Monday, April 30, 2012

Xiao Long Bao

Vegetarian dumpling (left); pork xiao long bao (right)
My must-have food in Hong Kong was xiao long bao, the Shanghai-style soup dumpling.  I could not get enough of these delicate mouthfuls of chewy wrapper, minced meat, and a dose of broth sealed inside, dipped in a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and fresh ginger.  I know I am late to the party in enjoying these, but I promise to make up for lost time. Where do you all love in San Francisco for xiao long bao?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Private Kitchens in Hong Kong

An interesting counterpoint to Hong Kong's ostentatious fine dining scene is that of the private kitchen.  These speakeasy-like restaurants are a hidden haven for some of the city's finest and most innovative food.

Lafe and I were able to join friends at one of three tables in a private kitchen called Yin Yang, tucked away in a small corner of the Wan Chai district on Hong Kong Island.  Over several hours we enjoyed tastes of about fifteen dishes from a fixed menu, that started in a very experimental, modern way and progressed to more rustic mains.  Some of the highlights included:

  • Pressed tofu with tomato pulp
  • Hard boiled organic egg with farmed fresh coriander
  • Organic carrot prepared to the consistency of a slice of cheese
  • Grilled calamari with peanuts and chiles
  • Chicken prepared in a komodo oven, accompanied by bits of crispy chicken skin
  • Roasted red pig
  • Iron pot fried rice
  • Water spinach sauteed with garlic
  • Carrot and lemongrass sorbet
This kitchen definitely offered up a yin/yang balance of experiment and tradition, of urban and rustic, that in a way anchor the extreme cosmopolitan nature of Hong Kong to its cultural roots.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dining at Aqua in Hong Kong

Photo credit: Trip Advisor
Aqua in Hong Kong is an example of the city's fine dining scene, a place to see and be seen that includes far more than great people watching.  The glassed in view from the 30th floor of One Peking Road offers a priceless view of Hong Kong's dazzling skyline.  We were lucky enough to arrive for dinner in time for the Symphony of Lights (the waterfront's nightly light show) as well as that night's vibrant electrical storm, and watched the lasers as well as the lightning bolts dance.

While some call Aqua Italian-Japanese fusion, it is not fusion cuisine so much as a place where both cuisines coexist.  The AquaRoma section of the menu meets the AquaTokyo half, allowing dinners to jump freely from sushi to pizza and back to yakitori.  I think the underlying concept is more that in Hong Kong, those with a little money to spend have a lot of choice in swanky ways to spend it.  

Dinner was excellent, but in the future I'll come by for a cocktail and to drink in the view.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


If you haven't found it yet, Barbacco is a fun and reasonably-priced place to go downtown for a glass of wine and a few shared bites.

The service was a little spotty, but the flexible menu of small plates, focus on seasonal ingredients, and convivial atmosphere made up for it.

After asking a few questions about the wine list, they kindly brought me out several tasting glasses to make sure I was happy with my choice.  I ended up choosing a hearty Aglianico, but after all that, they forgot to ask for my friend's wine order.

We started with a cauliflower saffron soup, executed in a way that brought out the creamy consistency of a veloute without the overly rich addition of cream.  We shared a farro salad, with spring onion and asparagus, which was a totally delightful reminder to self that farro isn't just a grain for a fall dish.  And finally, a poached tuna plate with orange and fennel that was absolutely the star of the table.

I'd look forward to sampling even more of the menu. (The brussels sprouts fried in duck fat more than piqued my curiosity, but alas, my appetite is only so big.)  I'll definitely make another stop here for an evening out in the FiDi.