#theWanderlist: Heirloom Flavours in Manila Ancestral Home

I was looking through my iPhoto pictures today, and found these snapshots from my last working visit to Manila. Me and friends of mine went to have a nice private and quiet dinner at my favorite destination for classic and authentic Filipino fare at La Cocina de Tita Moning (Aunt Moning’s Kitchen), located in the Legarda Ancestral Home which is within the Presidential Palace Grounds.

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The kitchen has actually been in operation since 2001 so it’s nothing new, but everytime I go to the Legarda Home for dinner, everyone that eats there are local Manilenos, which is great since it’s good enough for the Filipinos, but never a destination for tourists and visitors. By placing it on this blog, I hope that more visitors to Manila can give it a try because not only is it not “sceney” (reservations have to be made in advance), but the heirloom recipes of by the family’s matriarch, Dona Romano Hernandez and brought to life by her granddaughter, Chef Suzette Montinola… are actually worth the urban journey. I call it a “journey”, because the house is located within the Palace grounds in old Manila (which has a military secured gate) and within a residential neighborhood at that, I assume most people will be coming from Makati or Alabang which is half an hour to an hour away.

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But at arrival, guests are ushered to the garden to have a welcome drink under tree lights made of Capiz shells. On a nice balmy yet windy evening, like ours last month, a quick drink and smoke here is an instant stress reliever. Nothing has changed since the house was made into a restaurant more than ten years ago. The trees around the back garden are decades old, and much of the back garden are covered by branches creating an intimate canopy. Since the house was built in the late 1930’s, the home, one of the first Art Deco structures in country, has undergone several iterations and updates… so while the main house works like a fusion Colonial-Filipino-Spanish home from a planning perspective, the house’s facade plays with Art Deco details, and the back garden, may be the newest extension and represents a chic-ly sixties/seventies mod leisure lifestyle… which is just fabulous.

De-compressing at the Legarda’s garden.

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Some drinks before dinner.

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Inside guests are allowed to walk into the patriarch, Dr. Alejandro Legarda’s, Library, Clinic (he was a famous OBGYN), Camera Equipment Room, and Antiques Radio Equipment Room, where he spent much of his time meeting people around the world as an amateur radio operator (this was pre twitter and facebook, people.) 

Intimate items once owned by the Doctor.

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Other items from the family’s past.

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What I loved about this house was that the whole family came together and decided to preserve not only the house’s architecture, but their family’s legacy and history by creating a museum of all the home’s spaces and items, and establish a restaurant of the family’s heirloom dishes. In addition, the family has decided together to create jobs for the home’s long time servants and drivers by allowing them to basically run and operate the restaurant and to serve visitors the dishes that the family was served themselves in this house. These days once the matriarch and patriarch passes away, the kids just can’t wait to divvy up the spoils, and then there goes the family legacy… so this kind of preservation is rare.

Beef Kare Kare with Shrimp Paste.

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A taste of the family’s Chicken Relleno.

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Refreshing desserts straight out of the history books.

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The food is fantastic and you can basically tailor-make a menu with the restaurant’s booking officer before you get there… whether you want the best Chef created menu, or if you have preferential dishes, or wanting something towards vegetarian or seafood fare… it’s all possible. Support the Legarda Home when in the city. It’s a great design and culinary destination, I strongly recommend.

My friends were certainly impressed.

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EAT La Cocina de Tita Moning . 315 San Rafael Street, San Miguel District, Manila . T: +632-7342146 . Reserve Here

JJ.

DESIGN NOTES: Spanish Restaurants, Isono and Vasco, Shines With Cinematic Interiors

Hong Kong’s dining scene has just evolved with the inclusion of a new Spanish restaurant at the top of PMQ serving delicious and authentic Basque country dishes, hence the word, Vasco, one of the two restaurants in one double height space at the historic building. 

Designer, Joyce Wang, fresh off the heels of her work for Chinese fine dining destination, Mott32, and before that AMMO, has given patrons a new perspective on cinematic dining. Guests enter the two-level restaurant on the lower level, via Isono, the main bar and restaurant floor, serving casual Mediterranean-inspired dishes like mussels, ham, paella, and paired wine within a layered space of stone, leather, reflective copper surfaces, and timber. The main focal point of the space, the circular bar with a halo of radiating LED Lights above, and low standing globes of accent lights on the counter itself, bring the point home. Guests to Isono will notice a black and white movie playing on loop at the restaurant’s wall surface, bringing a touch of old-fashioned celluloid experience to the space itself.

While Isono’s interiors are relatively rustic, Vasco on the mezzanine floor above, is all about sleek styles. Patrons enjoy authentic Basque country fare while overlooking Central district’s views. Booth seating and a faceted screen glass wall define this area. On top of Isono’s circular bar, is a suspended private dining area, lightly veiled within a vertical copper screen, seating eight. 

Everything Joyce Wang creates is certainly of a moment and one that is strangely familiar, but also made of elements which are new and 100% bespoke. This is big pressure for the Chef to create food worthy of such an urban palace devoted to new Basque cuisine.

VISIT Isono and Vasco . 6F and 7F Block B, Police Married Quarters (PMW), 35 Aberdeen Street, Hong Kong / DESIGN Joyce Wang

JJ.

#theWanderlist: WOAW! Brings You Elephant Grounds Coffee

Style icon and distributor of the stuff that us kids love, Mr. Kevin Poon, makes a business through the curation and distribution of well designed style & lifestyle goods.

From comfortable yet stylishly cool fashion shoes, speakers, watches, heck even scented candles and men’s soaps, all the items he’s personally picked out to sell himself… are available now under one roof at the WOAW! Concept Store, a showroom/shop for his wares.

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That said, like a true businessman, Kevin has also gotten into the coffee game. Right timing as well, now that Hong Kong has plenty of new coffee houses on offer, which basically means, Hongkies can’t drink enough… but question is… are they drinking the right stuff?

Elephant Grounds Coffee, as the new venture is called, is conveniently located inside the WOAW ! store, complete with a nice bar and a wide balcony overlooking a community park below. Whether you’re needing a recharge break after / during shopping, or just need some contemplative time with a cup of joe while staring down at old men playing checkers on a park bench… I truly recommend Elephant Grounds Coffee because it’s just so tasty and hits the right caffeine spot in your brain.

On offer are full bodied and full flavoured drip coffees that are locally sourced made of fine Brazilian, Sumatran, African, and Costa Rican beans. For blended coffees, everything is great… but let me suggest, the Elephant Grounds Short Black, the Dark Roast Latte, and the extremely rich Elephant Grounds Iced Coffee. 

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On weekends if you’re lucky, you can cool down with one of 30-40 random ice cream sandwiches on offer. When I went I had the “Weekend Special”, a Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies… complete with sea salt to sprinkle on top. If you’re not that adventurous, the Homie Cookies are great alternatives.

While there’s not much yet in Hong Kong to create a “coffee scene”, it’s good to know that there are places like Elephant Grounds and a few others in the city that really care about serving great tasting coffee.

Meanwhile, Here’s some kids who love a good Coffee and Cookie combo… Katrina and Jason, the dynamic duo behind Bite Me Magazine.

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This skinny guy.

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Time Out HK Editor, Arthur Tam (on the right) and friend.

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And here are some old men you can stare at playing checkers.  Zone out to this on the balcony.

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Now get coffee and buzz off.

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DRINK Elephant Grounds Coffee . WOAW! Store, 11 Gough Street, Sheung Wan, T: +852-25231313

JJ.

DESIGN NOTES: Restaurant in Historic Building, A Must-See Style Destination

Aberdeen Street Social may have been operating for a few months now, but I bet you haven’t seen photos like these of the new Restaurant/Cafe/Bar’s design concept by award-winning, Shanghai based, Neri & Hu Design Research Office. The just-released images of the restaurant’s interiors reflect the unique collaboration between the designers, Lyndon Neri and Rosanna Hu, with the restaurant’s founder, Yenn Wong, with Michelin-rated star, Chef Jason Atherton. To add more creativity to the mix, the whole bar/restaurant is situated in a re-appropriated historic building which used to house the Junior Police Clubhouse and Junior School within the just opened, Police Married Quarters (PMQ) Design complex. Plus at the Cafe’s entrance on ground floor, guests won’t miss a fantastic new interactive art piece, by 2014 Sovereign Asian Art Prize winner, Adrian Wong, of a series of octagonal barber shop poles on a clover mosaic, pieces which are reclaimed from a residence within the PMQ itself.

The concept for the interiors and the restaurant is all about creating an inclusive environment of convivial social get-togethers over meals, cocktails, and dessert. The ground floor is defined by its large bar and cake display, plus two rows of tables for groups of any size, while the dining room upstairs is for more intimate experiences, with all tables enhanced by bespoke pendant lamps. An outdoor patio, a room length balcony, and a garden terrace framing the property allows guests to stretch out within this special urban oasis.

To complete the social experience, the Managers are outfitted in Black Fleece by Brooks Brothers, a line designed especially by award-winning designer, Thom Browne.

via Lyndon Neri, principal designer:

"We decided to rejuvenate the convivial spirit within the ancillary building of what was once the Junior Police Clubhouse (JPC) and Junior school at PMQ by creating an ambient atmosphere to encourage creative minds to gather and interact with each other."

This isn’t the first time Neri & Hu has worked with Yenn Wong, check out their other collaborative projects here.

EAT Aberdeen Street Social . JPC, GF 35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong (entrance at Hollywood Road intersection of Aberdeen Street) . T: +852.28660300 . Reservations are necessary / DESIGN Neri & Hu

JJ.

#theWanderlist: Art Pops With Food at BIBO

When I first started writing this blog about four years ago, one of the initial goals with theWanderlister+ was to elevate Hong Kong’s cool subculture must-sees to a level where everyone who was interested about the city’s most stylishly cool and creative hotspots, can find it easily. When theWanderlister+ began, there were a few options for a blog post, and now many years later… I can’t even keep track of what this city has now on offer. This is how much Hong Kong has changed over time, and now I am in a situation where i’m only blogging about new restaurants like Nouveau French restaurants like BIBO months since it opened its snazzy gold doors in April. That said, I wish I’ve covered it sooner. Here’s why.

BIBO is one one of those “Wanderlister-ish” destination restaurants i’ve been wanting to try for a long time, but the obvious pile up of flashy street art (as could be seen through the restaurant’s shopfront windows on Upper Lascar Row aka. Cat Street) just seemed too intimidating and overwhelming. However, whoever the owners of BIBO are, they definitely paid quite a hefty sum to get some of the world’s “IT” pop-street artists to work on some site-specific pieces in the space. While Facebook Hong Kong is making controversy as news spreads regarding their practice of seemingly ripping off of local artists’ works to serve their interior design, BIBO meanwhile makes proud statements that they paid for their art which is admirable. The Global artists on display here are not only given a permanent stage in the city, but they are being compensated for their equally visible work.

Facebook has works that look like the King of Kowloon’s on their walls, but BIBO has an actual piece by the deceased local artist! And for sure Hong Kong makes Facebook makes way more moolah than Bibo can ever see from this city.

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Other works at BIBO that are impactful, include a huge etched portrait in concrete by Vhills aka Alexandre Farto. And to the right of that some stylistic graffiti work by German artist, Stohead.

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A major presence in the main dining room and visible from the lane outside is a large timber sculpture from KAWS. I thought it was a tad ostentatious when passing by, but after sitting in the dining room, I realised that its big scale actually works for the space.

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Several other pieces to note are some video-game inspired graphics by guerilla artist, Invader, as well as a few quiet pieces by Banksy.

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Men, if you use the urinal, you’ll be having an intimate moment with a Damien Hirst’s pills.

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Outside the WC’s… a rare hand drawing by deceased American artist, Keith Haring.

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And even up to now, according to management, there are still new acquisitions only days or weeks old, as the space’s design and decor is apparently in a constant state of flux based on acquisition and inclusion of new pieces. Accent works by Murakami, Kusama, Basquiat, and Shepard Fairy line the bar and the library reading areas.

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If you’re a fan of BIBO’s bar and cocktails like I am, you’ll be having another moment with JR’s pensive eyes. JR was last in the city via a collaborative show with Galerie Perrotin here.

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There’s just so much visual stimuli here. It’s great actually. Like this work by Jonone.

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If I have to be critical about something, and I believe there’s always room for improvement about everything… it’s that there needs to be work thats representational of Hong Kong’s own art scene, NOW. And like the food and the wine (which are amazing by the way), everything at BIBO is an imported culture of “cool”. That’s my only gripe, which is an important point to make.

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I went to a press dinner with lifestyle writer extraordinaire, Johannes Pong, and my friend Ann-Marie, who is a secret chef and a critical foodie, and she and I both agreed, the food and service at BIBO is completely excellent. And she is super critical, so I trust her view on everything food.

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Everything on offer is the work of Chef Mutaro Balde (formerly of Alain Ducasse at The Plaza Athenee) who is in charge of creating food that is French, Continental, Playful, and Innovative. Highlights of our meal include a very tasty Vegetarian Salad made of figs, artichokes, and asparagus, an anchovy and parmesan mac and cheese, and the l’oeuf mayo’ which is an egg with creamy yolk. We also tried something called ‘la Saint Jacques’ which is a dish of scallops with fresh pesto garnish, and a ‘foie gras poele’, a foie gras pan seared on grenadine-poached rhubarb.

BIBO has a comprehensive wine list and an amazing house sommelier by the name of Wallace Lo, who recently won Best Sommelier of Hong Kong 2014. Price wise, if you were to do dinner from starters to dessert, and pair it all with wine, a night at BIBO can set you back at about 1500-2000 HKD a person. That said, the food and the ‘underground art gallery’ ambiance are worth the visit if you’re looking to create a unique urban dinner experience for yourself.

We’re all definitely returning real soon.

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EAT BIBO . GF 163 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan . T: +852-256 3188

JJ.

#theWanderlist: BEP Vietnamese Kitchen Stands Out By Fusing Street Style Viet Meals With Low-Key “Normcore” Branded Design, And It Works

For some new dining destinations in Hong Kong, maybe the best way to stand out is to keep things minimalist, easy, and not look like theres so much effort in trying to stand out. I mean new “must-go” restaurants in this city open almost every week, and this current normcore attitude, you know the “desire to NOT stand out” and the “opposite of hardcore”… is maybe what works if one really needs to make a mark these days amongst the glut of dining choices on offer.

That said, being normcore, is not as easy at it looks. One has to be methodical about materiality, textures, lighting, form, layout, and overall aesthetic planning. There’s a difference between a space or restaurant that’s minimally Designed vs. one that is just… well… empty.

BEP Vietnamese Kitchen opened just recently, and the group who runs it knows exactly what they’re doing since they’ve spent all these years perfecting the casual Vietnamese offer through their other brand, Nha Trang. BEP is located in a little alleyway just behind PURE Gym Soho off Staunton Street with a panoramic glazed window framed in a seemingly untreated silver aluminum cladding. The feeling is that of a diner you’ve seen before, and the immediate familiarity and openness in the facade design (also a row of tall chairs for outdoor seating), makes anyone feel welcome in this joint.

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The interior and exterior work is designed by Candace Campos of ID, originally from Los Angeles, now based in Hong Kong. And Before BEP, Campos has worked on other F&B projects in the city such as Mana, Tate Dining Room, and Heirloom and a few other residential projects under her belt. Campos kept things minimal at BEP with light timber tables, and sexy chairs that look like folded cardboard. Columns are clad in square stark white ceramic tiles with a dark grouting which creates a “subway” style grid, underpinning all the light timber and raw concrete finishes. It feels like a cool easy anteen in Brooklyn or Los Angeles. 

Together with Campos, the branding work for BEP was executed by Danielle Huthart through her firm, Whitespace, with denim uniforms designed by Paola Sinisterra of Tangram (apparently). This is a style trio that’s hard to beat.

Oh and the food… so my friend, Louise, took me here one Saturday, and everything they’ve got are easy to eat shareable snacky dishes like Squid Cakes, Pomelo Salad, Stir Fried Clams, Beef Salad, Sesame Rice Crackers, Garlic Fried Chicken Wings, various options of Bun Chay (dry noodle with fried goods on top), and you know the basic Pho offerings. For those who are into that stuff… there’s plenty of Sriracha for you to plop into your meals. Price wise its a great deal with meals coming out to about 100hkd a person (and it’s Central…AND it’s a place you actually WANT to be seen in!) It could be my new local.

My favorite dish? The Banh Xeo, a thin flour crepe stuffed with shrimps, pork, lettuce, and herbs. I loved it with fish sauce. So delicious. Give it a go. It’s very economical, nothing to lose, lots to gain.

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Some Photos via BEP Facebook. Some Photos by Me.

EAT BEP Vietnamese Kitchen . Lower Ground Floor, 9-11 Staunton Street, SOHO, Central, Hong Kong . T: +852 25227533 / DESIGN Candace Campos of ID / BRANDING Whitespace Hong Kong 

JJ.

 

#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

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: Intersecting Art and Design at West Chelsea’s Hotel Americano

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After my six day stay in Williamsburg, I packed up my bags and moved to the opposite end of the map, to Manhattan’s West side, where I spent my last two nights at the Enrique Norten-designed, Hotel Americano. Enrique Norten’s firm, TEN Arquitectos, is originally from Mexico, however projects like Grupo Habita’s 56 room boutique- Hotel Americano, opening in 2011, helped Norten establish a permanent presence in New York.

Compared to Williamsburg, the West Chelsea/High Line art district, is too a bit off the grid from Manhattan’s usual buzzy and traffic-crazed neighborhoods. So technically, staying at Hotel Americano, with its chain-mail clad facade veiling the hotel like a soft protective blanket, gives the building a character of introvertedness re-establishing a getaway experience right in the middle of the city.

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The rooms have this minimalist Japanese x Scandinavian ambiance, with all the beds low on a timber-finish staging area. I stayed at the “Downtown King” room, where the soft glow of the window provides, a subtle Rothko-esque backdrop… and lifting this curtain allows for a more dramatic urban backdrop through the picture window. 

Materials are minimal… mirrored stainless steel working desks, fair-faced concrete flooring cool the touch, white marble tiles within the bathroom’s interiors, a glass and steel partition with a fritted pattern separating the shower from the bedroom area… all very modern reflecting contemporary architecture palate without losing the comfort sensibilities of “home”.

There are aspects of the room which is considered luxury… the iPad with an amazing selection of music and muzak which I had playing in the background the whole time, a great selection of self-labeled snacks (like the rich sea salt chocolate bar which everyone needs to try), and (the one item I loved the most), a bathrobe in soft denim. It’s fantastic.Unfortunately some items, ie. room speakers were not working (they are supposed to easily connect to the iPad), no complimentary drinking water in the room, and no coffee machine. But those are minor gripes for a hotel with just the right amount of comfort and generally amazing low key and personal Manhattan service.

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Public areas are cozy yet not cramped. The design is very streamlined and completely Manhattan-modern-minimalist done right. Ok, at the very least it reflects the general ambiance of this area of Chelsea, with the neighborhood’s rustic factory facades and cool gallery interiors of every ground floor space. I loved the negative/positives of President Obama in cool Instagram-ish glory in the lobby’s sitting area. We think we’re cool? He’s definitely been there and done that.

Speaking of “gallery interiors”, it was so cool to meet up with Hong Kong-turned-Manhattan graphic designer, Danielle Huthart, and art critic / consultant of everything, Shana Beth Mason, together for an art + hotel jazz brunch on my last sunny Saturday in the city before jetting back to Hong Kong.  According to the latest M art map, I counted roughly 200 gallery spaces in West Chelsea around Hotel Americano. Like Shana says, the West Chelsea art scene is largely commercial, and the real experimental stuff worth seeing is in the Lower East Side (understandably). However, we’re already here for brunch, so we might as well see what’s around right?

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Some cool shows we saw, digital prints on canvas by Linda Meiko Allen, titled Figmenta, closing July 31st, 2014 at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery.

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Physical large scale collage works on display by Gabi Trinkaus at Claire Oliver which ends this month.

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PACE Prints Chelsea has the latest neon works by Ryan McGinness on display.

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Our two favourite shows… this sexy one, titled Goldenboy by Jeff Bark, which has since ended at the Hasted Kraeutler, consisting of prints and a sculptural tableaux.

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And we also loved these very formal, yet hyper-real paintings by Pierre Dorion at the Jack Shainman Gallery.

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Every year, Paul Kasmin’s gallery exhibits a free curated not-for-sale-show. I was so lucky to have been there when the space across the street from Hotel Americano was curating a superb show by Russian-Jewish painter Chaim Soutine, noted for his amazingly thick and messy brush strokes in muted colours, depicting animals and items he finds at the market. Not since a 1950 MoMA retrospective of his work has all his works made it for a non-sell exhibition under one roof.

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A complimentary show by Walton Ford at Paul Kasmin’s other space on the corner of 10ave and Hotel Americano’s 27th street, feature vibrant watercolors of animal creatures from various fables depicted in a very illustrative moments.

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Architecture lovers will love walking around the the neighborhood to revel in buildings that seemingly never age…

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And the new sky-high mansions that take their place. This one below attempts at the quirk factor.

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There are some more cool buildings, as one gets further south around W. 14th Street, like this Samsung shop with a twisted tower. If you know the designer’s name, please let me know!

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There’s a wonderful building on 66 Ninth Avenue, called the Porter House, by SHoP Architects (with the black facade and vertical LED stripes.) You can’t miss it. It’s almost a landmark. It’a warehouse turned residential building.

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Speaking of twisted, watch out for Renzo Piano’s new Whitney Museum to open next year.

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And along the High Line park (a newly opened public green park ON TOP of the old High Line railroad tracks) designed by Diller + Scofidio, there’s an architectural view of  the big everything else; the “white sails” building by Frank Gehry dubbed the IAC, on the West Side Highway, and adjacent to it Jean Nouvel’s 100 11th Avenue. 

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Speaking of the High Line, the second phase of the tracks just opened up, and it’s wonderful to be there. Views are framed… literally.

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As for the first phase, the area closest to the Meatpacking District… the park’s architecture and its fixtures, are aging quite elegantly.

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Across the street there’s a cool concept store called, STORY… claiming to have a “point of view of a magazine, changing like a gallery, and selling things like a store.” So basically the shop’s VM changes four times a year to a theme. And when I was there, the theme was “COOL”… which is appropriate for the summer. The “COOL” idea is reflected in the lightweight structure of straws, and held together by snowflake fixings at its intersection.

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For restaurants, you can check out fusion-dim sum at the new, Buddakan NYC, a “modern-Asian” dining destination in a converted cookie factory designed by Christian Liaigre and founded by Stephen Starr also of Chelsea’s Morimoto. I enjoyed my drinks and food here and wish I had more than just bar snacks. The staff were very friendly, and the innovative selections, like their classic, “Edamame Dumplings”, is something definitely to look forward to, again on my next visit. It’s adjacent to the Chelsea Market… you won’t miss it.

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I will miss this neighborhood. It’s in the middle of Manhattan, yet generally less rushed and more relaxed.

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Thanks Smith Hotels and Hotel Americano for a great stay!

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FYI. The red “summer wool” jacket i’m in the wearing in the #selfie above was tailored by Moustache in Hong Kong. I strongly recommend them and their work if one has time in Hong Kong to get anything tailored. 

STAY Hotel Americano . 518 W 27th St. New York NY 10001 / BOOK Mr and Mrs Smith Hotels / VISIT Art Galleries in West Chelsea / SHOP Story . 144 10th Avenue at 19th Street, NY NY 10011 / EAT Buddakan NYC . 75 9th Avenue, NY NY 10011 / VISIT The High Line, New York NY 10011 

JJ.