Monday, December 29, 2008

China: The great Shantou tour fiasco

Around Westerner new-year (as opposed to the Chinese one), my mother-in-law booked us all on a all inclusive "tour" our Shantou, a city about 6 hours bus drive from Hong Kong.

Those tours cost next to nothing but there a reason for it (and that's the catch); there are mandatory visits of tourist shops selling all sorts of junk ("special" tea, herbs and other things that you can find pretty much anywhere in China. I.E. Not special at all). The tour company gets a kickback from the store owners and can then sell the tour cheaper. And I do mean cheap: the tours are usually around CDN $150-$200 for 3-4 days, all meals and hotel included. But, make no mistake about it, it is cheap, because it is crap! It is a bus race between more or less relevant places, with little time to spend at any of them.

Oh, the highlight of one of the nights, which required us to pay an additional few bucks? A visit to the local Walmart!!! No friggin kiddin ya!

And, well, it was sold as a "gourmet" tour... well. The food was barely edible. In fact, the main reason why we ate that food is that when the bus stops, we eat, and there are no other options. And provided that lack of food ultimately results in death... we ate!

Bottom line, avoid those cheapy tours.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hong Kong; Applegreen

To change a bit from the Chinese food routine, we went to Applegreen (we also wanted to have some salad). Nice surprise actually, food is quite decent, although pricier than our daily Chinese fare.

Fries trashcan.

Quesadillas 'a la' Applegreen

Good addition to our list to 'go to' places when we're tired of 'same old, same old'

Panini HKD $58 (Very good. Great sauce, good bread...)
Fries HKD $22 (Very spicy but good fries... served in a mini trashcan)

Shop 713-715, Level 7, Grand Century Place, Mong Kok, Kowloon

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hong Kong: Best Wonton in Hong Kong!

Our friend Rob was on a business trip here and we took him to what are supposed to be the best Wonton noodles place in Hong Kong; Tsimchaikee, and Mak's, both on Wellington street.

It was our first time as well. Both places were packed. Oh, yeah, by the way, we went to one, right after the other... so perfect scenario for comparison.

Our verdict: despite for their smaller wontons, Mak as an edge because of their broth; much tastier than Tsimchaikee's. If you have only one place to go an quality beat quantity, go to Mak's. However, they are both good and inexpensive.

77 Wellington Sreet, Central

Mak's Noodles (Makenkee)
98 Wellington Sreet, Central

Rob, visibly satisfied with his Wonton.

Hong Kong: Simply Life

We've been craving for salad and brownies (go figure). Simply Life had both. Decent.

Caprese salad. Large enough for two!

Moderately priced.
Level 2, Festival Walk, Kowloon Tong, 2265 7418

(March 21 addition: We went again a few times! Now, we really like Simply Life; bread is good, the food is very tasty. They must learn to bring the plates together however! Brunch is also very good)

Lamb. Juicy.

Chicken burger with cheese and mushrooms. The chicken is ground and - I think - mixed with cheese before it is cooked. Very tasty! Very pleasant texture.

Hong Kong: Fanling, home cooked meals...

I thought I'd post a few pictures of what is our current diet here in Hong Kong.

Most of our supper are taken with my in-laws and consist of one or two fish dishes, one or two veggie dishes (mostly steamed or boiled) and a pork an/or chicken dish. All of those dishes are shared, as per tradition here.

My in-laws, busy planning their 'attack' on food. The bottle of red is our twist on the traditional Chinese meal...

Hong Kong: AgnesB - Le Pain Grille

Auntie 3 and Uncle 3 invited us for dinner at Le Pain Grille, a restaurant in Causeway Bay.

It was a very enjoyable night of good food with good people.
Can't really comment on price as we didn't have to pay (yay!).


Foie gras and venison

Souffle et various sweets.

111 Leighton Road
Causeway Bay

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hong Kong: Cafe on the Park

We now live in Hong Kong, for better and/or for worse...

We left pretty much everything behind: I quit a high paying job, we sold our house, we left our friends and my family. The reason: the business bug has taken me over; we started a book publishing company in Hong Kong. Fountain Publisher (www.fountainpublisher.com) is up and running... and we now have little revenues and a lifestyle that is far (very far) from what we had before. But you have to start somewhere!

This won't prevent us from going out for dinner. But maybe not at restaurants in the same price range as before. And, occasionally, we might get invited to the really nice places!

Anyhow, the first place we went to (for my nephew's birthday) is Cafe on the Park.
Overall, we were underwhelmed by the quality of food, provided this was relatively expensive. Meat were generally overcooked, western-style food was passable at best. Chinese dishes were ok but nothing to drool over. Variety was certainly there though.

What saved it was the desert buffet ; lots of variety and unusual flavors.

Cafe on the Park.
Tel: (852) 2738 2322
2/F, Hotel Wing, The Royal Pacific Hotel and Towers
China Hong Kong City, Canton Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Monday, September 22, 2008

Montreal: Jolifou

Just a few days before we left for Hong Kong, we went to Jolifou with my mother and my cousin.
Never been there before; it was selected because it got good reviews and it was close enough to where my mother lives.

Nice surprise; most excellent dishes and reasonable prices!

It is off the beaten path but worth the detour.

Fish of the day

Magret de canard
avec pozole et panais rôtis, réduction de vinaigre de xérès au pasilla negra

1840 Beaubien Est

Montreal: Newtown

JC abandoned me one afternoon so I decided to explore Montreal on my own and treat myself to a nice little lunch at Newtown, a restaurant owned by the famous F1 driver, Jacques Villeneuve.

I was seated near the window and it was perfect for people watching while I ate. I started with a green salad. The greens were fresh and crisp, but the dressing was way too salty and I was a little let down by it. Someone was a little too liberal with the salt shaker in the kitchen! At this point I wasn't very hopeful for a yummy main, since they had messed up a super easy dish. However, when they brought me the Saute de crevettes epicees aux legumes et couscous (Spicy shrimps and vegetable stir fry on couscous), it smelled delicious and I was attracted by the size of the shrimps! I was hooked after one bite of the shrimp. The shrimps were cooked exactly right - and the sweetness/tanginess of the sauce contrasted beautifully with the spiciness. The vegetables were still a little cruncy, exactly the way I like it.

I'd be happy to overlook the salad dressing and return for more of the shrimps...


Total: $16 CDN + taxes
1476 Crescent,
Montreal, QC

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

3 weeks on Papineau street (Montreal)

We're moving to Hong Kong. And since we plan to stay there for a few years, we figured we'd stay with my mother in Montreal for a few weeks before we go. My mom and I cooked up a storm...

Very homey table that we shared pretty much every night.

Chicken pot pie in phillo pastry, covered with pine nuts.

Beef Stroganof

Green asparagus and smoked salmon in crepe rolls.

Oven baked salmon with almonds.


Pork tenderloin 'a la chinoise' with Bok Choy and rice.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Petit Bill Bistro... a disappointing take 2

We went there when it first opened in May 2007. We had a nice experience then and we were interested to see how it had evolved since then. Terry (the owner) is as friendly as ever - but I am sorry to say that his food has suffered.

The bread they brought us was a little stale - and they were all cut in weird shapes. (some were sliced on the bias, some were just square-ish, all were rather squished-looking.)

All three of us started with salads - I had a Nutty Green, JC had the tomato salad, and our friend Cheez had a Caesar. They were all okay - I am sure most of us can reproduce the same quality from a bag out of Loblaws.

I took the Steak Frites as my main, JC took the seared tuna, and Cheez wanted tenderloin. Both Cheez and I requested medium rare for our steak, but they both came out medium to medium well. My plate was at best ordinary... the steak was a little on the chewy side, and the flavour was a little on the bland side, and the "Belgium Mayo" tasted straight out from a jar.

Cheez was in shock when he received his tenderloin... it was the size of a hockey puck!!! I generally think in North America, the portions in restaurants come way too big, but in this instance, the portion was so small it was ridiculous for a $24 plate. A minute later, Cheez had a funny expression in his face - apparently, they did not remove the strings of the pea pods in his plate - so when Cheez popped a pea pod in his mouth, there was a slight bitterness - not to mention the unexpected "chewiness" factor.

JC's seared tuna was also not to our standard. First of all, we couldn't really see the tuna because it was lost in a jungle of green salad. It looked like someone just opened a bag and dumped salad all over the plate. Then, the tuna was not cooked properly. Maybe because it was so thin... instead of being seared, it was rather just cooked through more or less. Oh, and the tuna was swimming in a sea of yellow mustard. Yup. The normal, regular, yellow mustard found in hotdogs. On the menu it was supposed to be some wasabi sauce, but maybe they ran out in the kitchen...

There was no thought in the presentation of our dinner - and the taste of our meal matched the appearance.

Service was just okay. The waitress was friendly enough but not so knowledgeable about wine and food, and also seemed a bit absent-minded.

There are better choice of restaurants in the area. Even if we were staying in Ottawa, we would not be visiting Petit Bill again.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Washington DC: CityZen

CityZen was supposed to be our treat for this 3-cities trip to the U.S. East Coast. So, it is with a lot of expectations that we entered the Mandarin Oriental in Washington D.C.

I knew really wanted the tasting menu so we went for it with no delay.

We were a bit disappointed. Not that anything was bad or not well rendered; I just thought it missed some layers in the flavors and, well, the ingredients could have been fresher.
The green peas were not as fresh as those I got with my Olive and Gourmando's sandwich in Montreal (for less than $10). The lamb was not not the freshest possible either (their was a lamby taste which is not present with the freshest lamb).

Mind you, I don't want to imply that it wasn't good food, it was. But with a Kir, taxes and half a bottle of red, it was around $400. Our expectations were not met for that price point.

Asparagus salad with over roasted tomatoes, baby arugula, preserved quail egg and nicoise olive vinaigrette.

Chesapeake bay soft shell crab tempura, with Path Valley Farm rhubarb gazpacho.

Steamed pacific sable fish, with artichoke tea, Jerusalem artichoke subric and toasted lemon crumble.
Herb roasted Martin Ranch spring lamb and petit pois a la Francaise.


Now, we only had one day to spend in Baltimore and no real plans but for the fact that we knew we would have had steamed crab by the end of the day.

May had read good things about Obrycki's, which was confirmed by the cab driver on our way to our hotel. http://www.obryckis.com/
May's steamed crab before the carnage. Note the mallets, the instruments of crab torture...

Crab cake
The remaining evidence of crab carnage.

My crab cake was really good. I actually never had a crab cake with so much crab in it. No meat was left after May went through her 6 crabs, which tends to indicate she appreciated them as well. ;-)

Now, something that I would like to mention to the foodies traveling to Baltimore to sample the crabs; Baltimore as one of the highest murder/crime rate in the U.S. and we were told numerous times that even the relatively short walk from Inner Harbour to Obrycki's should be avoided at night. While the cab drove us back, it became quite obvious why that was; quite a lot of shady characters were wandering around in that area.


I had not done much research about Philly but to find that it was one of the largest urban area in the United States, which was my criteria for picking it as a destination to clear all of our airlines/rail/airmiles points before our big move to Hong Kong.

May had done some research, food related, obviously...

What a nice surprise Philadelphia turned-out to be; tons of nice little places for foodies to enjoy and a very relaxed atmosphere.

Our hotel, being in the historic old Philadelphia (near Independence park), we obviously visited all the historic site and learned quite a bit about the US that we didn't know. But this area is also home to lots of nice spots for foodies. Here are a few we visited, close and not so close to our hotel.

Di Bruno Brothers at 1730 Chestnut St (above and below). Nice
Italian specialty store with good variety and friendly faces.

We could obviously not go to Philadelphia without sampling the mandatory Philly cheese steak. Which we did, where it was invented, at Campo's. 1 million calories per sandwich... guaranteed!

Smack down in the middle of downtown Philadelphia, the Reading Terminal Market is a must see for any foodie worthy of the name. You will find tons of fresh produce, restaurants, well, anything to make your stomach very happy. If you are a Montrealer an love the Jean-Talon market, you'll feel right at home at the RTM.

Ricotta and chocolate chips Cannoli from Termini in the Reading Terminal. Creamy, rich, very good.

Cuba Libre.
As its name implies, a Cuban restaurant. Very near the hotel where we were staying.
The menu is online as well as some recipes: http://www.cubalibrerestaurant.com
The food was enjoyable and there was definitely an important contingent of Latino patrons in the house.

A sampler of Cuba Libre's dish; pork, beef, beans, soup.

Torta de Chocolate, Flan de vanilla, Natilla de coco

The Franklin Fountain at 116 Market St; very rich ice cream that May liked so much we went back almost every night. The 90F degree temperature helped as well !

As I said before, Philly turned-out to be a nice surprise; it is not a destination we would have picked right away if not for the fact that our stay and flight there were mostly free. But we are glad we did because Philly is rich in history and tastes. We'd suggest you include a 2-3 days stay there if you are planning a larger U.S. East Coast trip.