Sunday, August 7, 2011


Hello world, it's been a long time. My day job had me keeping some insane hours in the past few months, including a lot of transpacific travel. After a particularly bad month, I took a much-needed week off and treated myself to a detox retreat at Kamalaya in Koh Samui. While it's a tad pricey (ok, maybe a little more than a tad), especially for Thailand, it was exactly the rest, relaxation and restoration my body needed. It's one of those things that I can only imagine really justifying in Asia - if I lived a balanced, normal life like I generally did in the US (one filled with daily exercise, wholesome organic foods and nights and weekends to relax), then I wouldn't need to spend a week shelling out a lot of dough to eat only raw vegetables and do yoga. So while a detox retreat is a privilege, working in Asia, I kind of see it as a necessity once in a while as well.

I did a five-day detox retreat which involved daily yoga, detox treatments (such as lymphatic massage, colonics, infrared sauna) and a meat-free, soy-free, dairy-free, rice/wheat/grain-free detox diet that mostly consisted of raw vegetables and certain raw fruits. Surprisingly, I never felt deprived and everything was really delicious.

Pineapple "mojito" - detox style, made with mint, lime and pineapple. You are permitted as many fruit and vegetable juices as you want on the detox

Green vegetable soup

Raw maki made with water chestnuts (instead of rice) and served with a spirulina-wasabi dipping sauce. One of my favorites

Raw pad thai made with coconut tendrils

Raw banana blossom salad

Food rating: ****
Bang for buck rating: 3

The essentials:

Location: Koh Samui, Thailand

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Pawn

Brunch at The Pawn isn't for the faint of heart, literally. The delicious fare at this wonderfully cozy, modern British gastropub is a cardiologist's nightmare: heavy on fatty meats, butter and other saturated fats. But don't let that keep you away, because you'd be missing out on some of the best brunch fare in Hong Kong. On a recent visit, I had an absolutely delicious (and artery-clogging) plate consisting of a crumpet topped with a thick slice of black pudding, bacon, ham, fried duck egg - and if that weren't enough, it came with a generous piece of seared foie gras on the side. The execution of the dish was perfect - every element was cooked to perfection and came together wonderfully. The eggs benedict was also solidly executed, although the hollandaise was just a tiny bit too rich. The Pawn's version of a Bloody Mary is made with freshly blended tomatoes, so thick that it was more like a big glass of gazpacho - it could use some spicing up with tabasco and worcestershire sauce.

The best thing about the Pawn though isn't the food, it's the atmosphere. In most cases, I absolutely don't believe in "paying for atmosphere," but I might make an exception for The Pawn - it's laid back yet slightly pretentious, cozy yet modern, shabby yet chic - contradictory but in a way that works. Definitely one of my favorite brunch finds in Hong Kong so far, and also a great place for drinks.

English crumpet topped with black pudding, bacon, ham, foie gras, sweet onion marmalade and fried duck egg - a delicious heart attack on a plate

Eggs Benedict with perfectly poached eggs and buttery hollandaise

Food rating: ****
Bang for buck rating: 3.5

The essentials:
Location: 62 Johnston Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Average price of brunch for two: HKD$350

Monday, January 10, 2011

Posto Pubblico

I've been to Posto Pubblico three times now - twice for dinner and once for lunch (the photos below are from lunch). I thoroughly enjoyed my first two visits during dinner; not so much my most recent visit during lunch.

During my first two visits, the caprese salad was amazingly fresh and delicious, the antipasti platter was sublime and the pastas perfectly al dente. I don't know if they use a different chef at lunch, but the quality of the food was completely different. The mozzarella was tough and bland, the pasta was overly salty. And in my opinion, the lunch sets are overpriced for what they give you, and there are too many exceptions to the listed lunch set price - for example, if you order any of their special pastas of the day, you have to pay an "upgrade" price to the more expensive lunch set price of 180 HKD instead of 120 HKD.

There are better Italian restaurants in Hong Kong (my favorite so far is Pane Vino on Mosque Junction Road), but in my view, a visit to Posto Pubblico is still worth it for their fresh house-made mozzarella.

Caprese salad made with fresh house-made hand-pulled mozzarella (the primary reason I am a fan of Posto Pubblico)

Brooklyn Special sandwich (breaded eggplant, mozzarella and roasted peppers)

Tagliolini with peas and pancetta

Linguini vongole

Food rating: *** and a half
Bang for buck rating: 3

The essentials:
Location: 28 Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong
Average price of dinner for two: HKD$700 (~ USD$ 90)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Father's Office

I'm not a fan of food nazis - chefs that tell you exactly how you have to eat your food (I'm of the camp that believes that "you like it the way you like it" - who's to tell me or anybody else that there's only one right way to eat something??). So even though friends in LA had been telling me for awhile that I had to try the burger at Father's Office, I put it off for a long time. Why? It went against my principles of freedom of choice that at Father's Office, you are absolutely not allowed to have your burger they way YOU want - only the way chef/owner Sang Yoon decides you should have it (which absolutely excludes ketchup - this was my main hangup, because seriously...a burger without ketchup??)

However, during a trip to LA during the holidays, my little brother dragged me (ok, it went more like: "Hey, I feel like eating a Father's Office burger for lunch." "Oh ok, I'm down for that.") to the Father's Office in LA (in a random location behind Room & Board).

Verdict? Sang Yoon is on to something. I never would have thought to put a burger on a crusty french roll (that's not even round!), or add both gruyere AND blue cheese, and gosh darnit, to me a burger MUST have ketchup on it...but goddamn the Office Burger is good. And the sweet potato fries with garlic aioli? Absolutely to die for, worth every single carb and calorie.

The Office Burger - dry aged beef patty with caramelized onion, applewood bacon, gruyere, maytag blue cheese and arugula

The rules

Food rating: ****
Bang for buck rating: 3

The essentials:
Locations: 1018 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA; 3229 Helms Avenue, Los Angeles, CA
Average price of meal for two (including drinks): $50


From the very beginning (delightful amuse bouche) to the very end (perfect assorted petit fours), the degustation menu at Amber was absolutely perfect. Very few times in my life have I had a meal (especially a meal with numerous courses) where there wasn't a single flaw - dinner at Amber is one of those rare perfect meals that I can count on one hand.

Amber is perfect for special occasions - the service is impeccable, the decor is sophisticated yet understated, and the food is clearly the star of the night.

One of several amuse bouche - candied foie gras lollipops

Hokkaido sea urchin in lobster gelee with cauliflower, caviar and crispy seaweed waffles

Smoked Tasmanian salmon confit with avocado, horseradish and Granny smith apple

Seared Normandy diver scallop with toasted brioche, mousseline kabocha squash and dried basque country sausage

Langoustine and foie gras, steamed with cep ravioli, cep mushroom and dry sherry consomme

Kagoshima wagyu beef - sirloin MS A4 oven roasted with souffle potatoes au jus

Kagoshima wagyu beef - braised short rib with passion fruit-glazed root vegetables

French farmer cheeses

Fruit plate

Blood orange segments with preserved orange skin and rosemary prepared with Greek yoghurt as a vacherin 'coque'

Abinao 85% chocolate souffle with brown rum anglaise and cacao sorbet

Assorted petit fours

Food rating: *****
Bang for buck rating: 3.5

The essentials:
Location: 7th floor, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, 15 Queen's Road, Central, Hong Kong
Average price of dinner (degustation menu) for two: $500


At Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco, the dishes are named with self-affirming labels such as "I am dazzling" and "I am sensational." 7000 miles away in Hong Kong, while perusing the menu at VeggieSF (named for San Francisco), I smiled at the inside joke - the most popular item on the menu is a dish called "I am Fabulous." VeggieSF is a cozy restaurant on the 10th floor of a building in the heart of Central serving creative vegetarian cuisine amidst a kitschy 1950's Americana backdrop. The menu is eclectic - although the most popular item is the "I am fabulous," a burger made with pureed beets instead of meat, topped with sprouts, tomato, lettuce and melted cheese, there are also Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Thai and Italian dishes.

Lunch sets include a bowl of soup (winter melon on the day we went) and a drink of your choice.

Winter melon soup (slightly bland)

Sawadika - red rice cooked in banana leaf and vegetable skewers with satay sauce

I am Fabulous - pureed beetroot cheeseburger

Food rating: ***
Bang for buck rating: 3

The essentials:
Location: 10/F, 11 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong
Average price of lunch for two: $30

Katong Laksa Prawn Mee

Prior to moving here, I'd only visited Hong Kong in the summer, so I have to admit that I had no idea that Hong Kong can get so cold. On a chilly winter day like today, I wanted a hearty, flavorful dish to warm me up - and what's more hearty and flavorful than a hot bowl of laksa? I headed over to Katong Laksa Prawn Mee after doing some research online for "best laksa in Hong Kong." Katong Laksa is located on a quiet street just behind the loud bar scene on Lockhart Road in Wanchai. Like so many foodie treasures in Hong Kong, it's one of those unassuming hole-in-the-walls that you might pass by without a second thought.

The laksa here is katong laksa - that is to say, a version of Singaporean laksa nemak from the Katong area. The curried coconut broth at Katong is flavorful - a perfect blend of coconut milk, spices and fish paste, hearty yet light. The broth is poured over thin rice vermicelli and your choice of toppings - in an attempt to start the new year healthier, I ordered the version with vegetables (morning glory), bean sprouts and egg. From the first sip of the broth, I was in heaven - an absolutely perfect meal for a cold day in Hong Kong (and any other day). Delicious food like this is exactly why Hong Kong is my favorite city to eat. It was so delicious that I ordered another bowl (this time, the Laksa Supreme, with fish balls, prawns, fried tofu and egg) to take home.

Laksa with vegetables, bean sprouts, egg and fried tofu

Food rating: **** and a half
Bang for buck rating: 5

The essentials:
Location: Shop D1, Ground floor, 155 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai
Average price of dinner for two: $20

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hong Kong, glorious Hong Kong

I spent a year living in Tokyo, widely acclaimed as one of the world's top gastronomic cities, and spent quite a bit of time eating at some of Tokyo's best restaurants, but I'll tell you a little secret: Tokyo has nothing on Hong Kong. Hong Kong is by far my favorite city to eat, eat and eat some more.

Don't get me wrong - Tokyo has the highest concentration of refined cuisine (especially Japanese, French and Italian) of any city, but honestly - who can eat refined cuisine day in and day out?? You can only eat so many haute French meals and while Japanese food is exquisite, it is also quite...monotonous (spend 3 days eating only Japanese food and I promise you will be begging for a good, greasy burger or a bowl of piping hot pho)

And this is why Hong Kong tops my list of delicious destinations - the sheer number of choices, not only dim sum and wontons and shark's fin, but everything from exquisite French to authentic Thai to Middle Eastern to fresh mozzarella and homemade pasta - Hong Kong has it all, and it's all so delicious. HK reviews to come soon!