Friday, February 27, 2009

Bouchon Bakery

My fiance and I ventured to Time Warner Center in NY a while ago in search for macarons from Bouchon Bakery and stayed there for lunch. It's got such a nice nice that I had to snap pictures like a tourist (from NY). If you want the scenery and light French fare at France prices, Bouchon is the right place for you. Don't get me wrong, they serve a very fine meal, but you really pay up for it.

My fiance had a pricey Kobe beef sandwich (he said it was good and melts in your mouth) while I had their quiche of the day, which was spinach and cheese. Let me tell you, it was the most delicate and different quiche ever! Most quiches I've had in the past were dense and solid; not this one. Bouchon's version was tender and almost like an egg custard. It also had a very nice crunchy and flavorful crust. I could tell its texture was different when it jiggled as it was placed on our table. The quiche was served with a side salad, which I thought was flavorful, but a bit on the salty side.

And then there were the macacrons...sadly, these weren't close to what we had in Paris from Laudree. The macarons from Bouchon were quite sizable, almost as large as those from La Maison du Chocolat. Macarons from these two places were almost flat because of their size. The ones from Bouchon had more texture than those from La Maison du Chocolat, but more moist than I remembered our macarons to be from Laudree. Anyways, we got the vanilla, pistachio, chocolate and passion fruit flavors from Bouchon. The flavors were fine, but lacked the rich butter taste. The passion fruit flavor really packed a punch.

Overall, the Bouchon Bakery is a good place to splurge. I will go back when my wallet gets full again. Well, at least I left without feeling getting ripped off - I got a satisfying quality meal out of Bouchon. In the meantime, I'll just keep on dreaming about their quiche.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ChikaLicious, Round II

I couldn't go to ChikaLicious again without blogging about it! My fiance and I went there recently to celebrate my bday, and it was perfect as always. They have new exciting items on their menu all the time...every visit is truly a different experience.

As always, Chika started us off with a palate cleanser of granny smith apple sorbet on a bed of gelee. The sorbet was pure can really taste it.

My fiance order Kumquat with Polenta and Vanilla Ice Cream. If you're a kumquat lover, you'll definitely like this. It was so clever and inventive of Chika to serve it with polenta, which isn't usually associated with dessert. I was so happy to have a taste of the Vanilla Ice Cream - it was so rich in Vanilla flavor and was pure heaven. And did I mention that the color of the kumquat matched with the orange floral design on the cute plate?

As for my plate, I had the Poached Pear on a crispy bird nest with Burbon Molasses Ice Cream. The pear was warm and so rich in pear aroma. On top of that, the pear flavor was accentuated with vanilla bean. The crispy bird nest was perfect - it was light and crispy. The combination of the moist and creamy pear and crispy bird nest was a perfect contrast. The ice cream was such a perfect complement to the star of the plate...I couldn't taste the burbon, but the molasses flavor was excellent.

ChikaLicious is such a gem. You really feel the originality, care and detail they put into their menu. Every ingredient tastes like what it should and even better. Shall I say perfect again?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Speaking of ChikaLicious...

Martha Stewart featured restaurants from the East Village on her show, and one of them was ChikaLicious. It was very amusing to me because A, she probably ventured to that part of the city once, and B, they subtitled Chika when she was speaking in English!

She speaks with an accent, but it's not to a point where you can't understand her. I understood her perfectly when I was at ChikaLicious. Watching that TV segment was as amusing as watching Morimoto getting dubbed on Iron Chef America!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sorry Kyotofu, I Still Love Chikalicious

I love Chikalicious, the most decadent dessert tasting joint in NYC. So I was curious when a similar joint called Kyotofu opened in Hell's Kitchen a few years ago. I finally went to check it out recently. The outcome? ChikaLicious is still by far the best!!!

It all started off very promising. I stepped into Kyotofu...smelled the wonderful aroma of baked goods and loved the clean modern decor. I was excited to open their menu - they have a wide variety of cocktails, extensive list of sake, and an inventive list of desserts. I order their three course dessert tasting, which our server described in such yummy details. Please pardon the photos to come - I did the best I could in the dark restaurant.

The three course tasting started off relatively strong with a plate of chocolate cake and their signature sweet tofu. The chocolate cake was topped off with a green tea cream, which I thought was inventive. However, I would have preferred the cake served warm because it was rather dense when served in room temperature. The menu also described the cake as having miso; I didn't get a hint of it - maybe that was a good thing, considering how well the other Kyotofu desserts fared in my review.

As for the sweet tofu, it was served with black sugar syrup, which made the dessert look very suspicious. Don't let it fool you. It was the best dessert of the bunch we had that night. It was very much like the Chinese sweet tofu, which is basically tofu with a light sugar syrup. The tofu was creamy, and the sugar gave it a much needed (and perfect) sweetness.

Then the rest of the night came crumbling down...The second plate was yuzu & blackberry anmitsu and genmai tofu cheesecake. I don't know which one was worst. The anmitsu had in it jelly, Japanese yuzu citrus and a Japanese peach of some sort. I don't know how to describe it - I did not understand it at all. It had jelly, a hint of citrus, something pasty on the bottom of the bowl that included crunchy black sesame seeds. They did not go well together. Needless to say, I was confused.

The tofu cheesecake...what can I say? First off, description - it had roasted brown rice, lychee pudding and kabocha squash caramel in it. I liked the crust, but the rest I did not understand either. The cheesecake had a bit of saltiness to it. It wasn't good. I gave up trying to figure it out.

By this point of the meal, I was pretty much speechless. I thought the ice cream, the 3rd and final plate, would save the day, but it didn't. It only got worse. We were served a chocolate and wasabi ice cream, topped with a berry sauce. My fiance cleverly figured out that they were trying to do something similar to the Mexican chocolate with chile powder. It could perhaps work if they used fresh wasabi, but wasabi powder doesn't have the natural sweetness from the fresh version and is probably more potent. It overwhelmed the ice cream.

The idea and presentation were good, but I wouldn't go out of my way to Kyotofu to have their sweet tofu. Save your time & calories and go to ChikaLicious instead.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Back to Blogging about the States

I still have a lot more material from my Hong Kong/Macau trip, but I have to stop somewhere! Realistically, I can't blog endlessly about the delicious meals I had there forever, but I will find ways to sneak some of that material in somewhere in the future.

Back to blogging about the States!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy V-Day everyone! We had the most wonderful Valentine's Day ever...and on a budget too!

My fiance and I decided to make various easy small bites together for dinner and it worked out so well. We didn't know exactly what we would make. We just stopped by Whole Foods and picked out what was fresh. Not only did we pick out some fresh and yummy produce, but we spent about $30 total for our V-Day meal. This is sooooo much more inexpensive than if you were to eat out. We had oysters, fish, prosciutto, sardines and salad.

Wellfleet Oysters with Mignonette
Our meal started off with half a dozen of fresh Wellfleet oysters for $0.99 each. My fiance shucked them himself using a screwdriver (we didn't have an oyster knife), and I made a simple mignonette of red wine vinegar, shallots and ground black pepper. These oysters were sizable, mild and sweet, perfect for oyster beginners.

Bacon Wrapped Monkfish
Then we spotted Monkfish for $9.99/lb. My fiance saw some bacon wrapped Monkfish on the internet a couple of days ago. He's down for anything wrapped in bacon, so we got some of those. Although the bacon was quite pricey at about $5, it will last for several meals.

He wrapped the fish in a couple of slices of bacon (make sure you use more than enough, because they shrink when cooked), secured it with toothpicks, browned it in the pan, then popped it in the oven for 10 minutes. Let it rest for 5 minutes after you remove it from the oven, then slice it into chunks.

Sardines with Side Salad
We had some canned sardines in the pantry. I just opened it, added some capers and its brine, and garnished with parsley. The salad dressing was just mustard, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and salt & pepper.

Prosciutto Wrapped Cantaloupe
We picked out a ripe cantaloupe for $2.99, and decided to wrap it in prosciutto (a quarter of a pound for $4). I sliced the fruit into chunks and wrapped a slice of prosciutto around each cube. It was a party in your bite into the saltiness of the prosciutto and then get the juicy sweetness of the cantaloupe.

We opened a bottle of bubbly to wash down this easy meal. Believe it or not, we got all this done in an hour! Best of all, it was fun cooking together! I would recommend this for any special occasion.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dim Sum Run Down: Jade Garden

I saved the best for last! I had ranked Jade Garden in one of my previous posts as having one of the best shrimp dumplings in Hong Kong. Using the quality of shrimp dumplings was really a good benchmark for the quality of a restaurant's dim sum.

There are several Jade Gardens in HK (all owned by the giant food and restaurant group called Maxim), but their menus and quality are different. The one I like (see address at the end of the post) has two dining areas: one has push carts; the other doesn't. I like the push cart side better because I like to see what yummy goodness comes around.

The dining room with push cart service

Although the two dinning areas operate differently, both rooms are equally nice and use the same beautiful tea pots, cups, dinnerware and utensils. They were sooo cute that I felt like I was having afternoon tea at a nice restaurant or hotel. They made my experience that much more enjoyable.

The cutest and most beautiful dining set I've seen at dim sum

Everything we had was good except for two items: red bean soup and roast pork. The red bean soup was too pasty (many restaurants tend to use cornstarch to thicken up this sweet dessert, but that should not be done at all); the roast pork was tough and not flavorful at all. I think the fact that they have really yummy shrimp dumplings there more than makes up for those weaknesses. How can you not love the flavorful shrimp filled inside a tender glossy wrapper? In fact, Jade Garden named these babies 水晶鮮蝦餃, meaning Fresh Crystal Shrimp Dumplings. I think that is the perfect name and description.

The best Shrimp Dumplings I had in HK - note their crystal-like quality & appearance

Other standouts (and there are a lot) from the restaurant include the following:

  • Steamed Vegetable Dumplings - Filled with various types of mushrooms, carrots and celery. You may think they're filled with boring vegetables. Don't be fooled. These were very tasty. And the dumpling wrapper was beautiful - look how you can see the filling through it?

Far from being a boring Vegetable Dumpling

  • Dumplings with Seafood and Vegetables (海皇豆苗餃) - These are similar to shrimp dumplings, except for that they are filled with scallops and pea shoots as well. These were exceptional.

They should name these "Crystal" Seafood Dumplings

  • Mini Abalone Tart (鮑魚撻) - Once you bite into it, your teeth sink into the abalone's tender texture, then you're hit by the tasty juice in the tart. It was good, but I could do without the tart, which I thought distracted me from enjoying the luxuriousness of the abalone.

Beautiful abalones presented on their tarts/pedestals

  • Custard Bun (流沙奶皇包) - What's been popular with Custard Buns ("Lai Wong Bao" 奶皇包) these days is a variety where a bun's custard filling oozes out once you bite into it. Hence, the descriptive words 流沙 are added onto its name. Sooooo very good.

I'm speechless about these Custard Buns

  • Red Bean Jello (紅豆榚) - I've never had these before. They looked so beautiful and delicate. I was most impressed by the large size of the red beans. These were light and at the right sweetness.

The sizable beads of red bean shown clearly between slices of the Red Bean Jello

  • Deep-fried Taro Puff Filled with Scallop and Seafood (帶子海鮮芋頭酥) - I've had many taro puffs before, but none like these. These were soooo good! Light and crispy outside; tasty seafood inside, all topped with a thin slice of scallop.

These Taro Puffs were my favorite!

This place is definitely a must see & eat when you're in Hong Kong.

Jade Garden (翠園)
1 Hysan Avenue, 3rd Floor (香港銅鑼灣廣場二期3樓)
Causeway Bay, HK

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dim Sum Run Down: Jumbo

Jumbo is the floating restaurant that's in virtually all the Hong Kong travel guide books. It's rather touristy, and I thought that this was one of those places that have the spectacular view but not the food to match. My cousin said that dinner there isn't good, but dim sum is okay to good there. Well, my dim sum experience there changed my mind.

Getting there was quite entertaining - in order to get to the restaurant, you have to take their boat, which takes you to the restaurant directly. It was a scenic pass by various fishing boats in the harbor.

The decor inside was quite impressive. It's the old school royal Chinese style.

The following is a sample list of what we had:

  • Shrimp Dumpling (蝦餃) - They were surprisingly good. Not the best, but good.

  • Deep Fried Bean Sheet Roll Filled with Fresh Shrimp (鮮蝦腐皮捲) - These tasted good, but the outside could be crunchier.

  • Deep Fried Dace Ball with Clam Sauce (鯪魚球) - Crunchy outside, soft inside. Tasty.

  • Osmanthus Jelly (桂花榚) - This is one of my favorite desserts in Hong Kong. It's so delicate, fragrant (from the osmanthus flower) and light. Simple and delicious. I'm definitely going to attempt to make this.

But wait, the Jumbo experience doesn't end with food! You can visit the back of the restaurant for a history of the place and see what's in their many seafood tanks.

All in all Jumbo did not disappoint when it comes to dim sum. Definitely give it a try when you're in Hong Kong.

Jumbo Kingdom (珍寶王國)

Shum Wan Pier Drive, Wong Chuk Hang (香港仔黃竹坑深灣碼頭徑)

Aberdeen, Hong Kong

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hong Kong Weirdness (Part II)

This is another one of my weird experiences in Hong Kong, and of another Japanese product.

Apparently, this product claims to help your face from sagging by making it trimmer. I don't know about you, but to me it looks like the lady put a pair of undies on her head!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hong Kong Weirdness (Part I)

I should say instead weirdness I experienced while in Hong Kong because the image below is of a Japanese drink. The secret ingredient: Jew's Marrow. Really.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ice Cream for Hong Kong Taste Buds

I think I've beaten eating in Hong Kong to death. I'm telling you, I have enough material from Hong Kong for another whole month of blogging. That's how much I ate. It's THAT scary.

Anyways, let's move onto another one of my favorite foods out there - ice cream! People from the States probably aren't familiar with this one particular flavor and may perhaps raise their eyebrows, but Taro ice cream really works. In fact, my sister and I grew up on this in Hong Kong.

Above, us digging into the wonderful Taro ice cream

Taro is a root vegetable commonly found in Chinese cooking - you've seen it in my dim sum posts. Its flavor is rather mild but fragrant. I know Taro ice cream may sound odd, but there is just something about it. So when I saw this flavor on display at Scoop in HK (it's the equivalent of Cold Stone in the States), I just had to have it for old times sake. If you're not familiar with either Scoop or Cold Stone, here's how it works: you pick your ice cream flavor and fresh ingredients, and they mix them all together on a frozen surface.

The Taro ice cream was so good! The flavor was intense, and it had such a wonderful Taro aroma. We added almond slices in there, which went perfectly with the Taro flavor. We also had walnut and sponge cake in there, but I didn't care much for them. Other than Taro, Scoop has your usual Vanilla and Chocolate, Green Tea, and even Tofu! I tasted the was flavorless, but I didn't hate it at all.

Above, your typical ice cream flavors in HK - Green Tea and Taro