16 Nov 2014

YAN TOH HEEN

Hong Kong

When it comes to fine Chinese dining in Hong Kong, it doesn’t get much better than Yan Toh Heen, located in the legendary Intercontinental Hotel on Kowloon Bay. With breath-taking panoramic vistas of Hong Kong Island, this two Michelin starred institution is globally revered for its cuisine and impeccable service. I dined at Yan Toh Heen on my very first night in Hong Kong as a way to kick-start what would be a very busy five-day break of non stop eating and partying. I am glad to say that even though Yan Toh Heen did not top my list of being the best in Hong Kong, it very much delivered and left a good impression. What disappointed me about Yan Toh Heen was not the food but the ambience. My friends and I were expecting a lively buzzing dining room with spectacular views, and what we found was a very quiet space with many business suits and an older crowd; the mood I have to admit was a bit of a buzz kill. Despite this, the food resurrected my impression of the place; it was just that good! Highlights from the dinner include the barbecued fresh water eel, which was prepared with an Osmanthus honey sauce, which is very fragrant and sweet, and worked perfectly with the eel; it was the best dish of the night. The crispy fresh water prawns with black truffle are definitely worth ordering, although the serving was a bit small and thus we had to order two more portions. A favourite of the night was also the wagyu beef with black peppercorn, which is not the most inventive dish, but the quality of the beef was terrific and just melted in my mouth. To balance out our meal with a vegetarian option, we ordered the very delicious and mouth watering wok fried white asparagus with bamboo pits and mushrooms. As an emblem of Hong Kong fine dining, I would definitely recommend Yan Toh Heen, but don’t go expecting a lively scene; at least not at dinner time. 
 



 

















 


9 Nov 2014

ED'S LOBSTER BAR

New York, USA

Like clockwork, merely two to three hours after landing in New York, I make my way to Soho to have a bite at Ed’s Lobster Bar, a tradition I have upheld for the past five years and intend to do for many years to come; that is until I officially cross the Atlantic and become a New Yorker myself. This marks our second review of Ed’s on the Food Grid, and just as last time it was delicious and fulfilling. Not much has changed in that I ordered my go to drink, the Arnold Palmer, and started with the Shrimp Cocktail that was just as fresh as I have come to expect and with what is the best cocktail sauce there is. Of course no meal at Ed’s would be complete without the Lobster Roll and French Fries, which still commands my opinion as being the best lobster roll in the city; the brioche bun is just sensational. To kick things into a higher gear I also ordered the Lobster Pot Pie for the first time, as every time I go to Ed’s I would arrive around lunchtime and the pie is only served after 17:30 as part of their dinner time menu. The pie, which I had been dreaming of, was a heavenly broth, with the lobster and vegetables perfectly stewed in bisque gravy decadence, topped with a flawlessly crispy piecrust; it is phenomenal. Need I say more? I am just in love with this place.
Ed's Lobster Bar on Urbanspoon

19 Oct 2014

CAFE 50S

Los Angeles, USA

Cafe 50s is a classic diner with three locations in LA. I had a craving for a typical American breakfast, and found this place online and headed over. We walked through the doors and were met by a welcome gust of cold, conditioned air; a nice break from the Los Angeles heat. We sat down in one of the booths, and a friendly waitress brought us the menu. I went for a short stack of Buttermilk Pancakes with bacon on the side, a lump of butter, and lots of maple syrup. The pancakes were as expected; tasty and much too filling. The bacon was perfectly cripsy; it's hard to come across this type of bacon back in London. My friend went for Huevos Rancheros with all the trimmings. To drink we split an Elvis Milkshake and sweet Ice Tea. They have a huge selection of Deluxe Milkshakes, and our chosen option contains vanilla ice cream, peanut butter and bananas. Everything was super tasty and exactly what I had in mind. The reason I'm not giving Cafe 50s top marks on the Hanger Meter is because it's a chain, and you can tell. Even though it only has three restaurants, it is clear that the decor is planned to look unplanned, and that the diner style is almost too obvious, the walls being plastered with vintage posters and flags. It is a family friendly restaurant, and the crowd is not 'cool'. It's missing some of the charm found in a place like The Apple Pan. The whole experience felt quite rehearsed, but to be fair they have got the American diner down pretty darn well. We walked out into the sunny parking lot full and happy after a calorie packed meal. 









Cafe 50's on Urbanspoon

8 Oct 2014

TONKOTSU EAST

London, UK

Tonkotsu East Bar & Ramen is the second to open in London, after the Soho spot, reviewed previously by the Food Grid. Unsurprisingly, the East branch is located beneath your typical railway arch, one block off Kingsland Road. It is simply and elegantly decorated, with huge, spherical lamp shades and timber furniture. Unlike its Soho counterpart, it is a very inviting space. At the end of the room there's a glass wall that displays their very own noodle-making machine. Around mealtimes there is a bit of a wait to get a table, but only about 15 minutes, so no Soho-style hour long waits. My first visit was on a Saturday at lunch time, and there was no wait at all. Once seated by the long table at the wall, we checked out the concise menu, and of course started with some gyozas. Out of the selection of pork, prawn and shiitake handmade gyozas, the prawn is the best in my opinion. All of them are pretty spectacular, but I don't think I would prioritise the mushroom one again. For the main ramen dish, we tried the Tonkotsu, a pork stock soup with pork belly and a soft boiled egg. In the menu, the meat is described as melt-in-the-mouth, and it truly does. Both the texture and flavours were delicious. We also checked out the vegetarian option, the Shimeji, Shiitake & Miso Ramen. I am a big fan of anything with mushrooms, but the miso-based soups always miss a bit of the punch of the meat based broths. The perfect situation is if you have a friend who is willing to share, so you get to taste the best of both worlds.  The portion size is more than enough to satisfy you, and along with a fried dumpling starter you will walk out very full and happy. 





Tonkotsu East on Urbanspoon

28 Sep 2014

SCOUT

Seoul, South Korea

Located in a small road off the main streets of Itaewon (the Seoul equivalent of Shoreditch) is Scout, which is a contemporary rendition of an American gastro pub. Run and operated by two American expats, Scout caters to those longing for a dose of westernisation amongst the sea of Korean BBQ restaurants. The restaurant is fairly small in size, and can easily go by unnoticed, which is a shame since both the food and drinks are exquisite. Scout has a very Brooklyn / Shoreditch bohemian vibe, with its raw concrete floors and walls and timber tables and chairs that add to its charm and coziness. What makes Scout extra special though, is that it’s directly attached to a clothing shop which stocks designers from New York and upcoming talents in the region; it truly is a unique place. I was introduced to Scout by a very good friend of mine, who lives in Seoul, and during the course of my two-week stay, I got hooked, and went there four or five times. Scout takes pride in making the best burgers in town, and having had an incredible experience last summer at Brooklyn The Burger Joint, I was keen to put it to the test. On the night of the burger trial, I was exceptionally hungry so ordered the beef burger and the chicken sandwich, which was basically a fried chicken burger. The beef burger definitely impressed me; its size was perfect and came served with Roquefort cheese that I absolutely love. The quality of the meat was superior to the meat served at Brooklyn The Burger Joint, even though the latter had a wider variety of burgers on the menu. The fried chicken burger was also a slam-dunk, and in a land where fried chicken is a delicacy, it wasn’t surprising that it would be delectable. To help the food go down smoothly, I ordered what became one of my favourite drinks of all time: The Cardamom Mojito, which is the most refreshing beverage I have had, with its infusion of fresh basil, gin, and cardamom; just amazing. Scout has an undeniable charm and charisma that will just keep drawing me back through its doors. Even if its just for a quick nightcap, I will travel across town to get a mojito freshly made by their incredibly friendly bartender Mia and served by the amazing Sally, who made me a true Scouts-man.

18 Sep 2014

IPPUDO

New York, USA

Ippudo is a ramen restaurant with two locations in New York, one in Sydney, lots  around Asia and one opening in London. I went to their East Village branch for dinner, hoping that the waiting time for a table wouldn't be too long. My friend and I entered just behind a large group of well dressed Japanese girls, and were told the queue would be an hour. Fortunately they let us leave our phone number, so we could walk around until it was our turn. We managed to move a bit too far away, so when they called after only 45 minutes we had to make a run for it and jump in a taxi. Although we were a bit late, the helpful staff had kept the table for us, and we sat down after ordering delicious cocktails at the bar. Since we were going to a second dinner later on at Buddakan we skipped the starters and only had a bowl of ramen each. We had the Shiromaru Hakata Classic and the Karaka Men, both with pork and kikurage mushrooms. We couldn't miss out on adding a poached egg as an additional topping, which provided an amazing texture and lots of flavour. The pork belly was perfect and the mushrooms were super tasty. All of these flavours boiled together in the broth created a hearty, but not too heavy taste. I couldn't ask for anything more from a ramen broth. We finished our bowls to the point of lifting them and drinking out the very last drops. To end this delicious meal, I had a glass of sake, generously poured to the brim and served in a small wooden box. Dinner at Ippudo was a pleasant and yummy experience, eaten within a cool and stylish atmosphere without any pretentiousness. We are very excited for their opening in London!








Ippudo on Urbanspoon

11 Sep 2014

LUNG KING HEEN

Hong Kong

Lung King Heen, meaning “View of the Dragon” is a seafood and dim sum restaurant located in the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong. The View of the Dragon refers to the spectacular harbour views that this restaurant presents; and like with many Hong Kong dining spots, the view is amazing. What sets Lung King Heen apart from these is not only that it boasts the highly coveted three Michelin star rating; it is also the world’s first Chinese restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. Suffice to say expectations were exceptionally high, and not only were they met, they were surpassed. Dining at Lung King Heen was a pleasure and just made me feel good. The combination of the attentive smiling staff, the stunning view, the great ambience and delicious food made this an unforgettable experience. I went to Lung King Heen during lunchtime on my final day in Hong Kong. I was saving it for the last meal, which I now regret as I would have liked to go multiple times. Since it was lunchtime most of the ordering concentrated on dim sum, which is what it is renowned for in any case. Highlights included the steamed lobster and scallop dumpling, which was sublime in every measure; the texture was spot-on and the flavours fresh and not overbearing. The mushroom, prawn and black truffle spring rolls were also an interesting option, although quite heavy on the truffle and oil and thus rank to be the least favourite item from what we had ordered. A delicious and very successful dish were the baked morel mushroom puffs with chicken; they were light, full of flavour and just begged us to order more, which we did. As the meal progressed, the food just kept getting better, with the scallop and prawn dumpling which not only looked perfect, but tasted perfect; it was a delight merely to look at it. The best of all however, goes to the Baked Toro Dumplings, which are essentially filled with lobster, black truffle and mushroom. These dumplings go down as being one of the most delicious things I have ever tried, the baked texture is so unique and the explosive flavour of the black truffle complimented both the steamed lobster and mushrooms; this is a must and I will gladly attest to it being one of the finest dishes there is. Superb! To conclude our light and quick lunch we ended on frog legs that were very delicious indeed, and finally lettuce wrapped vegetables in order to end the meal on a lighter note. There is not much more to be said about this excellent restaurant, except that it will go down as being one of the most memorable meals I have had, and not only do I recommend it, I insist that you visit it if and when in Hong Kong.




7 Sep 2014

BURGER MEISTER

Berlin, Germany

After a long night out in East Berlin, and a very late start to the next day, I happened to walk past Burger Meister on my way into the U-Bahn at Schlesisches Tor. I had heard about it as one of the top burgers in the city, so I concluded that it would make for a perfect breakfast. The stall is built into a converted public toilet right under the railway arches, with a few tables outside. There were only about 3 groups in front of us, so I thought it would be a quick stop. After paying and getting the ticket, I had a look at the number screen above, and realised we were in for a long wait. The 'dings' would come every five minutes, and it felt like forever before it was finally my turn to pick up the burger. I guess it's good that they put some time and effort into preparing the food. I unwrapped the beauty and dug in. The two slices of cheese were perfectly cooked, not too runny like in Patty & Bun. The lettuce and tomatoes were crips and fresh. There was a tiny bit of red onion, giving the flavour some punch without taking over the entire assembly. The bun not only looked beautiful, but had the perfect size, texture and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. The meat was really juice, not too bloody, and with a bit of a charred surface from the grill. All of it worked really well together, and I could have easily ordered another, if it didn't take so long to get it. By the time we finished, the queue had grown, as it was getting closer to dinner time. More people were impatiently waiting around for their burgers to arrive. My friends and I shared a standing table with a tall, beautiful couple with glitter on their faces, who told us they had just come from a boat party. They asked if it was worth the wait, and we affirmed that it definitely was. The crowd generally was quite mixed, and not very touristic. The service was friendly, and the general atmosphere around the stall was relaxed. With a bottle of glass Coke to go with, this was the perfect afternoon breakfast. I cannot think of a single bad thing to say about this burger, hence it is getting a full score on the Hanger-Meter. If only we had a Burger Meister in London...