An Nam

For the longest time, finding somewhere good to have Vietnamese food in Hong Kong seemed extraordinarily difficult. Although by good I certainly do not just mean “upscale”,  it does appear that there have hardly been any attempts at high-end Vietnamese cuisine in Hong Kong. I mean, in the past, whenever I craved for a bowl of beef pho, I would only think of going to one of the few modest, super-cramped Vietnamese restaurants in the Tai Hang neighbourhood. At times of social gatherings that required more space, I’d generally be stuck with one of the inauthentic, Chinesified renditions of Viet cuisine scattered around the island.

This all changed when my good friend Eva told me about the new(ish) Vietnamese restaurant at Lee Gardens, An Nam. 20131212-164103.jpg

Belonging to the same group as the Japanese restaurant Gonpachi next door, an extention of the famous Tokyo restaurant that I always saw as an overpriced tourist trap, I had initial doubts about the authenticity of the food at An Nam. But! After my first meal there, I’m happy to say that I was probably just a little too cynical.

The first dish I tried was the big head prawns in fragrant sauce. The prawns were fleshy, firm with a bouncy bite, soaked in a flavorful shrimp roe sauce to form a succulent, briny dose of omega-3 😀

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Next up was one of my favourite vietnamese dishes – grilled pork “bun noodles” that always leaves me feeling extra healthy without taking away from the pleasure of taste. This reminded me of the grilled pork noodles from Banh Mi Bay, a cute Vietnamese “cheap eats” diner that I used to frequent in Bloomsbury, London.

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I also tried the rare beef pho and liked it very much compared to most places I’ve been to in Hong Kong. With tender beef slices and a savoury stock, I’ve been back a few times for this bowl of pho. One thing though – the temperature of the broth (upon being served) fluctuates depending on the time of the day/how busy they are, so a polite reminder for them to serve it hot would be a good idea when you order! I personally cannot stand lukewarm soup noodles !

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The rice rolls, which were essentially finely minced pork wrapped in a thin slippery skin with fresh herbs was also satisfying.

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The shrimp paste on bamboo sticks however, were not exactly worth raving about. They were not horrible but definitely on the dry side. I think I would probably be able to find better versions in other Vietnamese restaurants, even in one of the casual diners in Tai Hang.

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The pork and shrimp rice paper rolls (goi cuon) on the other hand were well-made; at many other places I often found poorly proportioned versions of these with either too much vegetable or noodles inside. Here, as you can see, the rolls have been done in a good size and are filled with well-balanced amounts of each ingredient. Goi Cuon devotees may, however, find the skin a little too chewy and rubbery.20131212-105044.jpg

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The deep-fried frog’s legs and deep-fried shoft shell crabs literally tasted the same. Look at the next two photos… at first glance they pretty much look the same too. Anyway… both were enjoyable since for me, all things deep-fried that are not too oily, reasonably crispy and not without flavour are easily good enough to make delicious snacks to go with any kind of drink :p 20131212-105150.jpg

Though on second thought the soft shell crabs pictured below could have been a little crunchier 😛

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THE deep-fried dish I really like at An Nam however, is the spring rolls. The waitress says they are all filled with fresh shrimps and indeed, as far as I remember, these spring rolls are one of the best Vietnamese spring rolls I’ve ever had in Hong Kong. A neatly stacked bowl of baby lettuce is also served on the side for wrapping around the spring rolls, adding a lovely layer of fresh crispiness.

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The stir-fried beef noodles were also wonderful – piping hot and bursting with flavour.

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In general, I still foresee myself coming back to An Nam again and again but what I will never order again are the following things :

These baked cheesy clams which were seriously over-baked and therefore dry.

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The coconut jelly that is almost tasteless.

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The mediocre chocolate fondant and sweet potato dessert (pictured below – it’s that milky looking bowl of whatever at the back). I can assure you that sweet things are not An Nam’s forte. I would suggest leaving after your meal to go for dessert elsewhere 😛

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An Nam

Address:  4/F, Lee Gardens One, 33 Hysan Ave., Causeway Bay
銅鑼灣希慎道33號利園一期4樓

Phone Number:  (852) 2787 3922

Website: http://www.leegardens.com.hk/dining/LG/2435/An-Nam

Edit:just wanted to include photos of 2 additional dishes I tried later! 😛 vietnamese grilled pork & meatball bun noodles and fried flat noodles.
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Xi’anese Food @ 有緣小敍

Went on a weekend getaway in Xi’an last month and was majorly disappointed with most of the food I had there. Despite the research efforts I put in my quest for the best pao mo, rou jia mo, dumplings and noodles in the city, the best thing I had turned out to be the knife-cut noodles they offered for breakfast at the Shangri-la.

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Perhaps Xi’anese food is just not for me.

However there was one dish that I did not have time to try while I was in Xi’an, and this was the Biang Biang Mian (Biang Biang noodles). Whatever “Biang” means, I don’t know. I don’t know anything about it apart from some vague, guessy explanations on Wikipedia. What I do know is that the chinese character for “Biang” looks crazy, with 58 strokes.

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Being a big fan of noodles of all sorts, I felt that I had to do Xi’anese food justice by looking for this Shaanxi region specialty in Hong Kong. I made a quick search for “Biang Biang noodles” on openrice.com and found a little shop in Jordan. I have actually never been to Jordan before but coincidentally I had an errand to run there that week so it was perfect timing 🙂

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The shop is tiny with only one large table and a few seats facing the the wall. As expected, most people were having the infamous biang biang noodles. I also noticed that at the side of the table there stood a few mini terracotta warriors.

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I have a habit of drinking soy milk whenever I have spicy chinese food, so I started off ordering these to drink. If you are fussy about soy milk then you will not like these at all. They taste disappointingly artificial so if I ever come again I will definitely opt for cola. On the other hand my shredded potato appetizer was delicious! It smelled so good I would have liked to eat one whole portion or even two myself.

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Soon after I devoured the shredded potatoes the first bowl of biang biang noodles in my life appeared infront of me. I ordered my bowl with some fennel dumplings and donkey meat.20131105-185816.jpg

Yes and this was the donkey meat. I believe this was also my first time eating donkey. It was slightly smokey and seemed like an extra gamey version of turkey. To be honest I only ordered this because I never had donkey meat before and after eating one slice I did not want any more. It was dry and quite bland. 20131105-185841.jpg

And so I started mixing the noodles to let the spicy sauce cover every milimetre of chewy noodly goodness.20131105-190419.jpg

The fennel dumplings were also nice, though I don’t normally like fennel. The reason I ordered these was that I did not know what “fennel” in chinese was and just pointed at whatever my mom did not order because I knew I would steal some of her lamb dumplings anyway.

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And here is a pic of the same biang biang noodles, but with lamb dumplings. 20131105-185833.jpg

I actually liked the lamb dumplings better than my fennel dumplings.  As a dumpling devotee I believe that the texture of the dumpling’s skin makes the dumpling. Although most of the time people rave about “thin-skinned” dumplings which are smooth and chewy at the same time, the skin here is on the thick side. However, this is the way Xi’anese dumplings are supposed to be and the thickness here is in fact what makes the skin extra chewy (in a good way) and is still very smooth.  I would describe these as having the perfect dumpling skin to meat to veggie ratio. 20131105-190444.jpg

At the end I also ordered the roast lamb flavoured with cumin. At 180 HKD this small portion seemed a little expensive for a restaurant like this, but I’ll admit that it was one enjoyable dish. In conclusion, although I would not travel all the way here again just for this meal, if you ever want to try Xi’anese food in Hong Kong or just happen to be in the area, I’d recommend this place 😀

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Address :

Shop 3, G/F, Keybond Commercial Building, 38 Ferry Street, Jordan  (P.S. this place does not seem to have an English name at all so you will just have to go by this address if you don’t read chinese!)

佐敦渡船街38號建邦商業大廈地下3號舖

Link: http://www.openrice.com/english/restaurant/sr2.htm?shopid=47432

L’Altro

While back in Hong Kong I had a casual lunch at L’Altro, a one michelin star eatery by chef Philippe Leveille, whose restaurant Miramonti L’Altro in Brescia, Italy also boasts two michelin stars. Being born in France, chef Leveille’s cuisine exhibits some distinctively French twists, both in presentation and cooking methods. 20131029-230006.jpgIndeed, the grey, white & glassy interior at L’altro already told me that it was unlikely I’d be in for some rustic, homey Italian fare. My lunch began with the standard bread basket.
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At L’altro the set lunch menu changes regularly. On this day I opted for the foie gras poêlé mainly because nothing else in the starters list really appealed to me. (Note : just checked their new menu out though, it looks pretty awesome this time. anyone want to go this week?) Presentation-wise it was really nothing to scream about but considering the fact that this lunch course costed under 400 HKD, I’d say the quality was decent. (FYI at the moment it is 268 HKD for 2 courses, 298 for 3 courses, 398 for 4 courses, with additional charges for particular dishes such as foie gras) 20131029-230043.jpg

And here is a photo of a salad that I didn’t order but just stole a bit of. Like the foie gras, it was not spectacular but it was not bad enough to give me a poor impression. In fact it was probably quite pleasant to eat, only not impressionable, not that I expected it to be. 20131029-230106.jpg

Our mains then arrived. I ordered a sea bream fillet risotto ; this was buttery rich and cheesy, and the sea bream fillets were juicy with a crispy layer of skin which I liked.

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My favourite dish of the day turned out to be the lobster pasta -mixed with sweet and succulent meat, the lobster sauce soaked perfectly into the spaghetti. The cherry tomatoes also gave the dish a tangy, appetizing kick that made me crave for more. Unfortunately this was not my main dish and I had to stick with my risotto 😡 20131029-230231.jpg

We also tried the kurobuta pork which was probably the lightest of the main courses offered that day. This came with sweet potato chips and mash which were quite nice, but by this time I was ready for DESSERT.

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We ordered their signature Gelato Miramonti. I’ve seen many reviews raving about this very gelato so I was anticipating something pretty amazing. Well, it had a nice creamy texture but I am not sure if it lived up to its rumoured awesomeness. I am not even sure how to describe it … it’s simply mediocre? :/  Maybe it was a bad day for their gelato maker? This was actually nowhere near as good as the gelato I find in random gelato shops in Italy… given that this was a signature dessert I was slightly disappointed. Maybe I’ll try it once more :p 20131029-230344.jpg

Well thank God that was actually my MOM’s dessert which I took a bite of. I had this chocolate tart which was quite standard but enjoyable nonetheless. 20131029-230409.jpgSo I’ll probably return again since the new menu looks tempting.

Thank you for reading 😀

Website : http://laltro.hk

Address:  10/F, The L. Place, 139 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong

No. 5 Italian

Been obsessed with discovering restaurants in TAI HANG lately so today I will write about this lovely little pizzeria tucked away in Brown Street. I meant to write about this place a few months ago when I first tried it with my good friend K but ever since I started my first proper job I forgot about blogging … now that I have stopped working full time HERE I AM AGAIN. 😀 20120909-202829.jpg

Always jam-packed past 7:30pm, it’s definitely better if you either arrive early or make a reservation beforehand. The young chefs and waitresses seemed cheerful and enthusiastic at work so I was hyped up and ready to scoff down the entire menu!! 20120909-202754.jpgInterestingly, prices are listed in EUROs (1 Euro = 10HKD) in effort to make you believe that you are actually in Italy. lol. 20120909-202726.jpgToday’s salad was this figs & parma ham salad with parmesan cheese. OK this wasn’t a particularly innovative combo but the figs were indeed juicy and sweet. I love figs. 20120909-195953.jpg

Next came this 8 inch “spicy pepperoni pate” pizza which was supposedly one of their new ones. The waitress told us that since we were ordering other things it would be better to have an 8 inch instead of 12 inch one but SERIOUSLY THIS WAS TINY and the whole thing was devoured within seconds so never get the 8 inch one unless you want to pretend you’re on a diet. 20120909-200115.jpg

Then it was Soup time! – some of you may find this a bit salty but as my tastebuds have a relatively high threshold for sodium (uhh sodium chloride for you chem freaks) I thoroughly enjoyed this clear lobster soup. 20120909-200139.jpg

Then came this Burrata cheese with cherry tomatoes starter that I have ordered every single time since my first visit. 20120909-200155.jpg

I did not like burrata cheese before but after a while I realized that it started to grow on me when I found myself missing it at random hours of the day. And look how cute it is! Round and white. Everything round and white are cute. Round and black too before anyone calls me racist 20120909-200750.jpg

Anyway I love this creamy burrata that oozes out of its equally yummy rubbery skin, so so good with the balsamic vinegar balanced with sweet tomatoes, also given an edge with basil leaves. 20120909-200851.jpg

**Sadly though, if you check this pic of the same dish that I took on my previous visit, you’ll see that they used to use different cherry tomatoes (some red some yellow) which were a LOT sweeter and worked to made this dish phenomenal. Today’s “red tomatoes only” version was not quite as good, but still good enough to warrant an order next time, I suppose?

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So NEXT !! Shared this onion soup with my mom. This did not disappoint. The onions were cooked to perfect consistency – soft whilst retaining enough shape for a bite.The cheesy crouton added a zing that matched very nicely with the subtle sweet-smokey flavour imparted by the wine in the soup. Nommms. I wanted a portion to myself but only held back in order to reserve more tummy space for the rest of the meal.20120909-201035.jpg

Then came our second pizza (this time a 12 inch one). This was the “Johnny’s style” pizza with white truffle, parma ham, and rucola leaves. Am happy to say that although (as expected) there were no actual, visible pieces of white truffle on this pizza, the earthy, sensual aroma of truffle oil was clearly present. Crust was crisp and thin and the parma ham was fresh, too 🙂 20120909-201053.jpg

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Then we ordered the FISH STEW which consisted of a king prawn, giant scallop, cod fish, squid rings and baby clams all cooked in a tomato-based sauce topped with italian parsley. This was definitely one of tonight’s highlights. I wanted to scrape out all the sauce and drink it like an intense, extra-rich seafood soup. 20120909-202539.jpg

Next was the Uni Linguine in white truffle cream sauce. They make their own pasta here so you get that hearty homemade texture. Tonight was the second time I had this and I think I remember the uni being sweeter with more umami last time but I guess with uni there is always an element of luck as to whether or not you are getting a good batch. This is a comparatively heavy dish – not to the degree that it is sickening but I would suggest sharing it! 20120909-202551.jpg

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And I personally have a thing for vongole pasta (I don’t feel like I have tried enough at an Italian restaurant unless I have had their linguine vongole) so I had to get this. Yum!20120909-202614.jpg

The next 2 are pastas I’ve had in previous visits – this one below is the pappardelle with stewed wagyu cheek. Flavourwise it was not my favourite but the wagyu cheek was very, very tender. I think it also tasted better as I went through the dish, as much of the sauce (which in retrospect was actually pretty good) sank to the bottom. 20120909-202934.jpg

And this was the Spaghetti with tiger prawn in lobster sauce 😀 20120909-203427.jpg

Finally for dessert tonight I opted for the white chocolate fondant (not really a fondant, but it was somewhat meltier inside) with rasberry sauce and caramel ice cream. The roasted pine nuts were a pleasant touch – this made a simple yet satisfying end to my lovely meal tonight – I’ll be back for sure 😀 20120909-205125.jpgAddress: G/F, 21 Brown Street, Tai Hang, Hong Kong 大坑布朗街21號地下

Tel: 2504 2111

Ki Ra La

Had lunch at Ki Ra La (きらら) today. Upon arrival I discovered that it is related to Sushi Dokoro Hikari in Tin Hau and thought “#%@! this is gonna be a waste of a meal”* BUT I was wrong 🙂

I opted for the Kirala Deluxe Set ($250) and mom went for the Wagyu Stone Grill Set ($480). Both started with a standard salad + chawanmushi combo:

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To my relief, these 2 starters hinted that it would be reasonable to expect better quality mains here at Ki Ra La than its Tin Hau counterpart. The salad was crisp and fresh, and the chawanmushi contained bits of chicken and shrimp that were unexpectedly flavourful, indicating the use of fresh rather than frozen ingredients.

Next came my mom’s Uni Tofu and Sashimi. The homemade Uni tofu was pudding-like in texture and had significant bits of sweet uni inside. The sashimi bowl however, was nothing to scream about. The toro was tendon-y and the botan-ebi wasn’t exactly full of umami. The spoonful of uni was OK :p

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Then came my entire lunch set.

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Again the sashimi was no good (although considering the fact that this set costed only $250, it was probably fair). BUT! everything else in the set justified potential return. The tempura batter was nice and thin, and the zaru-udon that I ordered in place of the steamed egg rice that was meant to come with the set was nice and chewy. All in all it was a well balanced lunch set.

I also ate a bit of my mom’s meal.

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I have been trying to eat less red meat lately for various reasons but hey there was literally only 4 small pieces of beef in the entire set. So I stole one from my mom.

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The beef served in this set is Miyazaki-gyu ranked A4. Wagyu is generally ranked from 1-5 with 5 being the best. The meat at rank 5 is supposed to have the highest marbling of snowy white fat in its muscle meat (as opposed to fat with a slight yellow tinge), and has a characteristic smooth, melt-in-mouth texture. The beef here in Ki Ra La’s lunch set, despite being ranked more humbly at A4, was delicious after a light sear on the little stonegrill. And as you can see, each piece was neatly cut into bite-sized, perfect rectangles, which was a plus for my lazy jaws.

Our meal ended with grapefruit jelly and a light chocolate cake. Both exceeded my expectations because most Japanese restaurants in this price range only serve either fruits or ice cream as set lunch desserts.

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Address:
Ki Ra La 2/F Henry House, No. 42 Yun Ping Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

銅鑼灣恩平道42號亨利中心2樓

Tel: 2808 0292