Friday, 30 October 2009

Food Journey #31 - Exotic Lebanese Cuisine at Marouche Grill on Elgin Street

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


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

b) Falafel - Deep Fried Fava Beans & fine herb croquettes served with tahine sauce
For those that commonly are mistaken for what Falafels are, it is a deep fried "ball" made of Fava Beans or Chickpeas and is an extremely popular fastfood & appetiser in the Middle Eastern region. Fava bean falafels are mainly used in Egypt or Sudan region and chickpeas in the Middle Eastern region. As a main dish, falafels are served as a sandwich stuffed in a pita bread with lettuce, tomatoes & tahine sauce. My falafels at Marouche Grill were served alone & drizzled with tahine sauce which I thought would have been better to be served in a pita bread to achieve to double your waistline. The taste was good and it was deep fried to perfection as it was not too greasy with very strong flavours.


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

Happy Eating


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

Happy Halloween! Godiva Fall Winter & Halloween Collection

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
2) Lack of creativity from restaurants
3) You know that the restaurateurs are just decorating their existing dishes on the menu with a few extra pumpkins, tomatoes and red sauce pretending it was a splash of blood. How un-original
4) Ripping you off with astonishing prices on their set menus

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): ****
Happy Eating Geoff

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Food Journey #30 - "Shanghainese" Buffet at Clipper Lounge

Time flies when you are busy and another year has arrived for the Hairy Crab Season. I was invited by the hotel team to sample Clipper Lounge's latest Shanghainese Lunch Buffet. Least to say, my last visit to Clipper Lounge for a proper was easily 3 yrs ago and majority of my visits were really for their signature & legendary high teas. Before my visit, I was extremely curious on how the setting & food was gonna be and it just turned out to be exactly what I had in mind. Don't get me wrong, it is an interesting approach but the theme of Shanghainese Lunch Buffet could be slightly mis-leading to real Shanghai food lovers. It was a very traditional approach by a hotel group as there technically were only a few handful of dishes that were remotely Shanghainese and the remaining dishes were catered for their regular patrons, hotel guests, tourists etc such as Fresh Sashimi, Seafood Platter, Roast Beef Carving Section etc. If you are heading to Clipper Lounge with the hope of feasting on items like Beggar's Chicken (乞丐雞), Shanghai Style Nian Gao (Shanghai Style Fried Sticky Cake), Drunken Chicken (醉雞), Dan Dan Noodles (Szechuan Spicy Noodle 擔擔麵) etc, you will be disappointed.

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.


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): ****