6 Hipster Lunar New Year Feasts in Hong Kong

If you are swinging over to Hong Kong to avoid the ‘hong bao’ handouts, over inquisitive relatives then you might like to pop into these interesting relatively new hipster spots to savour some of the trendy eats that have emerged from Hong Kong’s ever creative dining scene.

Fang Fang

If you are fan of Modern Chinese, head to Fang Fang at LKF Towers, Central. They have an Ikebana cocktail menu that celebrates the Japanese art of floral decoration, available from 30 January – 6 February 2018.

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Award winning Bar Manager Gagan Gurung (ex Zuma) uses a floral theme to create cocktails with names like ‘Garden Old Fashioned’ featuring kavalan whiskey; ‘Fangroni’ which brings an enchanting Asian twist to the classic Negroni and the ‘Champaca Margarita’ which carries refreshing notes of magnolia flower infused Cointreau and citrus mix.

For the Lunar New Year, book a seat for 17 February 2018 for the Prosperity Brunch (HKD398) which includes a free flow moët (HKD 150) and features Chef Kent Lee’s new dim sum dishes as well as a modern take on the traditional Lo Hei, prepared with Norwegian Salmon. Brunch .  A festive dinner menu (HKD 888) will also be available for a limited amount of time and will feature rainbow Lo Hei with Norwegian Salmon as well as a Fang Fang’s a premium Dim Sum platter which will include a new interpretation of hargau, siumai and king crab dumpling.

If you want a bit of live entertainment, singer Wendy Robin, will be performing soulful jazz and blues from Tuesday through Saturday each week and throughout the Lunar New Year.

Yum Cha 

Chic, trendy and fast expanding dim sum dining destination restaurant YUM CHA has restaurants in TST, Mongkok, Central and a new one just opened in Causeway Bay (Emperor Watch & Jewellry Centre, 8 Russell Street) that resembles a New York loft concept. The chain which also owns Social Place, promises an eye-catching ‘instaworthy’ dim sum menu for Chinese New Year.

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Created by Executive Chef Winson Yip, red bean paste buns are designed to resemble the ‘God of Wealth’, bringing good fortune and prosperity; ‘Fried Dumplings with Pork Filling’ are styled after a traditional Chinese gold ingot; ‘Mandarin Buns’ are bite-sized lookalikes of a prosperous mandarin; and ‘Lo Hei’, a mini-version of the colourful, fun and tasty Prosperous Toss salad, traditionally shared to symbolise abundance and prosperity. The team have made it their mission to promote Hong Kong’s food culture, with expert dim sum and wok chefs bringing a modern twist to the fragrant harbour’s traditional ‘yum cha’ ritual of tea and dim sum delicacies.

Zen

Head to the heart of vibrant Wanchai to ZEN, a newly relaunched Cantonese restaurant.  The restaurant hails from London, now in Hong Kong with restaurants around the world including Beijing, Shanghai, Gold Coast, Tianjin, Sanya, Shanxi Taiyuan, Hainan Island, Chengdu, Mexico City, Macao, Dubai and Amman. There are 3 menus available from now till 2 March 2018 that are ideal for group gatherings. Each is a 10-course set priced at HKD5500, HKD6688 and HKD7788 respectively for 10-12 people.

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All about lucky connotations, the ‘Lucky Menu’ (HKD5,500) starts with Deep-fried Scallops stuffed with dishes like Shrimp Paste and Golden Roast Crispy Sesame Chicken. The ‘Joyful’ menu (HKD6,688) has a Whole Suckling Pig barbecued to perfection, Grilled King Prawns in a Honey Tomato Sauce and Poached Yin Yan Cabbage with Tofu Skin and Wood Fungi served in a rich fish stock. The ‘Prosperous’ menu (HKD7788) includes both supreme dried seafood and fresh catches of the day including the signature Fried Baby Lobster coated with Golden Duck Yolk and the Double-Boiled Yin Yan Chicken Soup with Ginseng.

Duddel’s

With restaurants in Hong Kong and London, Duddell’s fashionable take on Chinese food is not just about the food but also the location, the interior is said to be fashioned after the eclectic home of a seasoned art collector. The restaurant in Hong Kong is situated on the historic Duddell Street, in the heart of Hong Kong’s Central district.

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For the Lunar New Year,  Dim Sum and Suckling Pig are on their lavish menu. If you are going for the dim sum nibbles, they start at HKD68 per dish. If it’s a proper sit down reunion meal, that you are after then there are 2 set menus that start for minimum 4 people from HKD8388 with items like Baked Crab Shell with Onion, Braised Conpoy with dried Oysters and Sea moss, Sauteed Garoupa with termite mushroom, Crispy Salted Chicken. Available both lunch and dinner from 18th to 25th February

Mott 32

With restaurants in Vancouver, Hong Kong and soon Bangkok, Mott 32 is equally fashionable and well-located at the Standard Chartered Bank Building in Des Voeux Road, Central.

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Highly regarded, Executive Chef Lee Man Sing (ex-Mandarin Oriental) runs the kitchens and he has elaborate ala carte items like Whole Atlantic Lobster Salad (HKD688) with a homemade sauce, wok fried Razor clams with spring onion and ginger (HKD388), king Prawns in Chinese Rice wine, vinegar, chilli with a pan-fried sticky rice cake (HKD338), baked fresh Crab with egg, tangerine peel and onion (HKD488) and Apple-wood roasted Iberico Pork rib (HKD198) on the new year menu.

San Xi Lou 

If you have a thing for spicy Sichuan, this is the place to go to.  The name ‘San Xi Lou’ was is inspired by the Emperor Qianlong’s Imperial Studyroom – San Xi Tang (Hall of Three Rarities), in which he housed his favourite calligraphy treasures.

It’s two restaurants at Coda Plaza on Garden Road and its newly opened Times Square outlet in Causeway Bay are serving festive fare from 1 February – 2 March, with three banquet menu options featuring a range of symbolic dishes and two takeaway ‘Poon Choi’ options ideal for eight at HKD2,480.

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Their traditional ‘Poon Choi’ (Big Bowl) communal pot options come in both Sichuan and Cantonese style with premium ingredients including abalone, conpoy, goose web and dried oyster, meticulously layered , with a non-spicy ‘Nam Yue’ version, and San Xi Lou’s signature spicy Sichuan ‘Mala’ option. There are 3 Set Meals – Fiery Set (HK$8,880 for 12 persons), a milder ‘Golden Set’ (HK$16,800 or 12 persons) and a Prosperous Set’ (HK$6,880 or 12 persons). Each features eight appetisers, a variety of meat and seafood specialties, noodles, ending with dessert and a fruit platter.

 

Elaine

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Red Box Chinese New Year Takeaways From Hong Kong

Singapore is so accustomed to the Lunar New Year cookie scene – plastic boxes with red lids packed with the most delightful goodies. The scene shifts slightly in Hong Kong as the eats come in pretty red boxes with a different flavour and premium packaging, Feast your eyes on what we got in our IN box this week from the fragrant harbour

The BonBonist

Newly opened at Pacific Place, The BonBonist combines playful, fun and decadent into delectable little treats. Founded by French confectionery expert Olivia Niddam, the shop is the latest sweet-tooth craze to hit Hong Kong with over 70 delicious selections of sweets and chocolates.

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Their Lunar Year gift set is a classy  “Auspicious Treasure Trove” highlighting four new enticing bonbons, a trendy tote bag and laisee packets. ((priced HKD628),  a perfect manifesto of Eastern tradition married with Francophone chic.  Each bonbon is  also available for purchase individually, priced from HKD48 to HKD68. Customers can opt to create their own special bonbon box with colour stickers and ribbons to add a simply sweet personal touch to gifts.  Order placed between 18 to 25 January 2018  will be treated a delightful discount of 10% off the first box purchased, 15% off when two boxes are purchased; and 20% off when five boxes are purchased.

Moreish 

Moreish is a contemporary Hong Kong brand driven by a passion to celebrate classic favourites  transforming them into fresh and exciting gourmet treats. Their treats are Malaysian inspired and based on ‘Mum’s secret recipe’, beautifully repackaged. The unusual name stems from the informal British word used as an adjective to describe a food that is so pleasant to eat, that one wants more.

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Their reinvented pineapple shortcake is made with pineapple sourced from small farms in Thailand and they use native Patavia pineapples that are selected by hand just before they fully ripen to ensure that the filling has the right balance – not too sweet with a tropical tang. Their pineapple treats are wrapped like square shortcakes at HK138 a box and are pina colada flavoured.

 

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Long standing veteran French chocolatier, La Maison du Chocolat has an exclusive Flourish Gift Box (HKD680) and a number of refined hatbox gift sets – all prettily packaged in French hatboxes. Alongside the main box, the Propitious Hatbox, Blossoming Hatbox, and Fruitful Hatbox – are tailored to fit every celebration during this festive time.

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The Flourish Gift Box offers a scintillating variety of sweet and crunchy La Maison du Chocolat treats presented in a beautifully designed box embellished with a sophisticated dog graphic.

Green Common

Launched four years ago, Green Common has really upped its game from health-conscious all-green organic-led supermarket to a restaurant and now a retail store offering lunar New Year vegan pastries that they have termed “food 2.0”.

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Filled with red quinoa and a variety of super food options like nourishing Cordycep flowers and peach gum, as well as purple sweet potato, each ingredient is nutrient-rich with no artificial colouring or flavouring agents. Everything is also manufactured fresh, locally-packed and vacuum sealed. There are four Chinese New Year puddings in-store to take away with names like “Purple east”, “Continuing success”, “Ma spirit” and “Well known household names” each named after the main ingredient – purple sweet potato, carrot, water chestnut, taro.

The Peninsula Hotel

Hong Kong’s Grand Dame hotel, The Peninsula (known fondly as ‘The Pen’) honours the season at their Spring Moon Chinese restaurant with their celebrated Lunar New Year puddings (HKD298) each available in Taro, Water Chestnut, Turnip and Spring Moon New Year Pudding flavours.

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Each pudding arrives in elegant packaging, making them ideal gifts for relatives and business associates – or simply for your own enjoyment. Order between 16 January 2018 and 15 February 2018 and collect from Spring Moon the following day. Guests purchasing 20 or more puddings are entitled to a 10% discount, while a 20% discount is applied to orders of 50 or more.

Cordis, Hong Kong

Cordis at Langham Place in Mongkok has also pulled out all the stops at Ming Court, their Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant, with an array of suspicious festive pudding takeaways with an innovative range of flavours including Aged Pu’er, Dark Brown Sugar and Coconut Chinese New Year Pudding (HKD238); Pumpkin and Coconut Chinese New Year Pudding (HKD268) and the all-time favourite Abalone, Conpoy, Air-Dried Preserved Meat and Turnip Pudding (HK288).

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All puddings are elegantly packaged in Ming Court’s unique New Year prosperity box. Available to order from now. For orders of 30 boxes or more before 5th February 2018, guests enjoy a 20% discount.

 

The Intercontinental Hong Kong

With a prime view of the Victoria Harbour, The Intercontinental has gift boxes and puddings galore. The Hotel goes a step further. Here, you can actually learn to make your own Chinese New Year Savoury Kagoshima Thick Cut Daikon Pudding and Peanut & Sesame Dumplings under the expert guidance of Yan Toh Heen Executive Chef Lau Yiu Fai and his team. Chef Lau will demonstrate how to make this savoury seasonal treat, along with Peanut & Sesame Dumplings.

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Date/Time: Saturday, February 10, 2018 (12:15pm – 2:00pm)

Venue: Yan Toh Heen Private Room

Price:  HK$1,488 per person + 10% service charge                   

Takeaway gifts: A box of Savoury Kagoshima Thick Cut Daikon Pudding, a package of traditional Peanut & Sesame Dumplings, a bottle of Yan Toh Heen Homemade X.O. Chili Sauce and a Yan Toh Heen apron.

Participants:     10 persons maximum

For Restaurant and Chinese New Year Pudding Class Reservations call +852 2313 2323 or E-mail: fb.hongkong@ihg.com

Elaine

Capsuled Drinks for the Babes

Step aside Nespresso, here comes BabyNes, available now in Hong Kong. We think it’s a great (and stylish) gadget & nutrition system for expectant mums and babies. Created by Wyeth, it’s a Nespresso-like machine that dispenses specially formulated beverages via capsules for pregnant ladies and babies (from 7 months old). These are meant to supplement their nutritional needs along the different stages of their development.

The BabyNes capsules come in six formulations according to their developmental stages and contain different proportions of protein, fats and active probiotics, as well as other nutrients to support their immune system, digestive system, brain and nervous system, as well as eyesight, etc. Choose capsules for babies according to their age: for 7-12 months old, 13-24 months and 25-36 months (HK$548 for 26 capsules). There are two formulae for moms, which go under the name of Mom&Me: preconception & pregnancy (HK$369 for 26 capsules) and for breastfeeding ($388 for 26 capsules). The machine itself costs HK$2088. It is wifi and blue-tooth enabled — which means you can prepare the formula remotely anywhere in the house — has a touch screen interface and comes with a personal MyBabyNes dashboard, where parents can set up feeding alerts, track the growth and development of the child, for instance.

The machine’s water pressure technology gets you a cup of formula milk in one minute at a perfect 37C, making sure that milk powder is all fully dissolved. For hygiene, the system is also designed so that there is no contact between the powder and the machine. What’s more, each capsule contains a 0.2 μm filter to allow the formula to flow directly to into the cup.

The very comfortable-looking flagship store of Wyeth BabyNes is at ifc mall in Central; but other partner retails outlets are located at various MotherCourt outlets, Seraphine Paris-Mongkok, and Mothercare-Sogo Counter at Causeway Bay.

More details at http://www.babynes.com.hk

Quick and Delicious – Healthy Indian Eats in Wanchai

Elizabeth Purdey, Simply Fabulicious’ new Hong Kong contributor pops into Masala Train in Wanchai for a taste of Indian food on the go. 

Next time you crave for spicy Indian food, make sure to stop off at a new takeaway in the heart of lively Wan Chai. Despite being located around the corner of busy Lockhart and O’Brien Road, this small place is easy to miss. But as soon as my companion and I spotted the menu signs outside the Masala Train, we were instantly drawn to the fragrant aroma of Indian food cooking. This simple takeaway offers a surprisingly wide range of North Indian style fast food dishes, with daily and weekly specials.

The inviting menu left us in a dilemma. We wanted to try it all. Tiena, the owner, came to our rescue and was very helpful with her suggestions. While working in the finance industry for over 10 years in Mumbai, New York and Hong Kong, Tiena saw an opportunity to provide healthy, home cooked Indian food to office workers. And in Hong Kong, what better location than in Wan Chai. And we liked the idea of takeaway food that we could enjoy without feeling guilty afterwards.

Tiena started us with one of Masala Train’s most popular dishes, the minced Lamb Keema roll. We immediately could see why this was such a favourite dish. The lamb was moist and tender, cooked with a nice balance of spices and wrapped in a thin tortilla with fresh vegetables that complemented the lamb perfectly. The portion size was substantial and good value, with your own choice of spiciness to boot. This wrap would be ideal for a quick, tasty and light bite on the run.

Next we tried Vada Pa, one of the new dishes on the menu. This popular street food of spicy potato was served in a small bun with chutney. The dish was simple but delicious; it reminded us of an American slider but with a healthy take and was a big favourite with my companion. We also couldn’t resist sampling two of our favourite dishes from the meal box menu. My companion had the Chicken Tikka Masala (HK$58) served with rice and vegetables which he thoroughly enjoyed. The spiced curry was mild tasting and the sauce was light in texture. I tried the traditional Chicken Biryani (HK$60) with salad. This definitely delivered in the home cooked style stakes. The pilaf rice was generously layered with chicken and had a good spicy kick. The portion size for both meal boxes was substantial and well-priced.

For drinks, the Mango Lassi — a full flavoured mango and yoghurt beverage — was a very refreshing accompaniment to the spicy Indian food, and a must try. We finished with a masala chai. This spicy tea was not overly sweet and we enjoyed the taste of cloves and cinnamon. My companion had room to try the Kheer or rice pudding, one of the two sugar-free desserts at Masala Train. The Kheer had a nice creamy consistency and was a good way to cleanse the palate after all the spicy dishes we ate.

Tiena calls Masala Train a humble takeaway, but what is so enticing is that the simple, home style Indian fare there is also healthy. Although the level of spiciness has been toned down for the Hong Kong palate, the dishes we tasted still delivered on flavour. We were not disappointed in the quality of dishes and value for money. Masala Train is definitely worth a visit, particularly for those who want a touch of exotic while on the go. Deliveries are also available via Deliveroo.

G/F Yue On Building, 146-148 Lockhart Rd. Entrance is on 2A O’Brien Rd (A1 exit of Wan Chai MTR). Tel: +852 2415 3000

3 Seriously Cool Asian Restaurants To Go To In Hong Kong This Summer

Junjuu’s super cool dining room

Funky mod-Korean restaurant & bar Jinjuu, headed by TV chef and UK Iron Chef winner, Korean-American Judy Joo, has just reopened in Lan Kwai Fong after a bout of renovations and menu revamp and a happy “price adjustment”. Look forward to set lunch starting from HK$198 for two courses, and new sharing plates for dinner, featuring dishes like short rib kimchi hhotteok with Korean-style pancake, Kong bowl (HK$45) with edamame topped with chilli panko mix, Philly cheese steak & kimchi (HK$85), and whole Korean fried chicken (HK$480 for 3-4 pax). Head Mixologist Edgar Santillan rolls out summer cocktails (HK$120) ranging from fruity Purple Haze, comprising hibiscus-tinted Glendalough gin, yuzu sake, acai liquor, lemon juice, apple, orange sherbet, to The Gentleman, a boozy tipple of Buffalo Trace bourbon, lillet blanc, pedro ximenez & angostura bitters. Happy hour hits between 5 and 8pm.

UG/F, California Tower, 32 D’Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: 3755-4868

Summery Thai-meets-South American flavours in Limewood

If you want to get into the breezy holiday mood, head to Limewood at Repulse Bay for a seriously exciting meal where Thai flavours and South American cooking collide deliciously. Tuck into summery dishes like its soft shell crab salad and Pacific lobster salad with ponzu mayo, yellow curry mayo, grapefruit and avocado; barbecued New Zealand lamb rack served with Penang curry, green peppercorns, fragrant herbs and kaffir lime, whole roasted jerked chicken with caramelized pineapple and mango habanero sauce, and its signature Charred Whole Sea Bream. Wash it all down with craft beers, shaken margaritas and “barbeque inspired cocktails”.
The Pulse, Shop 103 & 104 G/F – 28 Beach Road, Repulse Bay
Tel: +852 2866 8668

Matcha tea glutinous rice balls filled with yam & crispy glutinous rice dumpling with chocolate at Hutong

Hutong at One Peking may have been around for quite a while, but this Chinese courtyard house styled restaurant continues to keep Chinese dining fresh and stylish. Just launched is its new Fēng Wèi brunch on weekends which showcases Chinese cuisine in the coolest way possible, washed with the option of free flow Veuve Clicquot Champagne and summer cocktails. Tuck into over 18 traditional dishes given a contemporary twist, such as a rich and aromatic seared foie gras with osmanthus-smoked coddled egg, shrimp, kimchi & mozzarella spring roll, 12-hour braised beef rib with aromatic herbs in lotus leaf and Matcha tea glutinous rice balls filled with sweet potato. Complementing the experience are demonstrations of traditional Chinese arts like fortune-telling by bird (as seen in the night markets of Temple Street), Sichuan face changing, kung-fu tea pouring and Chinese rainbow calligraphy. It may be kind of touristy (good for bringing out-of-town friends) but the food is definitely worth heading back for. HK$428 and additional HK$200 for Champagne and drinks option.

28/F One Peking, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Telephone: (852) 3428 8342

Hutong’s stylish take on northern Chinese favourites

A New Concept For Dan Ryan’s In Hong Kong’s City Plaza!

For me, the 90s marked the era of the American diner, grill and steakhouse. I remember the excitement when Dan Ryan’s first opened in Singapore next to the Regent Hotel.

Famous for its free kid’s balloons held down by a free collectible logo key chain, paper table clothes where you could doodle endlessly on and innovative kid’s menus – no one would have guessed that this restaurant chain was actually born and bred in Hong Kong with its first outlet opened at Pacific Place in 1989.

Dan Ryan, it seems, was a Chicago politician who lived in the 1940’s.  He was renowned for his ability to get things done through his close contacts in Washington D.C, mainly local political and social leaders. Why this particular American diner chain was actually named after him remains a mystery to me – but his name has undoubtedly lent authenticity to the Chicago grill concept that has since stood the test of time.

Today, there are solo outlets in Singapore and Taiwan with three restaurants in Hong Kong at Harbour City, Festival Walk and a new outlet at City Plaza in Tai Koo Shing which opened in May this year. We popped in to check out the new concept at the latter and to try the newly minted signatures off their menu which has been tweaked with healthier ingredient and superfood options.

How different was it from its parent concept that featured a good vibe, upbeat background jazz music, a drinks bar with a choo choo train track, paraphernalia up on the walls and huge portions of American style fare – to be truthful, all of that was still there – the only change being a longer track train and the more colourful paintings on the wall by American artists Leroy Neiman and Steve Penley. Instead of having a closed entrance where you walk into the bar, the new concept feels more ‘open’ where you can easily check your reservation at the entrance and walk into the thick of the action.

The kitchen also has gone from a back of the house feel to a lighter more open show-kitchen feel.  We popped by just before the recent Fathers’ Day weekend and what greeted us was a restaurant packed to the brim – a convivial atmosphere with families, balloons at each table, crayon canisters amidst a blurr of efficient waiters moving platters of steak and generous mountains of American salads, sides and sandwiches efficiently around the room whilst the queue outside kept growing longer. The place was buzzing!

The biggest change is noticeably its menu. No longer a grill room style listing that steak houses normally favour but a menu that features photos of its signatures which have also notably changed – keeping the hearty but introducing the healthy.

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My favourite item – the Dan Ryan’s muffin arrived before the rest of the meal. If I could sneak one or two into my bag, I would – as in my humble opinion, Dan Ryan’s makes the best muffins I have ever eaten. The taste is made complete when complemented by one slice of slightly melted salted butter or whipped butter.

 

 

We picked a few items to share starting with the Super Green Salad (HK$188) which is a very large salad that you can order to share between 3 to 4 people. It  has a base of fresh baby spinach, quinoa and rocket leaves, complete with avocado, broccoli, pears, fresh blueberries and toasted pine-nuts for added crunch and sweetness.  I really liked this and made a mental note that I would pop into their Harbour City outlet again soon to grab this one for a quick and satisfying takeaway.  The salad comes with a homemade wild blueberry dressing is drizzled on top for maximum flavour.

This was followed by the Chi Town Combo (HK$298), a signature big sized combo platter of Baked Potato Skins, hand breaded Onion Rings and Buffalo Chicken Wings. Great with a glass of wine except for the Onion Rings which I prefer to be crisp rather than soft and mushy like these tended to be.

The choices on the Hand Cut Steaks and Chops were outstanding. I was tempted to order the US Tomahawk 32 oz Steak to share (HK$998 – pictured above) but it was sold out for the day.  So instead, we ordered the US Prime Flatiron Steak (HK$328) which turned out to be an excellent choice and featured a melt-in-your mouth ‘butchers cut’ of hormone free beef, char-grilled to perfection served with Tomato Vinaigrette salad and mashed Chipotle Lime Buttered Corn and Sweet Potato Fries.

We ended the meal sharing a Salted Caramel Double Fudge Brownie (HK$78) which maxed out my calorie count but made a perfect ending.

Things I would have ordered if my stomach had the capacity : the Deluxe Chili Burger,  the Seared Hokkaido Scallops and the Dan’s Dessert Sampler (pictured above). Definitely reason to return!

Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill at Cityplaza is at:
Shop 311, 3F, Phase 1, Cityplaza, 18 Taiko o Shing Road, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2845 4600

Click HERE for a list of the other Dan Ryan outlets in Hong Kong, Taipei and Singapore.

 

Tapas, Sangria and Beer Adventures in TST

Tapas is everything but a light meal especially when downed with a jug of good Sangria. Despite how often I convince myself that this meal is or could be a light affair, I often succumb to the temptation of ordering more than I should. And that’s exactly what happened at this new go-to that I recently discovered in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong or as the locals call it ‘TST.’

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Playa De Papagayo is my latest find, in terms of Tapas outlets. Located at Observatory Road just down from the Mira Hotel, next to the Empire Hotel and across from the Audi Showroom, you can’t miss this cute place with its patio setting, bright blue exterior and distinct beach hut hangout feel.

The enterprising owners apparently also own another smaller tapas restaurant of the same name, at Hanoi Road nearby and they also own the fantastic Japanese yakitori restaurant right next door.

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Papagayos, as it is called short-form beckons with a fun vibe. It’s not your typical Spanish joint but has a nice laid back feel and if the weather is nice, you can sit outside on the patio where there is casual seating.

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Wandering inside, the surprisingly spacious interior has a mix of sofa seats, lounge chairs, high tables with stools and bench seating, amidst the usual tables and chairs.

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A neon sign or two, a large open bar and the quirky menu with its beach theme feel add to the chill-out vibe.

The drinks are creative, portions good and not the nasty watered down version you get at most places. In terms of food, the menu is extensive from Spanish Tapas to Soups and Salads, Pastas and Mains, things from their Fire Grill oven and a small selection of dessert. The tapas portions are over-all ‘smallish’. I was not overly impressed with the usual tapas favourites like the Garlic Shrimp and the Octopus. Don’t get me wrong, they are definitely tasty but you would need two portions if you are more than 3 people sharing.

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However, with a menu this extensive, normal should not be what you order at a restaurant like this. We decided to be adventurous and that spirit landed us some amazing eats like this list of top things to order that we are recommending. We are quite sure that you won’t get tapas like these anywhere else.

1.  Foie Gras Terrine, Fig and Rice Crispy Treat – HK$88

This bite-sized gourmet looking morsel looks like its ready to be served at a high end cocktail party. It is the perfect size to daintily pick up with your fingers and pop into your mouth. You get more than a generous bite and an explosion of tastes out of this very decent bite-sized piece of medium-rare foie gras, topped with delicious fig jam, a slice of fig with a delicious popcorn morsel perched on the top. Wash this down with a glass of fruity red and you are immediately ready for another piece.  I would definitely order two portions of these as one of these beauties as one plate is simply not enough.

2. Crab Meat and Avocado Roll with Salmon Caviar – HK$88

I am clueless as to how they make the gold coloured gel-like skin that looks like a wonton wrap and envelopes the tasty crab meat and avocado filling inside this almost beautiful h’or oeuvre.  Garnished with a dash of mayonnaise and Japanese caviar, this is delicious to the boot.

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3. Iberico Ham in Raw Tuna Roll with Half Boiled Egg – HK$78 

Not quite a main course, but this is a good sharing portion that you want to order a side of garlic bread for, just to mop up the runny egg. The tuna is just lightly seared, the way you would see it at a Japanese restaurant and really goes well with the egg.

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4. Kurabata Pork Chop with Apple Paste – HK$298

This pork dish makes an excellent main course if you are dining alone or slice it up and you have a decent main course to share along with the other tapas treats that you have picked.

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5.  Spanish Style Beef Ribs – HK$368

The beef on the bone that was served was literally huge. More than adequate for sharing and way too much for one person to finish alone. Beautifully coated and grilled in black sesame seeds, this gave the meat a juicy and tender texture. Definitely, a new favourite meat dish for those with carnivorous leanings, like me.

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6. Must-Order Paella – HK$288

We saw many people order this dish which comes served in an impressive Moroccan style tagine instead of the usual paella pan. I was intrigued and ordered the Squid Ink version (not shown in picture – as squid ink does not photograph well) which truly turned out to be one of the best paellas I have ever eaten. Moist, full of exquisite flavour – each bite leaves you abandoning all courtesy so that you can dig your spoon in for another bite.  At the end, all I could see was the satisfied smacking of everyone’s slightly-stained black lips.

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7.  Excellent Sangria, Beer and Creative Cocktails 

This restaurant gets my vote for good Sangria. The bartender serves an excellent mix – not too sweet, just the right amount of fruit and definitely enough vino to give it a good ‘kick’ start to a fun evening.  My 12 year old swears by the Mango non-alcoholic cocktail.

By the end of the meal and a few more jugs of sangria later, we were too full to try dessert which definitely gives us a reason to return.

Where: 

Playa De Papagayo is at

Shop N3, G/F, Podium Plaza, 5 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 – 2739 1808

and

Shop 2 , 5 Observatory Rd Tsim Sha Tsui                                                                                                     Tel: +852 – 2323 1379

 

Spa That In-City Getaway

Somehow when I think ‘Spa’ – my mind wanders to Thailand and Bali. The concept of relaxation does somewhat equal resort getaway but what if being in the city is the only option … for now.

Just last night, I popped into the opening of the new Chuan Body + Soul, an in-city Spa on the 15th floor of the chi chi Langham Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui.

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Blame the twinkly fairy lights, the skinny cocktails (nothing over 250 calories) that I was plied with or maybe one of those uber healthy Acai berry bowls or the on-trend novelty multivitamin jellies that I was served, but my evening there, did somehow leave me lightheaded and open to the possibilities of a stealing a sneaky getaway right here, yes, during office hours under the bosses nose, right at the convenience of my Kowloon doorstep.

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Opening its doors to membership for the first time, Chuan Body + Soul (previously just for Hotel guests) is offering a Health Club membership (with access to the pool and fitness facilities) at HK$1,800 per person, per month with a HK$250 per month fee for a locker.

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The newly renovated premises offer stylish treatment rooms for massages and various treatments using private label essential oils saunas and showers, a rooftop swimming pool and a split-level fitness on demand health club.

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IMG_8678What I actually thought was particularly ‘buzzy’ and exciting was their new retail element – the sale and launch of Deborah Mitchell’s, Heaven product line and her award-winning bee venom therapies. An award winning aesthetician, she created and patented the Bee Venom product line ABEETOXIN®, used as the natural alternative to Botox by harvesting bee venom. Her Bee Sting Facial Therapy (HK$1,380 for 1 hr 15 mins) is said to give that instant natural face lift without the injections.

Another notable – Chuan also launches her Bee Peel Facial (HK$780 for 30 mins), the first of its kind to launch in Asia, designed with organic coconut, apple, raw sugar cane and 18% glycolic peel to deliver Medi-spa results by minimising visible fine lines, scars, pigmentation, sallow skin, blemishes and enlarged pores. A definite must-try if you are into what I term a ‘prevention is better than cure’ mantra.

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Members get the use of the gym, access to Personal trainer and can join the range of classes such as Tai Chi, Yoga, Meditation and Singing Bowl Sound Therapy or simply use the pool to swim or jacuzzi-away after a hard day at work.  Members’ Friends and Family  enjoy a HK$200 per person Monday to Friday rate / HK$300 per person Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays.  Not a bad deal if you want a fun girls’ day out!

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And if you are afraid that you will undo all the good from your soak, work out and massage then meals at the Spa offer a nutritious menu with healthy Sandwiches and Wraps alongside dishes like Açai bowls, homemade cereal bars, artificial-free fruit popsicles and energy boosting smoothies packed with antioxidants for long-lasting fuel.

If its a getaway to mark a special occasion, book a retreat – their Chuan Retreat Package at HK $5,000 offers a night’s stay in a One Bedroom Suite, a Signature Balancing or Chuan Harmony body massage for Two and access to The Langham Club lounge. Reservations at +852 2378 9988

Membership details see HERE or call: call +852 2378 9988

Meet Mr S.Y Punti – A Small Cafe With Big Personality

The next time you are find yourself in the increasingly trendy Sai Ying Pun enclave, drop by and say hello to a new resident there, the honourable Mr. S.Y. Punti!

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Who is he? He or rather IT is a small cafe with undeniable personality.  There are no short forms when it comes to formal introductions with this cafe. On contrary, this elusive little place is tucked behind a temporary public toilet at the end of David Lane – next to the Sai Ying Pun wet market. It took a little bit of investigative work to track Mr. Punti down but when we eventually did, my girlfriend and I were both pleased and pleasantly surprised by this little gem of an eatery which also serves coffee and alcohol.

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Cafe Manager, Bibiana greeted us warmly at the door when we arrived for lunch to try some of the traditional cha chaan teng fare that seems to have been given a nice twist in terms of preparation, presentation and the use of healthy and fresh produce instead of the usual canned fare that cha chaan tengs are so fond of using.

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The first thing we inquired with Bibiana was about was the inspiration behind the Cafe’s name. The “Mr” is just a fun formality and the Cafe’s initials. “S.Y.”, she explained, stood for Sai Ying Pun which turns out was one of Hong Kong’s oldest neighbourhoods and one of the first formally settled places in Hong Kong as it was close to where the British first landed.  It’s surname “Punti” hails from the ‘pun’ in Sai Ying Pun and also the word “punti’ which is the slang word for local dialect – a word that it’s Barrister Founder and Owner picked up in court when asking clients that he was representing whether they wanted legal proceedings to be conducted in English or Cantonese.

That done, we got down to admiring the nitty gritty – from the very retro and interesting decor to the simple but tasty menu.

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I have to say, I really liked the use of space in the venue. The eatery is essentially tiny and is housed in a small narrow shop house. Outside there is an alfresco area with seats for 2 just before you enter the premises. Inside, is a small living space that has been converted into a dining area with booths that seat 8 and  a bar area with seats for 6, whilst the back of house area hosts a rest room, an open-air air-well and the Cafe’s main kitchen.

There is a distinct retro 1960s vibe which adds to the charm of the venue. A very eclectic and quirky Hong Kong sense of style prevails here. Different elements from East and West come together almost seamlessly and effortlessly and at Mr. S.Y. Punti, it is a case of 1960s style American Diner meets 1960s Chinese vintage.

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Just open the secret drawer built into one of the eatery’s standard American diner booth tables and help yourself to the eclectic mix of Chinese vintage style cutlery. Whilst you chat and eat, Faye Wong’s sultry tunes add to the relaxing ambience in the distant background. It is an unusual mix, but yet nothing feels odd or misplaced.

The menu and fare is simple with items that one would expect at a local Hong Kong eatery but decently priced, well-presented, hearty and minus that greasy after-taste that brings on the food coma you usually suffer from, after leaving a Hong Kong cha chaan teng.

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We started with what the locals call Cheong Fun, an order of Panfried Rice Rolls with Eggs and Bean Sprouts (HK$32).

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After that came the Panfried Lotus Root Cake made from mushrooms and minced pork served with Mini Greens (HK$36).

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This was followed by my favourite – Dumplings, a combination of three different types of dumplings – one with Minced Pork, one with Shitake and the last variety with Chicken and Celery (all for HK$38) served in a lovely homemade Chicken broth.

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All three items went well with the Cafe’s signature Yu Kwen Yick chilli sauce. It turns out that the Cafe was previously the actual ‘factory’ venue where this iconic made-in-Hong Kong chilli sauce was actually manufactured – fermented in wooden barrels.

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Dessert was a French Toast with Peanut Butter (HK$35) and Sesame Balls or Tong Yuen served in Iron Buddha Tea (HK$35). I really liked this unusual combination where the tea had a delicious roasted flavour and was gingerly poured over the sesame balls. Again an unusual combination that somehow, mysteriously worked.

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We ended our meal with two cups of Olympia Graeco-Egyptian coffee which barista-trained – Bibiana, personally prepared.

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Definitely, a cute spot to retreat to in the day, for a quiet girlfriend chat – over Almond Tea (HK$35) and a Cappuccino (HK$35), away from the hustle and bustle of busy Sai Ying Pun. Or this venue would also make a lovely spot to host a private party for about 20 people, after hours. Also, an ultra-nice nice venue to pop into for an evening, after work drink where Blue Girl Beer is on tap and a glass of wine starts at only HK$48.

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Nice to make your acquaintance S.Y, we hope you don’t mind us dropping the ‘Mister’ and now that we have been formally introduced, we would love to come back and say hello and get re-quainted. This time, perhaps on a first name basis!

Mr. S.Y Punti is at G/F No. 4 David Lane, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong – Tel: +852 29158885 

 

Japanese Donburi At Its Very Best At Dondonya!

The Japanese truly win hands down when it comes to turning a humble bowl of rice into a work of art. In fact, the Tokyo Dome hosts an annual 10 day competition called the Donburi Senshuken (or National Donburi Championship), where restauranteurs and chefs from different prefectures in Japan gather together to compete for a cash prize to create the most interesting and unique donburi.

Here in Hong Kong, donburi specialists, DONDONYA, through a year-long collaboration with Japan’s national Fuji TV network and the Tokyo Dome, have been serving up 4 of the award winning bowls to Hong Kong palettes, over the last few months.

I popped into their newly renovated restauant at APM Mall in Kwun Tung to try a few of their acclaimed rice bowls which are served solo or come in value for money sets for lunch, tea and dinner, with a drink or side dish and soup as an easy-on-the-pocket price add-on.

The Dondonya chain operates a total of 10 casual dining outlets all over Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories, serving up not just donburi but Sanuki thick udon bowls, a variety of Beef and Pork Curry dishes and delicious deep fried Katsuretsu items.

Toro Salmon and Ikura Oyakodon

Diners who came in earlier in the year would have sampled the 3 other winning bowls from Hokkaido’s famous Unimeshi Don and the Toro Salmon and Ikura Don (pictured above) to Kyushu’s Oita Torimeshi Don.

Cochin Oyakodon

On promotion during my visit was 2017’s top 5 winner, the Cochin Oyakodon from Aichi Prefecture in Nagoya. The dish was created by Torikai, a famous chicken specialty restaurant chain there. The chicken thighs of Nagoya Cochin are the main ingredient of this donburi. The chicken is bred free-range and has a distinctive appearance with buff-colored feathers and is famous for its firmness and meat that is supposedly richer in flavour. Bonito, soy sauce from the Aichi prefecture, Japanese sake, high-quality mirin and other ingredients are simmered into a broth for marinating the Nagoya Cochin. Topped with runny egg, the final result offers a truly satisfying rice bowl at only HKD$78 served as a set.

Obihiro Butadon

We decided to try a few other eye-catching rice bowls including the Obihiro Butadon Donburi, a delightful Pork dish that much like eating a hearty bowl of tender pork chops with peas and a delicious rich sauce. We found out that the restaurant uses a variety of short grain rice from Japan and this is cooked in purified water to retain its full flavour and fragrance.

Jumbo Red Shrimp and Seafood Rice Bowl

The Jumbo Red Shrimp and Seafood Rice Bowl was definitely the most visually appealing and my favourite item on the menu. This would be an instant hit with any seafood lover as the seafood tasted fresh and it was stacked like a beautiful bouquet that looks almost too good to dismantle and dig into.

The Fisherman’s Catch

The Fisherman’s Catch was my daughter’s choice and understandably it was about getting the best of two bowls on one tray. An excellent and a very satisfying choice for someone who likes variety.  This combination of two mini bowls, the Eel Rice bowl and a Mixed Sashimi Bowl is all about flavour and colour juxtaposed, each fighting for attention making it almost impossible to decide which to eat first.

Everything was happily downed with Frozen Beer and Suntori Whisky leaving us a little too full for dessert. But the next time I return, I will look forward to trying the Matcha, Coffee and Soda drinks and sample the selection of Parfait desserts.

The verdict: Definitely most impressed! Great overall variety, excellent presentation, good quality and exceptional value for money. Deserves more than one return trip!

Dondonya has 10 outlets in Hong Kong – location addresses click: HERE