when kept in refridgerator and can be eaten cold), and the pork jerky we had just bought.
My oh my, how quickly the time flies. It’s been a few days since the last post and already I am forgetting what we did and where we ate. It is November 21, and we are in the Wan Chai area. The stores at the mall don’t open until 10 am and we have been up for a while. I find Starbucks again, they are all over the place here in Hong Kong, and we order a meatball and potato pie.
Kaela says the meatball pie is good, so I’ll take her word for it. Kaela finds a store that sells Studio Ghibli items, so she’s a happy camper. Our lunch destination is a restaurant called Samsen. It’s off the beaten path and is rated one of the hottest new restaurants. I found this restaurant by searching for wagyu beef in Hong Kong. I was looking to book a meal that had wagyu beef and this was a back up choice. I’m glad we decided to eat here. It’s sort of a joke that Hong Kong people like to line up for good food, when we arrived there was a good line of people waiting. The menu is small, but you don’t need a large menu when what they do is fantastic. Peggy and I had the Wagyu beef noodle. Kaela had the chicken noodle dish since the wagyu beef noodle is spicy and she is still building her way up to eating spicy food. We order the fried fish skins and Thai watercress for appetizers. Thai watercress is ong choy. The food arrives quickly, the restaurant likes to turn over customers quickly, but they don’t rush you.
The fish skin is good. The ong choy is a bit sweet for my taste, but it’s tasty. The wagyu beef noodle is excellent, thin slices of wagyu beef, beef balls, and beef stew. It also has some fried pork rinds in it. Peggy forbids me from eating pork rinds, so whenever I can sneak it into something I’m a happy camper. I think I figured out the ingredients to make the wagyu beef noodles, so maybe I’ll give it a try when I’m home.
I made dinner reservations at Shang Palace. It’s a two Michelin Star restaurant and there is a special for set meal crab feasts going on during our visit, I’m able to book reservations through www.feedmeguru.com. When we get to the restaurant I have a change of heart with the set meal, there are too many interesting choices. Unfortunately when I started taking notes of our food choices, the waitress comes to take our order and took away the menu. I also neglected to take pictures. I remember foie gras prawn toast, abalone and scallop with black truffle oil, hairy crab roe noodles, lotus leaf fried rice.
Sounds delicious, but now begins my rant. Both Peggy and I agreed the service was a bit lacking. It’s a two star Michelin restaurant and the service was just a tad above average. The service that we had at Mott32 was better. There’s also a big misconception that high end ingredients translates to great food. It felt like the meal lacked innovation and it was mainly the use of high end ingredients that made the price of the meal high. I was also disappointed with the hairy crab roe. It was our first time having it and I was expecting it to be rich and decadent.
As I am writing this, I’m fighting a number of things. First, after I type everything it’s not always saved. So I seem to be writing, saving, and not seeing anything. This is causing me to do many iteration of writing and saving. Second, the pictures don’t seem to show up. The slideshow feature appears to work well. I may suspend my posts until I return back in order to properly post.
As the title says, we are fighting a serious case of jet lag. After dining at Mott32, the plan was to kill some time and then head over to dinner at cafe Siam. We had walked over to the observation wheel but it did not appear to be open. We decide to head back to the hotel, grab a nap, then head out fresh again. The plan was to nap about an hour. I woke up, but was still really groggy. Peggy and Kaela were completely knocked out. Needless to say we missed our reservation and I had no intention to go back to central during prime commute time.
After some deliberation, we decided to stay at the hotel and dine in for dinner. Luckily for us, we had quite a few choices at the hotel we were staying at. We settled on Le soliel. When I was doing research, this restaurant popped up as one of the best new restaurants. Kaela was still passed out, so Peggy and I decided to grab a quick bite. I was still sleepy and wasn’t too interested in eating when we arrived at Le soliel. We ordered crab asparagus soup, seafood rice served in coconut, and braised ox tail. The soup was delicious and if I were awake, I probably would have enjoyed the meal more. Peggy loved the rice. The braised oxtail was interesting, I think was able to dissect the recipe and will give it try myself. One of the things that I like to do when dining at nice places is to figure out how to recreate the dish.
One of the best ways to travel around Hong Kong is the MTR. It’s basically Hong Kong’s version of BART or the subway if you aren’t familiar with BART. There are many shops in the MTR, you can buy food, clothing, but you are not allowed to eat on the train. The MTR is primarily located underground and you can actually walk through the station and end up in different parts of the city. Today, we are taking the MTR across the water to Hong Kong island. Central is known for high end shopping and has a financial district. What is odd about Central are the walkways. There are walkways above the streets that take you from place to place. Never mind the street maps, they span blocks and have no discernible address. We walked the street so I could get my bearings and then we explored the walkways. It’s definitely one of those touristy things to do.
Today we had reservations for Mott32. Mott32 is mentioned in the Michelin Guide, but I think they deserve a Star. I had emailed them and they were happy to accommodate. They also asked if we were going to dine on their specialty, roast duck, if so please order it 24 hours in advance because they do sell out. I made a reservation for the roast duck and looked forward to it as one of the highlights of the trip. We arrived at Mott32 ahead of schedule. There is no formal lobby area for patrons to wait, instead you can stand in the bank lobby or take a seat in the bank. I’m sure the bank wasn’t pleased, but when in Hong Kong, I can always pull out the I’m an American tourist card and pretend I don’t understand. Finally when the restaurant was open, we were told to go downstairs. Again with the basement thing...the journey down the stairs to the restaurant is a visual adventure in itself. You descend down an escalator and pass a waterfall. It’s a what the? moment. Then you get to a mirrored staircase and go down another two or three flights. When you finally arrive at the restaurant it’s very visually appeasing.
We were quickly seated at a prime location close to the duck oven/refrigerator and the waitress asked us if we wanted still or sparkling water. I browsed the alcohol menu and the salted plum margarita immediately jumped out. I do make it a point to look for drinks when dining on vacation, even during breakfast. I decided to order some dim sum while waiting for our duck to be cooked. The duck takes 45 mins. First up was the soft quail egg, Iborico pork, black truffle siu mai. This order normally comes in two pieces, there were three of us dining so I was expecting to share. Our waitress immediately asked if we want three pieces. It’s this attention to detail that makes the dining experience excellent. I was expecting the egg on top of the siu mai. It wasn’t, only truffle on top. One bite in and the egg yolk oozed out. Wow, that is some incredible technique to soft boiled the egg inside of the pork and dumpling wrap surrounding. The runny egg yolk made for an excellent sauce for the remaining bites of the siu mai. If I were to judge the restaurant on the first dish alone, it would be five stars.
Second dish, soft prawn, Iborico pork, flying fish roe siu mai. Delicious. Third dish, prawn, crispy rice paper, asparagus. Devine. Fourth dish, Australian beef puff. Anytime there is opportunity to dine on wagyu beef, take it. Fifth dish, abalone, shredded Peking duck, spring roll. Delightful. There was not a bad selection in the bunch and I would have ordered more if we did not have the duck coming.
During our entire meal I was watching the ducks coming out of the roasting oven. When we finally got our duck, our first serving was crispy duck skin. If done right, crispy pork skin tastes similar to bacon, this was perfect. The second serving was the Peking duck with thin paper. This was perfect as well, nicely slice pieces, some with lots of skin, some with chunks of meat. The sauce was a mix of hoisin sauce, peanut sauce, and I think sesame oil. The server carefully made the sauce, so it was a visually appealing swirl. It’s definitely a technique I’ll be using in my cooking. I opted to add on to the duck by using the duck remanants for another order.
It’s hard to break the coffee habit, woke up this morning and NEEDED a cup. Good thing there is a Starbucks relatively close by the hotel. Popped in and studied the menu a bit, the food choices were a bit different than the choices in the US. I settled on a bacon and egg pastry and the back up coffee choice of Caramel macchiato. My normal first choice of white chocolate coffee was nowhere to be found on the menu. The bacon and egg pastry was delicious, it had an egg tart sort of texture. I was expecting just plain old bacon and scrambled egg inside of a flaky pastry, but this was something different. Kaela had wanted McDonalds since I told her the menu in Hong Kong is different.
It seems like every McDonalds in Hong Kong is located in a basement. Scanning the menu and there a a lot of different choices, macaroni and cheese sandwich, corn and cheese sandwich, what happened to egg McMuffin? I guess that must be a US thing since it was nowhere on the menu. I had a second cup of coffee at McDonalds. A flat white coffee. I don’t recall that being one of the options in the US, but I am sure I have seen flat white in Starbucks. Equally strange were the pictures adorning the walls of McDonalds. Is that a Big Mac in the picture?
It was a mistake to nap after the Shanghai bao, but we were still a bit jet lagged and feeling the effects of US time. Reluctantly, we got up and tried to make our way to Ah Yat. I had tried to make reservations beforehand but was unsuccessful. When we arrived at Ah Yat, we tried to make a walk in reservation. They told us to try next door at a restaurant called Champ. I won’t go into a review of Champ because the food was average and way overpriced. We had salted egg yolk fries, lobster bisque, mushroom and truffle soup, crab and corn soup, stuff crab shell, wagyu beef and lobster (aka surf and turf), asparagus with crab, and signature fried rice. The meal sounds impressive...
To recap, breakfast at Ichiran, snacks from the grocery store, dessert and snack at the mall, snack/lunch from Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai, dinner at Champ, and fresh juice from random stall on the way back from dinner. Fourth meal? I laugh at you.
Does anyone remember the Taco Bell commercials talking about the fourth meal? We did one better. While I was searching for places to eat in Hong Kong, I wanted to eat at a few places off the beaten path. These places could be anything, snacks, light meals, odd things. I consulted www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurants and found a place called Ichiran. After a little research, I found Forbes dubbed Ichiran one of the world’s best ramen. That’s some high praise there. Lucky for us, there was an Ichiran nearby our hotel. I woke us up early to shake off the jet lag and ventured over to Ichiran for breakfast. There are two things that I absolutely love eating for breakfast, one is pizza and the other is ramen.
Here is my review of Ichiran. Finding the restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui isn’t easy, it’s located in a basement off a side road. Google maps is absolutely the worst. When we got in the vicinity of Ichiran, the map would disconnect and stop working. After wandering a bit since we were close, I spotted a dead end street and the restaurant. Normally a restaurant in basement located in a dead end street would set off the “Are you kidding me alarms?” But two sources can’t be wrong could it? We were the first patrons in and already I had the sense of dread. I had expected a line. The host told us to sit anywhere and handed us sheets of paper. I looked at the walls and there were Japanese written items with prices. Service wasn’t one of the strong points, but I was expecting it to be. We flagged down our waiter and he happily told us how things worked. You customize your flavors, you could choose broth flavor, garlic level, spicy level, ramen texture, and add ons. We ordered our meal and he pointed to some water faucets and said water is there. Wow, service is really different in Hong Kong. Another thing that I already knew is that you need to bring your own tissues for a number of reasons, one being you needed it for meals. Our food arrived fast and I quickly inspected it. It looked fine, decent portions, broth was a little cloudy like how it is supposed to be, and it had a nice garlicky smell. I chose the add on, which they provided on the side and carefully tossed it in. First bite, heaven. The broth was spot on, noodles had the right chewiness, pork was from a belly cut, and the soft boiled egg was perfect, half runny. I also ordered a matcha beer, which can be seen in the picture above. It went well with the meal, but I would recommend passing on it. Beer and green tea just isn’t my thing.
After breakfast we decided to do a little shopping. It was still a little early before the retail stores opened, so we went to the grocery store to pick up some snacks. Oh my! This was going to be a problem. When we stopped in 7-11 the night before, I saw some different flavored snacks but it was contained to a small section of the aisle. This place had aisles upon aisles of choices. There was a section with regular Hong Kong snacks, a section with Japanese, a section with Korean, a British section. It was too bad we couldn’t sample things, otherwise we would have bought more than we did. I’ll do a separate review of the snacks. We walked around the mall and stumbled upon a food court. There was a stall that did desserts. I purposely did not try and fill up at Ichiran because I wanted to snack. I ordered the tried and true black sesame paste soup with sweet tofu, Peggy ordered mango sago, and Kaela had watermelon juice. I found a neighboring stall with Takoyaki (aka octopus balls). Everything was good, I found the Takoyaki different than the ons I had in the US. The Takoyaki was more melt in your mouth than the chewy version. With bellies full, arms weighed down with shopping bags, and feeling jet lagged we decided to drop everything off at the hotel and relax a bit.
Big mistake, once we got back to the hotel, none of us wanted to go out for lunch. We were tired and had a huge bounty of snacks to munch on. Good thing I had another trip advisor find in mind. Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai, is known for their Shanghai buns. You may have heard of or had Shanghai dumplings before, but these are the cousin. The inside ingredients are the same, but instead of a dumpling wrapper, Shanghai buns are stuffed in dough and have the pan fried bottom that you see on potstickers. Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai is Michelin rated.