Monday, 9 November 2009
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Monday, 2 November 2009
Bistecca is the Italian word for "Steak" & a perfectly grilled steak is a champion dish in my opinion. Bistecca Steak House is the latest steak house in town, located in the heart of Lan Kwai Fong & opened up by the guys behind Dining Concepts (How many steak houses do they need after opening BLT Steak House, Craft, Bistecca etc). The restaurant's cuisine is heavily under the Italian influence, especially from the region of Firenze therefore, do not expect this to be ilke other steak-houses in town such as Ruth's Chris or Mortons as here, they serve up hearty Italian dishes.
Since Saturday was Halloween and I very happily was recovering from my hangover on Sunday afternoon when Texas Chainsaw Massacre - The Beginning was showing on HBO (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZYAuHKWxHA). Stepping into Bistecca reminded me of scenes from movie above especially their waiters & waitresses are all dressed in butcher uniforms and with all the raw, bloody beef stored in the fridge & on display. LOVELY!
Diners: If you want to see the restaurant with stacks of beef hanging out, please visit Bistecca during dinner hours only as due to our very unique Hong Kong law, raw beef is not allowed to be displayed in the public inside a restaurant. How messed up is this?
MUST ORDER & Highly Recommended Dishes
My lunch experience at Bistecca was indeed a very positive one for a brand new restaurant despite all the rumours & negative comments I heard from fellow food critics & diners.
Deep Pan Foccacia with Fresh Grapes & Rosemary (Starter): Foccacia has got to be one of the greatest bakery product from Italy at Bistecca, this is served as your fresh basketthe foccacia is served up relatively similar to a pizza infused with strong flavours of Rosemary. Interesting touch is to pair the deep pan foccacia with grapes which is something that I have never tried before and the pairing works well. The foccacia was warm, soft with great flavours but one let down in my opinion is that the bread was slightly greasy but nonetheless, it was a great start to the meal.
Iceberg hearts with roasted red peppers, anchovies and balsamic vinaigrette: I love this salad as the chopping & dicing part with the iceberg leaves, anchovies & red peppers was so much fun. Not only was the action part a lot of fun, the taste of the iceberg leaves was extremely fresh, complemented with the saltiness of the anchovies and the mild flavours of the balsamic vinagrette. A very refreshing salad for the heat of Hong Kong and I am in love with this dish and will definitely order this salad for many times ahead.
American certified U.S.D.A. Rib-Eye 14oz - Served Rare: Bistecca did not disappoint by my standards & as a lifetime confessed carnivore, this is definitely one of the better steak houses in Hong Kong for sure.
My grain fed USDA 14-oz rib eye was done just the way I like it - cool in the centre and bright red through out. Texture of the steak was soft with the meat being extremely juicy. All the steaks are prepared with sea salt & Kerala peppercorns, charcoal grilled & drizzled with Olive Oil & Lemon for the ultimate flavour.
Presentation was unpretentious & no-nonsense! The 14-oz steak placed on a wooden chop board which is a proper home style cooking without ponsing around with the presentation. Served with 5 pairing sauces on the side which included Porcini Sauce, Chianti Mustard, Spicy Tomato Catsup (same meaning to Ketchup), Spicy Yellow Pepper Catsup & Gorgonzola Cream. Personally, my favourite was the Gorgonzola Cream as Steaks + Cheese are literally best mates and work well together! To be honest, a good slab of beef does not require any sauces to pair as it can potentially ruin the taste of a good quality slab of meat.
Overall, a good quality steak for sure as it was meant to be a "tasting" session but somehow, I ended up finishing the whole portion which I did not regret for sure.
Improvement Required Dishes
Grilled mozzarella with Marinated tomatoes (v) - Do not get me wrong, this wasnt a bad dish but my slight comment will be to top-up on the seasoning & flavour of Mozzarella as the cheese itself is tasteless therefore the grilled mozzarella skewer becomes very bland. The good side of this dish is that I like the presentation - simple, hearty home cooking style and the marinated tomatoes are juicy & succulent. Good appetiser to kick off your meal for sure but Chef must work on the seasoning.
Spinach and ricotta ravioli with roasted cherry tomatoes (v) - I did not expect a Steak House to be cooking up good pasta dishes and in general, this dish did not disappoint but with a slight let down which was the strong flavours of the tomato sauce completely overwhelmed the Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli which was disappointing. Chef must also be a little more generous on the ricotta stuffing as I could barely taste the flavour of the cheese. Not a bad choice of a vegetarian dish to choose from a Steak House!
Summary of Meal
Suprisingly for a brand new restaurant in town, I think Bistecca has done a marvellous job in terms of food quality & attentive service. The steaks are always on my hit-list for sure no matter for lunch & dinner and I also highly recommend the Iceberg Leave Salad as that has the word "fresh" written all over it. In fact, there are quite a few other dishes on the menu which I would love to try out on my next visit such as 32 Oz Porterhouse Steak, Grilled whole Italian seabass with lemon vinaigrette etc. I definitely would like to re-visit Bistecca again on a regular evening as a normal customer instead of a food tasting session to see whether the food & service is as consistent as my lunch. THUMBS UP to Bistecca and keep up the good work guys!
Special Note: BLT Burger (under same group as Dining Concepts) will be opening in Harbour City on 20th November and stay tune for some proper New York City Burgers by Master Chef Laurent Tourondel.
UPCOMING REVIEW: SUSHI BATTLE BETWEEN MI-NE SUSHI & ITAMAE SUSHI
Address: 2/f, Hip Hing Building, 15 Lan Kwai Fong, Central, Hong Kong(中環蘭桂坊15號協興大廈2樓
Contact Number: 2525 1308
Quality of Lunch (5* the highest): 3/1/2*
Price for Lunch (5$ = very expensive): **
Friday, 30 October 2009
Happy Halloween everyone and it was also my birthday yesterday evening! Thank you very much for all the messages on twitter, facebook wall messages, SMS's, phone-calls, emails, fax, letters etc.
Every now and then, I love a good old adventure enjoying cuisines that I normally would not eat on a regular basis. I was excited to recieve a press invitation by the ladies behind Marouche Grill for a lunch tasting session. Lebanese Cuisine is also known to be a slightly healthier cuisine due to the amount of vegetables, pickled vegetables, olive oils, herbs, spices & fresh fruits used. Now, let me make this straight & precise and I want to let you guys know just because it is a press invitation, Geoff's Twitchen will always remain true to its roots with brutal honesty on the quality of food in our restaurant reviews. No Bullshit will be allowed on the twitchen!
When I stepped into the restaurant, I was worried that Marouche Grill's business will not last until Christmas as there were 2 table of customers including us on a Monday lunchhour. Very worrying sign and it was exactly like a scene of Ramsay's Kitchen's Nightmare
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED DISHES
a) Hommus Beiruty - Chickpea Puree with Hot Pepper, Parsley Tahine & Lemon Juice
b) Hommus - Chickpea Puree with Tahine & Lemon Juice
Above Cold Mezze has made Lebanese cuisine reknowned world-wide and at Marouche Grill, they were the perfect starters to your meal going. To be honest, I could carry on eating this until the end of the meal and have totally lost count on how many slices of Pita bread I had with the Hommus. If you clearly do not care about your health & waistline, you will have the same thinking as myself. The Pita bread was fresh & warm and paired perfect with the hommus and both hommus starters were excellent and were my personal favourites for the meal. I couldnt stop eating this from start to the end of the meal! THUMBS UP!
a) Grilled Halloumi Cheese served with Fresh Water Melon
Halloumi Cheese is a traditional Cypriot Cheese that is made from a mixture of goat & sheep's milk and due to its high boiling point, most Halloumi cheeses are eaten either grilled or fried. It has a similar texture to Mozzarella but slightly saltier due to the salty water content. Here, the Halloumi Cheese is grilled and is paired with whole sliced Watermelon - a traditional method eaten by the Cypriots and is an exceptionally refreshing dish for the heat of Hong Kong. One slight area of improvement for this dish in my opinion would be to serve up the halloumi cheese & watermelon diced up as it will be much easier to eat. For recipes of such dish, see http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2008/07/grilling-halloumi-cheese-watermelon-salad-recipe.html.
b) Falafel - Deep Fried Fava Beans & fine herb croquettes served with tahine sauce
DISHES I DIDNT LIKE
Kafta Meshwi - Charcoal grilled skewers of seasoned minced lamb with onion & parsley - Had high hopes when my lunch partner ordered this dish as lamb is signature to Lebanese cuisine. However, was majorly disappointed when the dish arrived:
a) Portion Size were far too small or maybe it was because the chefs decided to reduce the portion sizes due to the nature of the lunch. Priced at HKD170, this was very over-priced.
b) The flavour of the lamb may not be appealing to the Asian crowd as the strong flavour of the lamb over-shadows the onion & parsley flavours
Wark Inab B'Zeit - Wine leaves filled with rice, tomatoes, parsley, min & onion, cooked in lemon juice & olive oil -Had a debate in what to order in between the Grilled King Prawns & Wark Inab B'Zeit and I now regret in not ordering the King Prawns as I wanted to explore something which I do not eat on a regular basis.
Lesson #1 of Eating Out - always choose dishes that you are familiar with at times, think twice about ordering dishes that you are not familar with.
To my palate, this was the only dish whereby I wish I didnt order during this lunch. It was similar to the Chinese dimsum - Steamed Lotus Leaf with Glutinous Rice where I enjoy eating on a regular basis but the Lebanese version was very strange. It was sour by taste due to the lemon & tomatoes & the texture of the rice was also very sticy & slimey which was unusual. Food is a very subjective matter and this dish definitely did not please my palates. If you have different opinion on this, do let me know as everybody has different palates.
Coffee is a big part of Lebanese cuisine and there is a saying that One could Lose their Nationality if they do not drink coffee in Lebanon. Our meal was finished off with a fine Lebanese Coffee (Ahweh or Kahweh) and it is truly a great coffee with thick texture, trong pungent taste & flavour & usually unsweetened and will take some time to adjustif you are a coffee amateur. This has got to be one of the best coffees in town & much much better than the usual commercial junk you get around town.
Overall, an interesting meal as I have not eaten Lebanese cuisine for some time since my times in London in Edgware Road. Slight let down of lunch was the ambiance as the restaurant was very quiet and Wark Inab B'Zeit. Otherwise, it was an enjoyable meal with good flavoured dishes on offer. For those cautious of their calories, watch out for the Pita Bread & Hommus
UPCOMING REVIEW: BISTECCA STEAK HOUSE
Address: 31 Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong (中環伊利近街31號)
Contact Number: 2524 4123
Quality & Flavour of Food (5* the highest): ***
Price for Lunch (5$ = very expensive): **
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Lovely sight in Hong Kong to see restaurants & bars all geared up the Halloween Bash and this year, I have decided not to review any restaurants with Halloween menus because of below reasons:
1) All dishes around town look very similar indeed
Instead, I recieved a very warming surprise & special delivery from the PR Team of Godiva Chocolatier on their brand new Halloween Collection and their Fall Winter Collection which I must prioritise as Halloween is 2 days away. The beautiful package consisted of the following:
1) Milk Chocolate Covered Pretzels - Very interesting taste & flavour as the pretzels are salty flavoured but when drenched in dark chocolate, it provides an interesting chemical reaction. Texture was crunchy and not soggy or too dry which is good. However in my honest opinion, nothing was surprising about this new collection and certainly did not provide myself with a WOW factor. If you ask me, I certainly do not understand why Godiva has become so adventurous in selling such types of product because it will not appeal to the local population. The press release also mentioned the word "IRRESISTABLE", I strongly have doubts on usage of such powerful word.
2) Pumpkin Patch Truffle - I am at this moment eating this and blogging it at the same time. Don't get me wrong, the appearance is definitely very kawaii (Japanese word meaning Cute) as it is literally a golden pumpkin with a green leaf on the outside and once you take a bite, it is filled with a creamy pumpkin-spice ganache.
i) Far too sweet for myself and I am sure the entire population except Americans with a sweet tooth will find the same. If you are a diabetic, watch out as this can potentially harm your health by rocketing your sugar level.
ii) The creamy filling does not pair well with the chocolate and the taste of the chocolate is awful. How I managed to finish this truffle is an unknown mystery. Perhaps, rather than spending all this Marketing budget into packaging & advertising, they should hire a few people of whom will & can taste the chocolates properly before releasing the product into the market. Godiva Team, please do not take this personally.
iii) Charged at a steep price per piece ($135 per 100g), you would expect something rather special about the product and unfortunately, the price tag does not justify the end product.
If you are thinking about purchasing this chocolate for Trick or Treat, I am sure this will scare away all the toddlers & kids around your neighbourhood and will never return to knock on your doors.
3) Fall Gold Collection - Alas, we have come to the best part of the package. Why this is called Fall Gold Collection, I am not too sure as all the traditional Godiva boxes are all golden in colour but this had a special touch added as the box was wrapped with an orange satin ribbon & a "vibrant" ("vibrant" is the word used in press release but that got me thinking, how on earth can a leaf be vibrant) autumn leaf with small berries showcasing the theme of autumn where leaves change their colours.
Back to the chocolates, this is the traditional, classic & true heritage chocolates that I know from Godiva. Simple, delicious, hearty flavours including flavours of caramel, pralines, fruits, nuts, milk & dark chocolates ranging in various chocolate % content etc. Enjoyed every single chocolate in this Fall Gold Collection and what a turn-around in my encounter with Godiva's chocolates this time round.
An extremely elegant gift for your loved ones, family, friends over the festive seasons but my doubt is, will anyone pay $435 to purchase a box for themselves.
The Pretzel & Pumpkin Truffle was definitely a MISS for me but the Fall Collection was a DIVINE. My advice to Godiva Team, please stop dicking around with your chocolates and stay classic as they are your core, best selling products.
PS:: One interesting point from the press release which I recieved regarding the Halloween Collection, there were 2 other Halloween products which were Carre Dark Chocolate & Carre Milk Wafer which I was very interested to review about due to the cool packaging & flavour but was disappointed to find out that the PR Team did not carry such product. Major disappointment!
UPCOMING REVIEW: Exotic Flavours of Marouche Grill on Elgin Street
Quality & Taste for Halloween Products (5* the highest): **
Quality & Taste for Fall Gold Collection (5* the highest): 3/1/2*
Price for Chocolates (5$ = very expensive): ****
Sunday, 25 October 2009
Although, it was slightly disappointing that the choices for Shanghainese dishes were minimal, the usual suspects were lying around such as Xian Long Bao, Fried Dumplings, Sweet & Sour Fish Fillet, Shanghainese Stir Fry Noodles etc.
Highly Recommended Dishes / Selections:
To be honest, I didn't really try out the Shanghainese items on offer but instead, what caught my eye was the Sashimi Platter + Sushi Platter + Seafood Platter on offer.
Sashimi Platter - Very ordinary selection with no major surprises such as Salmon, Octopus, Maguro, Ebi, Surf Clam etc. Salmon was extremely fresh and melts in your mouth and I had to enjoy a 2nd round on this. Another bonus point is a kudos to their team on the speed in replenishing the sashimi to ensure they are always fresh from the chef's knives!
Seafood Platter - Oyster from Chile & New Zealand, Mussel, Crab Legs, Crayfish, King Prawns, Whelks were all on offer and special mention must be the Oyster selection as was so fresh that you can still taste the freshness of the sea-water. It is not easy to find restaurants or hotels in Hong Kong that has a good oyster selection but I can definitely recommend Clipper Lounge for this. The sizes of the oyster were also very consistent unlike other hotels or restaurants whereby the oyster sizes for your sea-platter vary a large range in sizes. Another bonus point was the speed in replenishing the seafood platter was a speed of lightning and the seafood was always on offer.
Roast Beef - Another surprise of the lunch was Roast Beef considering I have never been a fan of such item maybe due to the fact that I have eaten this every weekend for the past 15 yrs. However, this roastbeef was a lot better than my previous review on the ClearwaterBay Country club's roastbeef and it matched perfectly well with some good English Mustard The roast beef was tender, pink in just the form I like it.
Bread Basket - Believe it or not, the bread basket was for me the CHEER OF THE DAY and please see below photo of the rectangular shaped bread and a big thumbs up to the pastry chef who baked this fine piece of bread. This in my opinion has got to be one of the finest piece of bakery skills in the whole of Hong Kong as it was warm, soft & extremely floury. I cannot quite work out what it is exactly but it tasted like a combination of a combined scone & muffin. The bread was so delicious that I also finished my lunch partner's share and it has enough reasons for me to return to The Clipper Lounge for another meal.<
Shanghai Hairy Crabs
The Clipper Lounge Shanghainese Buffet also included a Hairy Crab to each guests and it was quite an experience eating such delicacy as this is the best season for such item. Why are they called Hairy Crab - because they are an extremely hairy crustacean with hard as bristle hair on their legs and their pincers have hair as well, which is as thick as seaweed.
Such crab is a famous delicacy in traditional Shanghai cuisine and us Hong Kongers prey on the female crab roe which is the the GEM and the reason to why people pay thousands of dollars for such yellow or orange crab roe. The crab itself does not have much meat due to its relatively small size and is best served steamed with ginger vinegar sauce. From a Chinese medical perspective, the crab meat is also believed to have a "cooling" effect on the body which balances out the Yin-Yan composition of a body. One note on eating this, watch out on your cholestrerol levels.
Since the hairy crabs at the Clipper Lounge were complimentary to all guests, I didnt expect the crabs to be full of surprises. The Captain brought us the crabs skipping step 1 as below which was fundamental to ensure to guests the freshness of the crab. The size of crabs were relatively small which was disappointing BUT when I cracked open the cover, there was SO MUCH CRAB ROE which I was very pleased with. The flavour of the crab roe was extremely fresh & pungent and it was a definite treat on eating such delicacy. Very little meat in the hairy crab but again, who cares as I am a crab roe lover!
Steps in Eating a Hairy Crab!
1) Place the hairy crab flat on your table so that you both should be looking at each other as you want a crab that is alive and kicking.
2) Steam the Crab for 20 mins with simply ginger & herbs and should be more than ready!
3) Take off the crab cover and if you crab is a female specimen, you should find all the golden roe and get tucked in.
4) Pull off the crab legs and snap the legs in two. Use your chopstick to gently push the crab meat out or you can also suck out the meat. This is where you taste all the flavourful, sweet chunks of crab meet and please eat everything aside from the lungs, a brown coloured fat sac & intestines.
5) Beware that most of the juiciest flesh are in the claws and please ask your server for a delicate cracker to open this part.
6) Best wine pairing with Hairy Crab must be Chinese Hua Diao Wine or Sherry.
Key areas to improve are:
a) As a leading 5-star hotel operator reknowned for its services to guests, I found the service during the lunch slightly unattentive at times especially the speed in changing used plates & refilling hot water for my Chinese Tea considerably slow at time. Perhaps some of the speed in replenishing the seafood & sashimi can be transformed to this area.
b) Level of English ability from staff has areas of improvement as the Food Captain was explaining to us on how to eat a Hairy Crab and I honestly did not understand 50% of what she was mumbling about. Imagine what would a demanding hotel guest react to her mumbling! Not Good!
Despite what was a Shanghainese Buffet theme was perhaps slightly misleading as majority of the dishes on offer were not remotely Shanghainese. Nonetheless, the quality of the other dishes on offer were extremely fresh & full of flavours and I do highly recommend our fellow readers to check out the lunch buffet at Clipper Lounge. Remember, do try out the bread basket as that was the gem of the lunch experience at Clipper Lounge.
UPCOMING REVIEW: GODIVA FALL COLLECTION & HALLOWEEN CHOCOLATES
Address: Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 5 Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong (中環干諾道中5號香港文華東方酒店閣樓
Tel: 2825 4007
Food Quality (5* the highest): 3*
Price for Lunch (5$ = very expensive): ****
Monday, 19 October 2009
- Pulpo a La Gallega - Gently Confit Octopus with Capers & Paprika - This is one of the 10 dishes to try when you are travelling in Spain and is Galicia's signature dish. The octopus was slowly braised for 3-4 hours and cooked & reheated in virgin olive oil with a mixture of Spanish sea-salt, paprika & capers. This was my favourite dish of the day as the it is very difficult that the texture of the octopus is so tender & chewy and it was a special dish at Tapeo. (See recipe - http://gospain.about.com/od/fooddrink/ss/topspanishfood_2.htm)
- Lamb with Tomato & Spices - Grilled Lamb with Cayenne Pepper, Paprika & Chilli - The lamb is slowly grilled and is served in skewers along with halved cherry tomatoes. The flavour of the spices was extremely fragrant and the flavour of the lamb is alsy very strong. The combination of cayenne pepper, paprika & chilli gave this dish an extra kick for sure and this is a perfect snack to pair with an ice-cold beer after-work. Despite the positive side of this dish, priced at $68 for 2 skewers, perhaps 2 more skewers shall justify.
- Crispy Pork Belly with Quince Alioli - Slowly roasted pork with a Quince Garlic Mayonnaise - This was also a typical Spanish Tapas served and watching the fat slab of the pork belly being slowly roasted was a good source of entertainment. The flavours & the smell coming from the open kitchen is something that every foodie should be drooling over. Never have been a big fan of Pork ever in my life but since it was highly recommended by the chef, I gave this dish a shot and to my surprise, I enjoyed very bite of it asit wasnt extremely oily & fatty that I thought it would be. The pork belly was extremely crispy which was the best part of it. The Quince Alioli - in simple terms - an apple garlic mayonnaise which to my palate was a good pairing with the pork belly but for a garlic lover like myself, my advice for Tapeo is, please more garlic as the garlic mayo isnt very garlic flavoured.
- Other dishes which we also tried out was the Gazpacho - cold Spanish Tomato based raw vegetable soup which as originated from the southern region of Andalucia. a very refreshing cold "soup" to start off your meal for sure especially in the heat of Hong Kong. The bread basket was also very fresh & warm and the mix of warm bread & ice-cold Gazpacho provided an interesting chemistry.
- Chorizo & Tomato - Sauteed in sherry vinegar, parsley & spring onions. I have never been a fan of Spanish Chorizo as the texture is far too similar to the Chinese Dried Sausauges (Lap Chuen 臘腸) therefore I am definitely not too keen on this dish. The sauce of the dish was tasty and best for your bread dipping and my recommendation is more parsley should be chopped & used in this dish for a stronger intensive flavour
- Manchego Cheese & Honey - This should have been a starter in the traditional Spanish cuisine but however, I decided to eat this as a dessert. Manchego Cheese is a sheep's milk cheese, produced in the La Mancha region of Spain. Normally aged for 3 months or longer, this cheese has a very sharp taste, slightly salty but not too strong, similar to a feta cheese. Traditional method in consuming Manchego Cheese is to serve on toasted bread with drizzled olive oil - AHHHH -- these Spanish people do know how to eat like a king! Cheese & Honey pairing is a interesting pairing but again, I normally prefer my cheese with some form of carbs therefore this dish can be improved if some sort of bread or crackers are served together.