PEr FYI

February 22, 2020

Hakkasan, New York City…you’ll die poor but happy

New York’s Chinese food scene is a diverse beast. There’s pork ribs to sweet, stir-fried-whatever-you-can-think-of, Hong Kong Dim Sum, the classic Peking duck and of course the comforting staples including noodles and fried rice (and way, way more) at eateries both high end and super casual.

With its innovative Cantonese cooking, Hakkasan is still the benchmark against which all high-end Chinese restaurants should be judged. Their stylish interior and moody lighting attracts all kinds of beautiful people.

We started with hakka steamed dim sum platter – scallop shumai, har gau, prawn and Chinese chive dumpling, black pepper duck dumpling. The pastry was perfect in give and texture, just elastic enough to encase generous bites of flavour-packed meat and seafood. The stir-fry black pepper beef ribeye with Merlot was equally good, the melting tenderness of top-quality meat turning the clichéd staple into a luxury – Chinese takeaways should weep with shame. We also enjoyed the hot and sour soup with chicken, shiitake and pomelo, spring onion and fried egg rice and the tofu, aubergine and Japanese mushroom claypot with chili and black bean sauce

You’ll die poor but happy. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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January 12, 2020

Blackbird, Manila…Hear me now: do not make the mistake of dying before you have eaten here

There are places, that, have great food, but more importantly will also guarantee you a good time. That mean dishes that go beyond excellent but make you smile, too. And all at the right price. Which doesn’t necessarily mean cheap but definitely means value for money.

To start, dive into the exceptionally decadent mushroom, fortina and truffle arancini. The salt and pepper squid and shrimps with sweet soy and ginger was as unusual as it was delicious. Then there’s tempura eggplant and prawn fritters with nuoc cham. These are all more tiny mouthfuls than actual dishes.

The main event comes in the form of impossibly thin slices of grilled short rib, green onion and ginger, kimchi, hot bean paste, lettuce and rice. It is utterly delicious and truly one of the undisputed stars of the show.

Then have a little rest – because you really should try a sundae. The dessert is worth saving space for. The burnt butter and vanilla seed ice creams, chocolate brownie, candied pop corn, salted caramel is an ice cream lover’s dream come true. I believe I have found the single best dessert available right now in the Philippines, or, for that matter, anywhere else.

This is an impressive date spot if you want to bring out the big guns. You’ll keep talking about this truly delicious meal long after leaving. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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October 21, 2017

Les Amis, Singapore…Michelin-starred magic

The Michelin Guide is always highly regarded in the food nerd world.

Les Amis, the two Michelin-starred restaurant is one of the hotspots of Singapore. For memorable tastes matched with superb service, Les Amis offers French cuisine served in a hushed but enjoyable atmosphere. The flamboyance lies in the dishes

Book well in advance to have a chance at getting in. What more to say? This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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November 19, 2016

Bombay Dreams, Hong Kong…I devour everything, and all but lick the plate clean

Reviewing Indian food is particularly tricky: not only are there countless regional variations, but their styles also range widely from dishevelled curry houses to high-end Michelin-starred spots.

Housed on the 4th floor in a building on Wyndham Street, Hong Kong Michelin Gourmand 2017 Bombay Dreams makes an immediate impression. The food has no problem living up to it either; high quality ingredients and intricate spicing lead to elegantly presented dishes that boast pleasantly contrasting flavours and textures.

Among the best choices: sweet potato cheese roll, samosa, chicken with yogurt and cream. The tender melt-in-your-mouth galouti lamb is the greatest hit, so that I devour everything, and all but lick the plate clean.

Be prepared for large prices and less large portions, though. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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April 19, 2016

Jim Thompson Restaurant, Singapore…:(

If you love Thai food, it’s hard to suppress a chronic rumble of disappointment at finding that an iconic name like Jim Thompson can fare so poorly.

I was really looking forward to my lunch – expectations were high but realistic. Without trying to sound arrogant, I am familar with top end restaurants and not unfairly measuring my experience against unequally rated restaurants. What a disappointment. The food lacks balance and is poorly seasoned.

This place is pleasant enough as a family-friendly restaurant but I would expect better quality food for somewhere with Jim Thompson’s name attached to it. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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January 30, 2016

Jean-Georges, Shanghai…all the dishes fell just short of wowing me

Most foodies know about the lunch at Jean-Georges, which is often cited as the best value in fine dining.

One of the great things about 3-Michelin starred Jean Georges at the Trump Tower in New York is that the hospitality begins as you get out of the car, even before you enter the restaurant. Here in Shanghai, the service is professional and confident throughout.

This glorious restaurant at Three on the Bund has high ceilings and tall windows which were lovely, while the sweeping view of the Bund outside through the windows provided a nice contrast to the color scheme.

From the simplest dish of sea scallops with caramel used cauliflower, caper-raisin emulsion to the roasted beef tenderloin potato blintz apple-jalapeno puree, all the dishes fell just short of wowing me. Don’t get me wrong, it was still good, but was it OMFG-I-will-sell-my-children-and-my-soul-to-eat-here-every-day good? Can’t say it. My lips don’t lie.

I’d take Jia Jia Tang Bao over Jean-Georges any day, star or no star. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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January 23, 2016

Pollen, Singapore…Ridiculously photogenic food

Pollen is the younger brother of Pollen Street Social in London, the Michelin-starred brainchild of culinary alchemist Jason Atherton. This is as impeccably elegant and sophisticated a restaurant as you will find. I was equally impressed with the feel of the place and the front-desk welcome.

The main action, however, is in the open-plan dining room, one whose design is confident, with natural light, huge mirrors on the wall of one side and greenery outside. It’s not every day you can give a restaurant five stars for design and atmosphere, but Pollen’s intimately romantic room is irresistible.

The dishes were sublime. There were no low points – only a competing series of highlights. The masterly BBQ Iberico pork presa, baby leek, chicory, apple, sage polenta was a beautiful sight. The delicious subtlety and artistry butternut and saffron risotto, sunflower seeds, honey croutons, aged parmesan and the Angus beef short rib, celeriac, truffle potato, caramelized onions, too, looked just as gorgeous.

Pollen is simply brilliant. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

 

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April 19, 2015

Sabai, Fine Thai on the Bay, Singapore…..easily forgettable

Chef Samlee is known for her skill and expertise in Thai Cuisine. After all for thirty years, she cooked for HRH Princess Srinagarindra while she travelled.

In my mind I couldn’t quite grasp the concept of Thai and fine dining together. I love them both separately so surely I’d love them just as much together? Unfortunately I must say that we were both pretty disappointed with the meal that I received at Sabai as I love Thai food very much.

Let’s start with the positives…The delicious Yam Mamuang (spicy green mango salad with prawns, chicken, roasted coconut, grounded peanuts and sweet sauce) is bursting with fresh flavours and exotic notes. The See-krong moo op nahmpeung (deep-fried smoked honey pork ribs) is unbelievably succulent.

From really good to really bad. The Gang gwio warn gai (authentic green curry with chicken, coconut cream, sweet basil leaves, eggplant and pea eggplant) has a rich, heady flavour that comes with well-seasoned curries but the overall effect is disappointing due to the crappy “Plastic chicken”meat texture which is so rubbery and tasteless. The Pls kao sam rod, ratt prik, tawd gratiem (deep-fried garoupa fillet with three flavoured sauce, spicy and sour sauce or garlic and peppercorns) was so dry…so bad tasting.

A Thai meal would not be complete without a bowl of Dtom yum gung, pla (spicy and sour prawns and fish soup with lemongrass, galangal, chilli, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce and fresh lime juice). Beware though, this one is a tongue-numbing experience.

Sabai is somewhat more expensive than many other Thai restaurants in Singapore, but judging by my recent visit, easily forgettable compared to most Thai food I’ve had.This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 29, 2015

NUR, Hong Kong…the No-Choice Restaurant

NUR doesn’t give you any choices. It serves just one prix-fixe menu of nine courses including dessert, and they came in rapid succession. The food is innovative, sophisticated and artfully presented: tomato, Hokkaido scallop, maitake mushroom, squid in noodles, scrambled taiyouran egg, mackerel, beef tongue, aomori apple, doughnut with goji cream.

NUR, which opened in April 2014, is a new one-star entry in the 2015 Michelin guide.

Be warned though; the dining space is compact and includes an open kitchen which allows you to watch the chefs working like demons stroking the fires of hell. The bill makes you think you’ve arrived there. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 15, 2015

Salt Grill by Luke Mangan, Jakarta…not worth the hype, reputation and money

For those of you not on the brink of marriage or buying a house, picking a celebrity chef restaurant is probably the most expensive decision you’ll make this week — and the gastronomic equivalent of an inflated “A” can lead you astray by hundreds of dollars.

A high-speed lift whizz you in seconds to the 46th floor. Wall-to-ceiling windows look on to a, as you might expect, stunning view– if you’re pointed in the right direction and, preferably, sitting at a window table.

Sydney crab omelette, enoki mushroom and herb salad, miso mustard broth is the signature dish. The sweetness of the strips of crab meat shone through the mild miso broth but I wished they could be more generous with the crab meat. The beautifully crispy, tender and delicious crumbed chicken makes a great combination of flavours with garlic mushrooms, coleslaw salad. The crispy pork belly, pickled green papaya salad and tamarind dressing shouldn’t be called that. There are two simple things necessary for crackling: a nice dry rind, and a good thick layer of fat underneath it. I’m an out-and-proud fat-fancier. The tender, melting wobble of it, that satisfying oily crunch – how can mere meat hope to compete? Here the crispy pork belly lacked in visual appeal and failed the “crunch test.” The signature dessert – liquorice parfait 2013 – was certainly unique but I will absolutely not order it again. Luke Mangan’s revolutionary reboot of the lamington – lamington sandwich, coconut ice cream, strawberry sauce – would be a better choice for dessert.

High ratings are often deserved, of course, and I’ve found plenty of haunts that can justify their hype but Salt Grill by Luke Mangan doesn’t measure up at all. It’s a fine place, yes, just that it is not worth the hype, reputation and money. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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