#theWanderlist: The Best Sunday Brunch Yet

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A wet and rain-soaked weekend is coming up, so I thought I’d share with you photos from two of my favorite Sunday brunch joints in Hong Kong… you know just in case those junk boating plans fall through. Whenever Sunday rolls around, everyone always asks the same question… What is the best brunch in Hong Kong??? And if you’re like me, you think it’s a Google search away, when in reality, the information you’d get online as feedback could even be more painful to get through. Let me help.

The “Best brunch” depends on a lot of factors for different people. Some are all about “views” and some are about “ambiance”. For me, that criteria is important, however in addition, I find the most important elements of a great Sunday brunch is that A. It has to be Western (unless it’s outright dimsum which is fine), B. It’s gotta serve amazing juice, coffee, and bloody maries, C. Eggs. It’s gotta serve eggs or eggy dishes well, and lastly D. The special Added extra something that only a unique restaurant can provide… and its not necessarily champagne. (Though that’s an easy tack on that’s very welcome.)

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+ “Old World Becomes New Classic” // The Principal

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The Principal, is one of Hong Kong’s classic hidden gems, located on a little tucked-in corner on Star Street. The restaurant, owned by the Press Room Group, IS a destination that doubles as a sleepy neighborhood locale. The interiors are fresh, clean, and crisp… and earthy. Reflected ceiling is in timber, the back wall is clad in light clay brick tiling, and the seating in a light beige and brown madras with a slight blue-grey tint. Tables all have a bit of plant life in a clay pot, everything seems very… mediterranean. The design for the fit out, by Australian studio, Hecker Guthrie, serves as a nice and subtle backdrop for the restaurant’s offerings, delicacies reminiscent of old world flavors, but adapted for a modern, urban palate which expects innovation.

Executive Chef, Jonay Armas, honed his craft in Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain, including La Terraza del Casino and El Chaflan in Madrid, and El Raco de Can Fabes in Barcelona. Regularly, meals at The Principal come in three “travel” inspired set menus, but for the Sunday Brunch, it’s the world’s buffet… direct to your table.

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The menu begins with a “Picnic”, when the waiter brings to your table a wicker basket filled with items and things in glass jars, tin cans, and cheese wrapped in paper. Items in the basket, which are then carefully laid out on the table include; a Strawberry and rhubarb yoghurt mousse, cold cuts and cheese, liver pate, Moroccan-inspired hummus, Anchovies in Vinegar-garlic-olive oil, and freshly baked bread.

For some people in Europe, that’s it for Brunch… but if you’re a guest at the Principal, like me and my sister were… it’s the first course of a six course meal. 

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For the rest of the meal (you know, it’s 6 courses like I said), we were served a delicious ceviche, tempura made of seasonal vegetables, eggs cooked sunny side up in front of us and served with free range bacon, and lastly for savory, the Sunday Roast… a Spanish suckling pig served “Korean Style”, wrapped in lettuce.

And of course, there’s no full meal without… Desserts!

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These beautiful creations include cakes that taste like Snickers Bars, frozen raspberries with pop rocks, Pina Colada Profiteroles, chocolate meringue lollipops, and of course… Churros. Delicious.

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Service at The Principal is extremely on point, and attentive. And for a price of 740HKD, the six course Sunday Brunch also comes with bottomless Champagne (a Brut Le Mesnil-sur-Oger), a selection of Wine /Beer, Juices, fancy water, and Graffeo Coffee or Harney and Sons Teas. NOT BAD. Great even!

+ “Dockside and Farm Fresh Simplicty” // Fish & Meat

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Fish & Meat is definitely one of my most favorite new restaurants in Hong Kong. Not only is it designed by one HK-based designer I admire (and whom I had the pleasure of interviewing before), Ben McCarthy of Charlie & Rose, but the Fish AND the Steak are both equally divine… at least for dinner! I was recently invited to taste the new brunch menu which has just launched last month… and it’s just not any other brunch menu… it’s brunch… with the addition of a BUTTERMILK. PANCAKE. STATION. I kid you not.

For mains on offer here (besides the Buttermilk Pancake Station itself with homemade toppings like Vanilla Cream and Caramel Sauce)… is an Organic poached egg Brioche with Truffle, Pan Fried Sea Bream with fennel and green pea puree, Organic Sunny Side Eggs, and a Cedar River Prime Sirloin… to name a few of what our table consumed. 

Unlike The Principal, Fish & Meat is really visible to its neighborhood location on the corner of Glenealy and Wyndham Street, with the right amount of glazing on both sides to let plenty of sunshine in, and vantages to the city out. Ambiance? Design? Check. Views? Check. 

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Fish and Meat’s general philosophy, a sensitivity towards “farm to table” methods of sourcing, preparation, and serving are all on point even for Sunday Brunch and is evident. It really feels like you’re being served farm fresh food in a farm fresh environment. Compared to The Principal, you can get more relaxed here and be a little bit louder… but then again, it depends on what kind of mood you want for Sunday Brunch.

I also had my fill of the “Cold Buffet”, a selection of fresh oysters and mussels, and a few salads made of beetroot gravlax, crab, watercress, squash, asparagus, and even the basic Ceasar is also available. There’s a delicious farfalle pasta in red pesto and burrata also on offer for those carb-inclined.

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Service at Fish & Meat is also quite good and personable, and generally matches the menu’s casual attitude. The mains are delicious, but you know… if you can do it… have the the Steak or the eggs. You won’t regret it!

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So that’s my brunch wrap up, a picture summary of my two favorite brunch places. It’s not too sceney nor is it overwhelming. They’re both buffets on an intimate scale, and with each having their own unique offerings. If you check out any one of these brunch places this weekend, be sure to tag me on Instagram @theWanderlister, so I can inspect and comment on all your delicious #SundayBrunch #FoodPorn.

EAT The Principal . 9 Star Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong . T: +852-25633444 / EAT Fish & Meat, 32 Wyndham Mansions, Central, Hong Kong . T: +852-25656788

JJ.

SG_WOMEN_615x100 New Season

#theWanderlist: Happiness Is Just A NoLIta Morning

New York’s NoLIta district is a little area between Little Italy and Soho, which is defined by Houston Street on the north, Bowery on the east, Broome Street on the South, and Lafayette Street on the west. I discovered Nolita the other day at the strong advice of my friend, Katrina (someone who really needs a #Wanderlister blog of her own.)

Nolita was dubbed by the real estate community as such in the mid 90’s to reflect the neighborhood’s yuppy gentrification. The real Italians moved out, and instead moving in is a great selection of independent fashion boutiques, keeping NoLIta free of hideous Italian restaurant tourist traps, and Old Navy.

SOHO has turned into a mall (a long long time ago), while neighborhoods like the West Village or Madison Avenue may be a bit too label oriented… so people come to Nolita for an indie rare-finds shopping Saturday. On my itinerary the other day, I went to visit an amazing curated shop by Katrina’s friend, ate brunch at an I-cant-believe-its-a-vegan-joint called, The Butcher’s Daughter, and checked out some art at the New Museum on the Bowery. But first… best to start with the right foot with a much caffeine fix at the Nolita Gimme! Coffee.

+ DRINK // Gimme! Coffee

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Gimme! Coffee was a specialty coffee shop I treated myself to when a reward was in order during in college at upstate New York. Slightly more expensive than on-campus cups o’ joes, Gimme! Coffee’s highly rated roasts are just that much better than most everything in the market for low-key on-the-go coffee. Gimme! Coffee also makes their money supplying coffees to different restaurants and businesses, and sources their beans straight from a farm in Colombia, paying a competitive price, so the farmer can cut out abusive middle men. 

In 2006, Gimme! Coffee was awarded the best espresso bar in Manhattan by the New York Times, and Roast Magazine picked Gimme! Coffee to win last year’s Roaster of the Year. To me, it’s just damn great coffee that can give you the fuel for those long day urban adventures… which begins with…

+ SHOP // Creatures of Comfort

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Via an introduction from Katrina, I was able to get a great sneak into Creatures of Comfort, a quirky and niche shopping destination in the city for women who aim to dress for everyday simplicity with a statement. The store’s manager, Cath Martin, gladly showed me around, introducing the LA-based shop’s curation of the stylishly messy, easy, lazy, and elegant… (basically anything that resembles Isabel Marant.) Oh, there’s an area for bored boyfriends as well… at the guy’s section towards the front, also very well curated, as expected.

Designers at CoC include Norse Projects, J.W Anderson, Christophe Lemaire, Rachel Comey, Kara Walker, Common Projects, Cosmic Wonder, Band of Outsiders, Robert Clergerie, and many others, including the prominently displayed in-house lightweight womenswear collection, also called, Creatures of Comfort.

Founder, Jade Lai, wasn’t there the day I went to shop, but she’s from Hong Kong herself, educated at at Otis College, and learned what she could of the rag trade from her Dad, Jimmy Lai, founder of Giordano. (The parallels end there.) Check it out, it’s a neat place to shop, and if you live in New York, CoC always hosts different events and popups in collaboration with artists, creatives, and the brands they carry.

+ EAT // The Butcher’s Daughter

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The Butcher’s Daughter is great go-to brunch place any day of the week. Regular customers rate it very well, better than traditional media, but for what you get ie. healthy, vegetarian, vegan that doesn’t scream it, to me it’s impressive. I chose to sit in a stool at the corner of the shop so I can face the window and view outside to do a bit of NoLIta people watching. However, there are plenty of big communal tables here indoor and out if you choose to bring a big party of friends.

For lunch I ordered, “Spicy Kale Ceasar Salad”, at 14USD it’s a big hefty meal, which consisted of a bowl of local kale, a generous portion of avocado, delicious bits of almond parmesan, toasted almonds, shallots, croutons, and heaping side of tempeh (which basically made it taste like I was having some kind of grilled chicken on top.) I usually hate green grass juice that hippies drink, but I loved the “Green Simple Juice” they recommended, which was basically cucumber, Kale, and green apple…hmmm. Can still taste it now!

+ VISIT // New Museum

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The New Museum, a building designed by Japan’s SANAA, is generally a mixed bag of programming, but whenever i’m there, I always luck out with good shows. Lucky me I guess. When all is said, done, and purchased in NoLIta, on the Bowery a few blocks down from the shops is the said museum at just the right boutique size that you can pretty much spend the last few pre-dinner hours getting your culture fill.

I really enjoyed the exhibition by Icelandic artist, Ragnar Kjartansson, who for his exhibit, displayed a looping video scene with a live guitar orchestral performance, titled Take Me Here by the Dishwasher: Memorial for a Marriage 2011/2014. For the whole day, and the duration of the exhibition, 10 musicians play a lose and live harmonic performance to accompany a video where a character (played by the artist’s mother) gets swept off her feet by a plumber (played by the artist’s father), when eventually they do the nasty. The musicians add the dialogue via music.

Also on display, a show by Camille Henrot, titled The Restless Earth. I’m a big fan of this Parisian artist’s body of research in regards to visual representation, digital archiving, and the documentation of artifacts of cultures and items found within the “natural world” and how it gets transformed physically and conceptually via modern desires, modern use, and modern science. I fit all of what she does in one sentence… so I guess I really am a fan.

Shows at New Museum rotate each month, so there’s always something to return to here, worth supporting. Even if you only have a hour.

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Before I forget, if you go to Creatures of Comfort, make sure to check out my friends, Katrina and Jason’s copy of BITE ME Magazine. It’s in New York (including all other cities in the world), and there’s just no excuse not to own one delicious bite of this amazing publication.

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DRINK Gimme! Coffee NoLIta . 228 Mott Street, New York City, NY . T: +12122264011 / SHOP Creatures of Comfort . 205 Mulberry St, New York City, NY . T: +12129251005 / EAT The Butchers Daughter . 19 Kenmare Street, New York City, NY . T: +12122193434 / VISIT New Museum . 235 Bowery, New York NY . T: +12122191222

JJ.

SG_WOMEN_615x100 New Season 

DESIGN NOTES: Past, Present, and Pancakes at Stack

You think pancakes are delicious… now think of a place in Hong Kong which serves pancakes and crepes all day… then think about those pancakes and crepes be specially prepared and paired with a different kind of alcoholic beverage for each pancake… and then now think about eating those pancakes and crepes in a really cool corner shop with a super fresh “retro-chic” look by the Award Winning architectural design team at WALL Studio…. now think about the Twins Kitchen / Common Ground team making your pancakes…then you’ve pretty much got the hottest new all-day breakfast destination in town at STACK in Sai Ying Pun, of course (where else?)

STACK is a new destination dining concept by twins, Josh and Caleb Ng from Common Ground, focused on creating a pancake joint serving American style carb loaded goodies just the way you want them. But the all day pancake experience is also available with a little protein… we’re talking short ribs, seafood, and pulled pork… amongst other items on the menu.

According to the founders and the designers, the interior concept for STACK is about celebrating the fusion between past and present, extrapolating from the history and the current transformation of the Sai Ying Pun district. Walking in, you’d notice a combination of patterned tiles and iron gates reminiscent of architecture and sidewalks of Hong Kong of ‘yore. The interior and exterior neon signage reflects Hong Kong’s disco heyday in the 70’s… exactly the last time “Wanchai” was cool.

Stack opens on July 12th and will be serving drinks and dinner from 6pm to 11:30pm everyday… but closed on Mondays. See you there! (Get a jog in before hand! You’ll need it!)

EAT STACK . GF 1, 3rd Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong . T: +852 25499787 / DESIGN Wall . 2C, 3-5 Gough Street, Central, Hong Kong . T: +852 98634306

JJ.

DESIGN NOTES: Jamie’s Italian HK by Martin Brudnizki and Barnaby Purdy

Hong Kong has really made it to the Culinary tourist’s Destination map when the likes of celebrity chefs begin establishing outposts here from abroad. I mean you’ve got the big guys (no pun intended) like Mario Batali’s Lupa or even more set back and subdued experiences like Restaurant Akrame by Chef Akrame Benallal. Those are the direct imports. Then there are the celebrity Chefs from abroad who, in a way, have used Hong Kong as a path of their journey to the top, by collaborating with local entrepreneurs, like Chef Jason Atherton.

Big news is the arrival of Jamie Oliver’s first restaurant, Jamie’s Italian HK, in Hong Kong, an Italian (safe I know) destination restaurant, about to open in Causeway Bays’ now uber-chic, Soundwill Plaza 2 Midtown (the one that looks and smells like a W Hotel, it’s even got an inverted W font, now an “M” to make that point). I want to show these preview renderings of the interiors, by UK based Martin Brudnizki Design Studio (MBDS), focused on a “fully transparent dining experience”, which apparently revolves around the ingredients. Jamie Oliver’s long time friend, urban artist, Barnaby Purdy, will do a one-of-a-kind mural incorporating elements of the Chinese zodiac (ie. locality factor, of course.) Local artists will also be invited to submit designs to Jamie, who will then vet them to add additional art on the restaurant’s walls.

Via Jamie’s Italian:

Drawing in elements of the restaurants’ local surroundings, MBDS alludes to Causeway Bay’s historical days as a fishing village, by introducing a quirky shipping container in the kitchen area and a sliding ships ladder at the antipasti bar. By contrast, five two-tiered chandeliers will light up the restaurant with a touch of glamour and draw attention to the signature Jamie’s Italian’s teal banquettes, featured throughout. Finally as a nod to its traditional British heritage, Kingfisher coloured tiles will adorn the restaurants’ columns, reminiscent of London’s bustling subway.

The 12,100 sq. ft. of open space will use differing colours and textures to denote different sections - red banquettes around the antipasti bar, sleek black tiles for the spacious open kitchen, beautiful timber flooring for the seating areas, and large cooling slate tiles throughout the entrances and corridors. Using a complementary yet contrasting pallet of colours and materials throughout, MBDS creates a dynamic and visually compelling atmosphere so that the restaurant can achieve its two key focuses of food and people - through his exploration of the concept of the ‘theatre of food’, which seeks to excite the senses of all guests.

To access Jamie’s Italian, diners can take the escalator up to the restaurant from the ground floor. At first view, the lively theatrics of fresh pastas made daily on-site and an enticing view of freshly made breads on display and cured meats, such as Levoni hams hanging in tempting rows, will set stomachs rumbling. Off to the side a long seated-bar will feature bottles of fine Italian wines, providing a perfect backdrop to the welcoming reception area.

EAT Jamie’s Italian Hong Kong . 2F, Soundwill Plaza II Midtown, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong / DESIGN Martin Brudnizki Design Studio / ART Barnaby Purdy

JJ.

#theWanderlist: A Williamsburg Guide

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This month was the first time I really ever experienced Williamsburg. Before this visit i’ve only heard about the district or passed through it in Brooklyn… but have never been to hang out. On my last New York trip, I wanted to give Williamsburg a go for the sake of the blog. I ended up staying there for a solid six days!

Most would call Williamsburg a quintessentially “cool” neighborhood. It’s hard to believe that so much happens here, and its only about a size of 10 city blocks… a mere fraction of the total size of all of Brooklyn

Me below in my Williamsburg Airbnb Loft.

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Additionally, Williamsburg style is now a kind of global style… at least within the last five years. What’s going on in this little corner of the world in terms of its “Old is New Again” lifestyle, i’ve seen exported replicated in many new destination hospitality and dining establishment everywhere else, including Hong Kong. 

Basically I was back in New York City to attend a friend’s wedding and to get some work done for the firm. In the free time that I did have, I was able to check out aspects of what actually is cool to see and do in the Williamsburg ‘hood, and why it’s earned a reputation as a global trendsetter. Check out our findings below!

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+ THE LOWDOWN

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Overall, from a purely urban observation… I categorize Williamsburg as a calm sibling of Manhattan. The kind of frenzy that one would find in the main city, you just do not get in Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s generally low building heights and lush tree lined streets guarantee an oasis, reflecting its role as a historical suburb. With the on-going gentrification as of late, especially in Williamsburg, you get a careful mix of old buildings, juxtaposed with newer architectures. Some buildings attempt at quirkiness, in a subtle and usually non-offensive way. A good example of this is perhaps the new EMS station clad in glass I photographed above on the intersection of Roebling and Metropolitan Avenue by Michielli + Wyetzner Architects 

Of course there are worse offenders. On the way to the Domino Sugar Refinery to visit some public art, I saw new buildings lined up on the Kent Avenue waterfront reflecting that general middle-america aesthetic, the kind of mixed-use development and architecture design solutions which mirror urban redevelopment in anytown inner city. The rent here is indeed expensive (i’ve asked), but apparently going for only half the price per square foot still of a comparable property in Manhattan.

+ ART

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Speaking of public art, we ventured to see the summer’s “IT” show, new commissioned work from African-American female artist, Kara Walker, via urban art programmer, Creative Time. The piece, titled, A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plan, is located at the soon-to-be-demolished-but-urbanistically-iconic Domino Sugar Refinery in Williamsburg. The exhibition is free, and when it closes in July, the refinery will be torn down to make room for more of the gentrified development expected of Williamsburg’s waterfront. 

Walker, whose work is defined by her interest in race, gender, sexuality, violence, and identity, sculpts a female sphinx 80-feet long and 40-feet high in 80 ton blocks of white sugar. Life-sized child figurines, (perhaps children of the sphinx???), were cast in boiled sugar, reflecting the color of the sugar before undergoing refinement. The art was free, urban in scale, and open to the public, and got everyone from different boroughs into Williamsburg for the weekend. The work asks the public to contemplate the disappearance of the historical refinery for a more gentrified waterfront, and perhaps mull over the community of people who populated the neighborhood before gentrification took hold. 

Besides the Kara Walker exhibition, there is hardly an art scene in Williamsburg. Artists DO live and work here, but showing is all in the Lower East Side, West Village, or Chelsea High Line (we’ll get to this in later posts.)

 + HOTEL LIFE

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There are not too many new destination hotels in Brooklyn at the moment due to the city’s organic and slow approach to development. However, there are two prominent low-scale urban boutique hotels in Williamsburg adjacent to each other and along McCarren Park worth checking out. A destination for locals and seasoned travelers alike, one hotel is the Wythe Hotel, located in a converted factory, and the other, where I stayed via booking through Mr and Mrs Smith Hotels, is the McCarren Hotel & Pool, a destination for Brooklyners in search for weekend sun at the pool or stars on its scenic rooftop bar.

I can’t really say much for the Wythe Hotel, since I didn’t have enough time to visit (I’ll check it out next time), but I was pretty content with my stay at McCarren Hotel. It’s got this quirky and minimalist Scandinavian-chic interior design in a completely new-build block development. Compared to most luxury urban stays i’m used to, McCarren is generally straightforward urban hotel when it comes to offerings, but the rooms are fully stocked with all the drinks and snacks you need, plus good wifi and a great espresso machine. The hotels’ bars and pool area is a local destination, and not intimate by any means because it’s such a nightlife and weekend destination for brooklynites.

With it’s central Williamsburg location, a mere 5 minutes walk to all the best “IT” cafes, restaurants, and tourist must-sees… this tastefully designed hotel is a great option for urban travellers and at the right price. My only gripe is I wish they had breakfast options in the weekend (which they don’t because the restaurant which caters for the hotel only opens for Brunch on Weekends). But besides this minor gripe, the staff was generally friendly and helpful with everything and anything I needed.

+ COFFEE HOUSE CULTURE

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I really enjoyed having breakfast and chilling out at Toby’s Estate Coffee. Toby’s has two locations, the original roaster in Williamsburg on N. 6th Street and another one in the Flatiron District in the new Club Monaco Flagship store  (will get to this in a later post.) But Toby’s prides itself in roasting all its coffee in Brooklyn, and sourcing beans direct from source in Congo, Bolivia, Rwanda, Brazil, Colombia, and Ethiopia without in-betweens.  

For me the best part was the selection of food available on the menu. I can still taste the amazing “Espresso Glazed Bacon” with scrambled egg breakfast sandwich (please let me know if I got this wrong, but I couldn’t find the menu anywhere online). I also loved grabbing iced coffee and sitting outside to watch dreadfully “trendy” people pass. North 6th Street is such a scene! (The game I liked to play is count the tattoos… you figure it out.)

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Another place to check out for coffee is Urban Rustic Market & Cafe, a few blocks down from McCarren Hotel on McCarren Park. Urban Rustic is a fantastic small grocers and full deli, seemingly offering all the kinds of sandwiches you can think of made to order, utilising “ethically sourced” ingredients. What this means? All meats are “cage free”, all eggs are organic and from local farms, and meats are roasted in house.

I again had a bacon, cheese, and egg sandwich here on onion bagel, with a great cup of simple all American black coffee. (There’s nothing like the bacon on offer in the states… it’s just more hearty.) Also check out Urban Rustic for sunset beers. They carry an amazing assortment of beer from all the local breweries in the New York State… this plus the comfy bench seating outside next to the park, you’ve got an amazing way to end the day right there.

+ WHAT THE HIP EAT AND DRINK

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Williamsburg has a pretty amazing amount of destination cafes, bars, restaurants and eateries for such a mid-sized burrough. I don’t have any more room on this blog post to post all on offer, but I can pretty much zero in on a few of my favorites.  

For breakfast it’s all about Pies ‘N Thighs adjacent to the Williamsburg Bridge for some unforgettable signature “Chicken and Waffles”. I don’t know how Americans can have a plate of three chicken plus waffle plus fixins, when I barely finished one plate sharing with a friend. I didn’t get to taste the donuts and pies here but I heard they were legendary.

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For general gastro-pub fare plus some good people watching, there’s always the highly-rated restaurant, Five Leaves. I came here at the suggestion of my friend who’s friends with the owner. There’s plenty of inventive and playful food serving “New American” dishes at this bistro. The place is run by Ozzies and is a brunch favorite for locals. I was hooked on their truffle fries and deep fried oysters.

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To keep it “real”, we grabbed dinner at Marlow & Sons, also on lower Williamsburg (near Pies N’ Thighs) adjacent to the Williamsburg Bridge. Marlow & Sons, was one of the first handful of restaurants which placed Williamsburg on the culinary map many years ago before anything in Williamsburg was considered hip. To this day, Marlow & Sons still serve innovative (also New American) fare, fully flavoured. Although their fish mains are the best here, the real highlight is their broad selection of oysters. The wine selection to pair the meal with is just as fantastic.

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For those who like Mojitos and Margaritas (I Don’t), the cool hang out at Nights and Weekends, a-see-and-be-scene kind of bar with that almost “block party” kind of atmosphere. Drinks are are rum-centric and bar snacks, like fried shishito peppers, have a Caribbean bent. Everything is casual.

+ SHOP STYLE

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What Williamsburg lacks in art galleries, makes up for it with the amount of retail places where you can spend their hard earned cash. The neighborhood is just inundated with design shops, bookstores, boutiques, gift stores.. you name it. I was close to buying a few things at GANT, but the staff was less than hospitable so I left… and I walked in (and quickly walked out) of the new Urban Outfitters there. For some reason I was always at Duane Reade… anyway, there’s a couple of shops I want to highlight, however. 

Check out the new “style meets street” Menswear shop, Gentry, next to Toby’s Estate on North 6th Street, and has great frontage. Gentry is the brainchild of menswear connoisseur, Justin Dean (photographed above), and features a curated selection of the world’s top niche menswear labels including, knitwear from S.N.S. Herning, blazers from Ovadia & Sons, colorful printed buttoned down shirts from Gitman Vintage, and delicious dress shoes from Carmina. Justin is generally on hand to help customers find and style, a serious-yet-casual bespoke look that’s right for them.

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On the opposite end of “curation”, there’s the all-in-one junks shop, Brooklyn Junk, located on Driggs Avenue. Brooklyn Junk is every junk shopper’s dream come reality. Plenty of eighties prom dresses here for aspiring Bushwick drag queens, lots of ceramic ware, mod lighting, and antique furniture here for the new home, and lots of memorabilia, knick knack, and old photographs that people just love to collect. I found my sister a beautiful leather purse for 10 US Dollars.

+ LIVING LOCAL VIA AIRBNB

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It was my first time ever booking and staying with Airbnb, and I have to say… I absolutely loved it. Thanks to Airbnb, I was able to spend four nights at this loft in a converted factory all by myself. The cool owner of the loft, an artist named Daphne, was actually a friend of a friend (the website/app shows mutual friends), and lives next door in her own studio space. I only saw her when checking in, and was occasionally in touch via sms.

Overall, for those who can’t be bothered to stay in a Hotel, and would rather have a travel experience, as close as possible to a local way of life, Airbnb, has plenty of properties right within any destinations’ “it” neighborhoods. My loft was on the second floor of a multi-level artist factory farm, also in the center of Williamsburg. The sheets and towels were clean (maid service was offered), and the design and decor was truly my style, reflected by a masculine and old world aesthetic which I loved. The wifi was fast and efficient (great for working), and there was plenty of cable (great for being lazy.) The kitchen had all the utensils and things I needed to make simple meals (which I did not do), and the space was big enough for 2-4 people, just in case you were keen on inviting friend/s over. 

My first impression? This was a great first time experience with booking and staying in an Airbnb property, and I would definitely do it again.

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Overall I found my Williamsburg / Brooklyn experience really lovely and a nice respite from Manhattan’s busy streets. I’d like to thank some really cool friends… my friend Veronica for spending time with me and showing me Marlow & Sons, which I think is now one of my favorite restaurants in Manhattan. 

Also I’d like to thank my best pal, Andy Chow, founder and curator of Doppelstandard (ex-Standard Vintage), for taking the time to hang out with me and show me around Brooklyn (and basically other cool parts of Manhattan.)

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I’d also like to thank this gorgeous lady for allowing me to take a photo of her at the Kara Walker exhibit. She’s just gorgeous. That’s the face of New York chic, right there. Elegant, relaxed, urban, and sophisticated.

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Others things to try… try walking across the Williamsburg Bridge from Williamsburg to the Lower East Side. It’s free, and a great way to experience the city… from both sides!

STAY Airbnb / STAY McCarren Hotel & Pool . 160 N 12th Street, Brooklyn NY 11249 / EAT Pies N’ Thighs . 166 S 4th Street, Brooklyn NY 11211 / EAT Five Leaves . 18 Bedford Ave, Greenpoint, Brooklyn NY 11222 / EAT Marlow & Sons . 81 Broadway, Brooklyn NY 11249 / DRINK Nights and Weekends . 1 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn NY 11222 / DRINK Toby’s Estate Williamsburg . 125 N 6th ST, Brooklyn NY 11249 / EAT Urban Rustic Market . 236 N 12th St, Brooklyn NY 11211 / SHOP Gentry . 127 N. 6th St, Brooklyn NY 11249 / SHOP Brooklyn Junk . 567 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn NY / VISIT Kara Walker via Creative Time . Domino Sugar Refinery, S 1st ST at Kent Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

JJ.

Design Notes: Layers of Time Peeled and Revealed at Mott 32

New to open in Hong Kong, a fantastic dining experience designed by one of the city’s “IT” designers, Joyce Wang, for a new modern Cantonese restaurant in the city, Mott 32. Wang who has since made a name with her previous work, AMMO, at the Asia Society, is back at it with her signature detail-oriented and intricate design moves. Since its launch Mott 32 received generally positive reviews, however the interiors here really take centre stage, demanding attention from its clientele.

The site of the restaurant, located in the basement  of the Standard Chartered Bank Building on Des Voeux Road, receives no natural daylight or views… so to counter this, Wang initiated a centrally focused and inward directed design zoning plan with all various dining areas centered around a grand custom-built architectural skylight within the main dining zone, giving impression of actual daylight. The skylight itself is inspired by the Bank’s architectural characteristics, mirroring the octagonal columns found within the original building.

From the central dining space there are 5 private rooms and a bar area which radiate beyond the central core of the plan, each decorated according to theme. For example, one room has a “Sun Yat Sen-inspired mural”, another a collection of antique chandeliers, and another decorated with a chandelier that looks like an abacus. My two favorite rooms are the 10 Downing Street Room, a “surreal street scene”, clad with Shanghainese-style brick work in an undulating pattern, and the Tangerine Room, decorated with Chinese paintbrushes of various sizes mounted on two wall surfaces giving a grand symmetric tableau.

Via Joyce Wang:

The restaurant tells the story of the basement of an important bank building in Hong Kong and how it has evolved through time. We imagined its former life as a storage facility for family heirlooms forgotten by wealthy Chinese immigrants, and later as staff quarters for bank employees and guards. We imagined pieces of history left behind organically. The process of design was to unearth these clues layer by layer to expose an authentic narrative, so the final tableau tells a compelling  story  that’s  not  overly  styled.  The  objects  are  clues  to  the  larger political and social history of Hong Kong. 

Make sure to watch out for graffiti and propaganda scripts on columns, hinting a passage of time, and a large feature wall of flowers and butterflies made of metallic thread embroidery on a hand-painted silk backdrop. Other details, I’ll let you discover for yourself.

EAT Mott 32 . Standard Chartered Building, 4 Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong . T: +852 28858688 / DESIGN Joyce Wang

JJ.

#theWanderlist: Chinatown ‘Chinoiserie’ Stylings at Ping Pong 129 Gintoneria and Fu Lu Shou

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Above, Ping Pong 129. Below, Fu Lu Shou

Chinatown-style ‘Chinoiserie’ is chic again thanks to two new nightlife destinations in Hong Kong, Ping Pong 129 Gintoneria and Fu Lu Shou. The first venue, a Spanish-based gin bar, actually opened softly this past March… the same week of my birthday, and is the brainchild of a dear friend of mine, co-owner and bar manager, Juan Martinez Gregorio, originally from Spain.

Juan has been living in Hong Kong almost as long as me, and worked in corporate marketing for fashion brands like Puma, before letting it all go to follow his dreams, which is to eventually start an intimate F&B venture, hence Ping Pong 129 in Sai Ying Pun, his latest passion project. Meanwhile, Sydney transfer, Ping Lam and her husband, moved to Hong Kong less than two years ago, and immediately opened up dream lifestyle businesses with the hugely successful The Nail Library on Po Hing Fong, and now with Hollywood Road’s Fu Lu Shou, a new rooftop lounge and restaurant serving up American and English Style Chinese Food just the way a few of us who grew up with it… love it.

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+ “History, Gin, and A Bit of Art”

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At Ping Pong 129, Juan serves up smooth and refreshing gin-based cocktails, 40 of them, each with their own particular brand of gin from around the world, plus 10-12 more gins from distilleries in Spain. Each Gin and Tonic is garnished with a variety of herbs, like rosemary, basil, and thyme, or lemon and orange peels, and served with their own particular kind of tonic water to really bring out the best in the Gin’s unique flavour. There’s the Indi tonic from Seville and a Wilkinson tonic from Japan. 

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However, the most appealing thing about Ping Pong 129, is that it is housed in a beautiful double-height basement, unassuming within its own neighborhood. One can drink a refreshing gin cocktail while sitting in a tastefully, spacious bar that once served as a local Ping Pong gym. The whole effect is laid-back, relaxing, and very pleasant.

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Juan’s silent partner, an interior designer and art collector, displays his own collection of local Hong Kong art elegantly throughout the space’s “as-found” walls in a very planned and methodical way. The art’s positioning in the bar’s interiors is pretty cheeky. Iconic works by Hong Kong darling, Nadim Abbas, a series of Chinese Windows with black mirror, are placed above a heavily tiled wall on the same level as actual Chinese windows within the found site. 

Other artists’ works, like Tsang Tsou Choi’s (King of Kowloon) graffiti based prints blend seamlessly with the rough finish of the existing wall.

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The furniture is retro, with some of the sofas and loveseats clad in a patterned print, reminiscent of the decades depicted in Wong Kar Wai’s film, In The Mood For Love. Even the simple red door on 2nd Street, is the original door to the Ping Pong Gym. Juan and company just added a bit of red neon this door to highlight that the bar is opened for business. Ping Pong 129 is a great example of a business moving into an untapped neighborhood’s old building, and offering something new to lifestyle, while simultaneously paying tribute to a site’s existing space.

DRINK Ping Pong 129 Gintoneria . 129 Second St., Nam Cheong Hse, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong . T: +852-91581584

+ “It Tastes Exactly Like Chinatown, But Better”

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Ping Lam’s Bali-esque outdoor lounge space at Fu Lu Shou is clad with a giant size graffiti print of the characters; Fu, Lu, & Shou, a Ming Dynasty concept of deities representing, “Happiness”, “Prosperity” and “Longevity”. Ping, who identifies completely as an Australian with Hong Kong-based roots, went for a niche market in the city, by offering Western style “Chinatown” favorites for those of us who’ve grown up fed by Chinese Food in the West. Of course Western based Chinese food is completely a unique concoction, loosely rooted in the East, but is completely different than what’s on offer in Hong Kong.

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Ping is quite brave for serving dishes like, a “Big Arse Dim Sum” (a giant “siu mai”), English Style Prawn Crackers, a Sweet and Sour Pork (which hit the right spot), Kung Pao Chicken (the best non-sichuan version of this dish i’ve tasted), Beef in Black Bean Sauce, and other delicious surprises like the Fried Banana. My date and I knocked down about 4 servings of Old Fashioned each. (A little secret about Ping and her husband, they’re both crazy about Scotch Whiskey, so while scotch drinking is not overtly “Chinatown”, i’m glad their love for Whiskey is not wasted here.)

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Things I want to point out is Ping’s taste in decor and interior design. Fu Lu Shou, definitely gets a lot of its design details correctly, the G.O.D. Mahjong Pillows on the lounge areas for instance, the hanging bird cage chairs, the modern rattan furnitures, capped off with candles on a heritage low-armoire… even the bar’s tabletop is lined with mahjong pieces. I especially like the metallic screen stenciled on the main-dining feature wall inside the restaurant with the words, “Eat, Drink, and Be Prosperous”. The rice bowls are authentic “chinatown” style, imported from Paris’ own Chinatowns (hard to find in Hong Kong now), and chopsticks are available grouped together on a tin container in the middle. 

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The food is a better version of the American Chinese Food you grew up with, because there’s no fake powder-just-add-water stuff here, and no MSG. All ingredients are fresh and sauces made from scratch. The mixologist behind the bar comes to Fu Lu Shou from the Upper House which explains the smooth blends of his drinks. Give it all a try. It’s like being “back home”, but even better because you’re not eating in a mall and you feel very good about it from the beginning right to the very satisfying end!

EAT Fu Lu Shou . 7F, 31 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong . T: +852 23368812

JJ.

#theWanderlist: Man Mo Cafe Honors Tradition While Infusing The New

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I’ve always thought that Upper Lascar Row, aka “Cat Street” parallel to Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan, was one of the best preserved streets in Hong Kong. Walking through this pedestrian-only alleyway, lined on both sides with an amazing selection of Chinese Antiques, traditional furnitures, and vintage junks, I really get a sense of Hong Kong’s craft and aesthetic history because it’s all here on display. To me the 100 year old Cat Street really feels untouched, and locals and tourists alike can still come here to find items, decorative and historic, real and replica…  to take home that is uniquely of an old Hong Kong style.

On a rainy Wednesday evening, when all stalls were closed, I came in after work to check out for the first time the Man Mo Cafe, the first concept restaurant to open on Cat Street. For better or for worse, once one “destination” restaurant opens, others will follow… however its on this street that founder of Man Mo Cafe, Swiss-born chef Nicolas Elalouf, aimed to not only establish a Chinese-focused restaurant which was rooted within history (possibly an unavoidable decision due to such an iconically historic site), but to formulate a humble Cafe which allows Elalouf to combine his own expertise for what he had learned in the west in order to create something new for Hong Kong.

I doubt that a “Destination” restaurant was Elalouf’s intent with Man Mo Cafe, however, armed with a duo of amazing chefs, one from Robuchon and another an award winning chef from the Original Din Tai Fung in Taipei, Elalouf has made it clear that his fusion dishes are unlike any other. Scores of restaurant reviews from the likes of Hong Kong Tatler and Time Out Hong Kong have been published since they’ve opened earlier in the year, and all have been unanimous… the balance of the eastern tradition of dumpling making, with the western tradition of preparing delicacies, is absolutely achieved in their signature dishes.

Some of my favorites include the Burger Buns (glazed Char Siu Bao) featured above, which come complete with a vial of thousand island dressing that you squeeze into the bun after biting off the top of it.

The Tomato and Mozzarella Cheese Dumpling.

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The best… this Foie Gras Xiao Long Bao will melt in your mouth.

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This Panfried Shanghainese, Truffle and Brie Dumpling, is another best dish.

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We loved this savoury Steamed Ratatouille dumpling, filled with delicious vegetables and a tangy tomato sauce. (I felt like I was eating a Western dish… but I was eating it with chopsticks from a steam basket).

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To end the dinner we had a taste of Man Mo’s famous Nutella Ball in Sesame Seed Pastry.

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As well as a bit of these delicious HK Egg Lemon Tarts.

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I went to try Man Mo Cafe at the invitation of architect, Daphne Mandel, whose works have been on display in the gallery-esque space of the restaurant for the last month, and who did an interview with me here on the blog. Apparently her works have been selling really well. We also met up with a mutual friend who introduced us, designer Thuy-Tien Crampton, of the amazing children’s wear fashion brand, La Petite Caravane.

Daphne’s Hong Kong facade works on display is one of a planned series of rotating exhibitions for this simple yet elegant space.

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Daphne’s exhibition is actually going to get extended because works have sold and new works have just been placed up on display this past week to take its place. 

Here’s a photo of all of us with Chef Nicolas at the end of the evening.

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Word on the street is that there have already been offers to purchase this independent restaurant by a bigger restaurant group. Whatever happens to this place, hope the quality keeps up. The pricepoint is not that bad either, about 800HKD for two people. The service is fantastic and food items get made only when ordered, so dont expect to rush your meal and give it some time.

EAT Man Mo Cafe . 40 Upper Lascar Row (Cat Street), Sheung Wan, Hong Kong . T: +852 26445644 . Tue-Sun 12-3 and 6-Midnight

JJ.

#theWanderlist. Revisiting Favorites, Discovering New Ones at Fish & Meat, Beef & Liberty, and La Cantoche

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A few days ago, I wrote part one of a post of dinners I had the pleasure of partaking during my birthday’s week this month. Birthday dinners in Hong Kong are great because there’s always plenty of choices and offers in this city in relation to cuisines and concepts. And because this is Hong Kong, every year there’s a selection of new trendy “IT” places all the time, making it hard to keep up if you don’t go out all the time.

My plan was, instead of having a big party I would have a dream week of food tastings from four fresh dining hotspots i’ve never been to and two I wanted to revisit. In the previous post, I wrote about the delicious entrecote from La Vache, the humble yet delectable offerings of ABC Kitchen, and the wonderful pairings found at Ham & Sherry.

In this post we end with the last three… a fun yet underwhelming revisit to La Cantoche, an amazing re-experience at Fish & Meat / Stockton, and a new burger discovery with Beef & Liberty.

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+ “Fun French… I Used To Love It, Now I Just Like It”

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The last time I was at La Cantoche, was for a media tasting with about 12-14 of us, and the plates from the entrees to mains were generally flawless in presentation to delivery. Some dishes, like the Rice Krispies in Lettuce Wrap were infectious while the Roasted Camembert Cheese with Potato Balls and the Reblochon Cheese Chicken Cordon Bleu were divisive. This time the Camembert and the Cordon bleu were the star attractions of the dinner, but that’s because everything else (even the Rice Krispies) were generally dry (as in not moist) and underwhelming. The birthday chocolate cake was 1-note sweet, flat, and dry. At the media tasting, the Camembert and Chicken Cordon bleu probably tasted the same as at my birthday, but because every other dish tasted so delicious, juicy, and fresh, we couldn’t help but compare.

Conceptually it’s a fun restaurant from a French-Viet guy (present almost every night) who wanted to take basic home cooked French fare, but mix it with a bit of the Asian twist he grew up with. Unfortunately, when we started putting photos on Instagram and Twitter, another “La Cantoche” from Paris tweeted back saying this:

I checked out the website of the Parisian La Cantoche, and sure enough, it’s also youthful twist at French fare, with their logo’s font being similar to the one being used in Hong Kong.

Do we have a Chinafied version on Hollywood road perhaps?

In the end of the day none of this would have mattered if the food stayed the same quality as the Media Tasting… but that’s the media tasting. I love the ambiance and vibe here in general, but I from the last time I was here, to now… it was a bit disappointing and not really consistent. That said my birthday table had about twenty of us, and there was another birthday table of about 20 people as well. We RSVP’d over a month in advance, so I’m sure they were more than ready.

For the best casual French restaurant in town, try Metropolitain in Sai Ying Pun. It’s consistently a winner amongst my French friends.

Thanks to these guys for showing up and celebrating with me!

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Also thanks to the Lovely Louise for planning it, making it happen, and putting it all together! 

EAT La Cantoche . GF, 227 Hollywood Road on 5 Wa Lane, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong . T: +852-24260880 . Walk Ins Welcome

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+ “Fish, Meat, and Drinks To Die For”

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Okay let me tell you about Fish & Meat. This place is crazy excellent. I’ve only been to this place once with friends (NOT a media tasting) and I can tell you 100%, Fish & Meat is the best new place for… well… fish and meat. From the pre-drinks, to the entrees, to the mains, to dessert, then post-drinks after at Stockton below, it’s by far an excellent and hearty meal that takes you somewhere else… like a European Seaside community or something to that effect. I’m not so sure about the back story, but the “on point” theatrical yet restrained ambiance of the restaurant’s decor is by designer du jour Ben McCarthy of Charlie & Rose, whom I interviewed recently for INDESIGNLIVE Magazine.

Everything on the menu is everything you could possibly want in a menu from a Western seafood restaurant. The offerings are straightforward, with the key element being that is focus on classic simplicity with a big dose of heritage touches.

For my dinner we had the fish, a Whole Roasted Italian Sea Bass with Fennel and a tasty Romesco Sauce, and meat, a 32 Oz Prime Beef Rib from Kobe with a house Bearnaise and Salsa Verde. The menu says they’re for two people, but we were more than stuffed with the four of us. When ordering don’t miss out on my favorites, the Sweet Corn Polenta, and the Grilled Fennel with Celeriac, Saffron, and Verjus. For Starters a selection of from Roasted Bone Marrow, to Fresh Baby Spanish Octopus, and Soft Duck Egg Raviolos are available. Don’t skip the Sicilian Lemon Tart with Country Clotted Cream at the end.

Overall everything in the meal was finely cooked, at the right temperature, with the right zesty flavours, leaving every one just right and more than satisfied. The restaurant is on the pricier side, but I really feel that i’m actually getting European flavours, and not just an imitation.

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After Dinner, make sure to remind your hostess to allow you entrance at the “super secret, speakeasy” bar downstairs called, Stockton. Also designed by Charlie & Rose. Stockton has some of the finest fancy “mixology”-esque cocktails in the city. It’s adventurous while being not to feminine or trendy. I love whisky and this place has amazing whisky based cocktails. Try my two favorites, the Athole Brose featuring a Blended Whiskey with Wild Heather Honey, Oatmeal, Drambuie, Luxardo Amaretto di Sachira, and topped with Double Cream or the Brass Monkey, an HM King with Compressed Citrus, Maca, Lucuma, Vanilla Gum, and Chuncho Bitters.

When i’m around the Central area, Stockton is the new “local” for me there. I’m not a Lan Kwai Fong (Hong Kong bar street) type of person so this place is a good go-to, always punctuating a night’s out after dinner.

The decor is lovely, and the space is filled with found antiques from Thailand and Paris… making it feel like an authentic pub, rather than a theatrical reproduction.

EAT Fish & Meat . 2F, 32 Wyndham Street, Central. T: +852 25656788 . Reservations Essential / DRINK Stockton. 1F, 32 Wyndham Street, Central . T: +852 25655268 . Reservations Recommended

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+ “New Burger Joint I Really Like, Plus the Korean Fried Chicken…”

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My sister and I ended my #JJsBirthdayWeekofEats, with a Sunday brunch at Beef & Liberty, a new beautiful burger joint on Level 3 of that three-story modern commercial building on the corner of Wing Fung Street and Star Street.  I didn’t know much about Beef & Liberty before I got here, but I was just a fan of the branding work by WHITESPACE HK and the wall mural by Los Angeles based artist, CYRCLE, that you can see from the street. (Even though I’m obviously a foodie, i’m a design tourist first.)

According to their website, Beef & Liberty is a “modern homage to the original beefsteak clubs… originating in eighteenth century London.” Guys, it’s a burger shop. And a pretty good one at that. The meat is hormone-free grass fed beef from Hereford and Angus cattle, naturally raised by small-scale farmers in Tasmania. 

My sister and I shared one burger (it was the 6th of 6 major meals straight) and one appetiser. We started with the Crispy Chicken Wings, which are basically Korean Fried Chicken. The wings are huge and the skin is cooked crisp. While it is saucy, it doesn’t take away from the crispiness of the dish nor is it too oily either. It’s a perfect wing and Korean chicken served just right. For the burger we didn’t order the Classic (I rarely do for fancy burger joints like this), but instead ordered the Green Chili Burger… a burger with green chili slices, jalapeno relish, cheddar cheese, butter lettuce, and mayonnaise. The burger was big enough to share for two, but not too big to sink your teeth into without ingredients slopped around because of it. The bread here is perfectly pan fried, and absorbs the oil well… meaning it doesn’t fall apart. The beef was cooked rare (how I like it), with the jalapeno relish and green chili giving an interesting southwestern tex-mex twist to the flavour.

We ended the meal with dessert (who doesn’t)… a Warm Skillet Cookie & Cream, which is exactly what it says it is. The chocolate chip cookie is freshly baked and the clotted cream is homemade, balancing the overly sweet cookie. I’d definitely come back here again.

EAT Beef & Liberty . Star St. Precinct, 2F, 23 Wing Fung St., Wanchai, Hong Kong . T: +852 28113009 . Reservations Recommended

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Overall the dinners were great, but most important was that I was with friends and family members which made the experience very memorable.

I also just wanted to quickly show off some of the great presents I got this year; like this hilariously amazing sweatshirt with a “United States of James Franco” print on it from RAD in Paris.

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Other cool gifts; check out these travel bags from my friends Eddy  and Jason. Eddy makes these amazing camo totes from his label, Compound By 3 Spirit and Jason just launched a menswear leather accessories label called Hammer & Needle. (The travel books are via my other pals Katrina, Jason, and David from Louis Vuitton.)

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Now that my amazing “Jesus Year” 33 is over… I can’t wait to continue to work that much harder creatively moving forward into the coming year based on the cool stuff that has happened within the last twelve months.

And of course, much Gratitude to the everyday. I don’t forget this.

JJ.

#theWanderlist. Six Meals in Six Days; La Vache!, ABC Kitchen, and Ham & Sherry To Start

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Celebrating a birthday is a very interesting thing. There are transformative years, like a celebration of a decade’s past or even half that, when the appropriate way to celebrate a threshold is a grand birthday bash. Then there are the odd years when its that weird transition, like in my case, turning 34, which is neither as cool as “Jesus-Year-33” or as exciting as 35. In this situation, you wonder… if the birthday is worthy of any big bash at all? 

Everyday is indeed a day to celebrate living and breathing, that said, we always should find an excuse to throw a party, a dinner, or anything for a celebration. Life’s short ya know? So while I usually throw big bashes in Hong Kong every year for the birthday, this year… I wanted to try something else… an “Intimate Dinner” series. And because I am who I am, I chose to celebrate this year with six intimate dinners… claiming the entire week for celebration. (The seventh day is gym day.)

For those who have a week of dinners to spare, value intimate conversations, as well as entering a “weird age” not warranting a grand bash, I suggest scheduling a few dinners big and small with all your fabulous friends so that you catch up with each and everyone one of them over tasty food and drinks, instead struggling a “hello” over loud music.

In the case of Hong Kong, a foodie haven, a birthday week is a perfect opportunity to sample the newest and best this city has to offer in the Dining scene, and for me a great way to “wanderlist” all the freshesr hotspots for the blog. I even created an Instagram hashtag, #JJsBirthdayWeekofEats. Here’s to the first three meals of the week…

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+ “All You Can Eat Fries With Rib Eye”

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Our “Birthday Week of Eats” began at one of the newer restaurants in town, La Vache. At La Vache, you can pretty much have anything you want… as long as what you want is a Trimmed Entrecote Steak with fries and a walnut salad. That said, there’s only one thing in the menu to get right, and they passed with flying colors. Entrecote with fries is a staple meal in plenty non-descript urban cafes in France. In Hong Kong’s La Vache, it’s the star of the show. Using USDA grade Rib Eye, your steak is cooked any way you want it, with melt in your mouth unlimited french fries, and a light walnut salad to start, all for less than 300HKD. An iconic and addictive “Sauce Maison” is also a reason to go back. Drinks and a Dessert cart (great selections) are available as an add-on to the meal.  

Decor is surprisingly light, modern, charming, tasteful, and really has a feeling of being located in Paris. I especially loved the cool illustrations of Paris everywhere you look. This most likely has something to do with making you feel like you’re having a dining getaway.

There are no reservations here at La Vache so pick your visit here wisely.

EAT La Vache! . GF 48 Peel Street, Central, HK . T: +852-28800248 . No Reservations

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+ “Europe’s Best In Da’ Hood”

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For my second night of dinners, me and the boys went to check out the famed ABC Kitchen, pioneered by a couple of chefs from the now defunct M at the Fringe. What makes this place interesting is that those two chefs are basically cooking up signature dishes which earned M at the Fringe it’s accolades, awards, and fans. These renegade chefs are offering 5-star dishes democratically at not-so-M-on-the-fringe prices.

Contextually, there’s no hoity-toity here. ABC Kitchen is located in a cooked food hawker centre in the middle of Sheung Wan. The only thing that’s fancy about it is an amazingly iconic suckling pig (also from M) that everyone orders, the red and white checkered table cloth, and an extra personal and friendly service that’s seemingly alien to the city but expected in an HK family run cooked food eatery.

We tried the beetroot risotto, the seasonal mussels, the foie gras with toast, and all of the desserts. Overall we were completely impressed by the Kitchen’s classic European fare, served here using fresh ingredients, at a truly affordable price.

EAT ABC Kitchen . Shop CF7, Food Market, 1 Queen Street, Sheung Wan . T: +852 92788227 . Reservations Required

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+ “Classic Spanish With The Atherton Twist”

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Despite its very compact space, Ham & Sherry, a new Ship Street locale by the super duo, Yenn Wong and London-based Jason Atherton, is such a cool and beautiful drinks and dine destination. A big contribution to the charm is most likely the smart use of Catalonian-inspired blue and white tiles from wall to floor, plus framed mirrors throughout, giving a feeling of an expansive social house in Spain, all under the creative design direction of Shanghai-based studio; Neri and Hu.

Wong and Atherton first collaborated on 22 Ships across the street, serving Spanish tapas in a completely inventive way. Gone are the fusioned influences of 22 Ships, but instead Ham & Sherry, pairs classic Spanish selections, like a range of Iberico Bellota Hams, a creamy mixed Seafood Paella, a scrumptious Salt and Pepper Chipirones (Squid), and a dish of Garlic & Chilli Prawns, with an impressive selection of sherry. The idea to have a sherry-based destination eatery was initially due to the success of the sherry offerings at 22 Ships. Some of the 50 choices of sherry at Ham & Sherry include a range of moscatel, manzanilla, and classic finos. 

If you ARE new to Sherry, your wait staff will be more than happy to assist you in pairing each of your dishes with the right Sherry of choice or vice versa. If you’re feeling up for it, you should have both Ham & Sherry and 22 Ships in the same evening, some people do. Since this is my third night of birthday eats with three more nights to go, I decided to pace myself instead.

EAT Ham & Sherry . 1-7 Ship Street, Wanchai . T: +852 25550628 . No Reservations

The rest of #JJSBirthdayWeekofEats to come! Stay Tuned.

JJ.