Birthday Bar

It’s a rainy summer morning in Hong Kong, and after the redeye from Bangalore I don’t know if it’s still my birthday or not. I think it isn’t here, but will be when I get home. The international date line is weird like that.

After texting my wife and making my way through security, I head to Cathay Pacific’s Wing Lounge and grab a scotch to sip (don’t judge, it’s 5pm somewhere) as I watch the planes and ground crews navigate their polkas on the slick tarmac.

Then I remember that this lounge has a feature to explore.

Tucked away upstairs behind the coffee lounge and the bar is a uniquely Hing Kong amenity, a noodle bar.

In an elegantly modern space lined with black marble and bamboo, two women tireless churn out local noodle dishes prepared to order. The top of the short 4-item menu is the star, the Dan Dan noodles.

A black bowl on a black tray quickly arrived on the black counter. Simple thin noodles swim in a thick, creamy broth made with coconut milk and peanut. When you slide on over to the edge of the counter to grab a spoon and chopsticks, don’t forget to dress it up with a dash of chili oil, toasted garlic, green onions, and to cut the fatty broth, some Chinese red vinegar and pickled vegetables.

Slurping up the rich warm broth contrasted with the cool refreshing vinegar and pickles makes a delectable experience. A palate of familiar flavors wrapped up in a new package.

This is comfort food.

14 hour flight to save a 30 minute drive

The New Town Plaza in Sha Tin has a treasure trove of western style restaurants. The waft of fresh baked pizza from the Italian place was especially tempting. Instead, we migrated to a place famous in Los Angeles, Din Tai Fung. Originally from Taiwan, this chain has earned a Michelin star, and has opened locations around the globe, including two in Southern California that we’ve been too lazy to drive to. So instead we braved the 14 hour flight to try the famous Shanghai soup dumplings in the Hong Kong location. Let’s see if we agree with Jonathan Gold’s review.

Green beans grilled and tossed with pork – chilled, but not greasy, and a perfect texture.    Crispy cucumber in a spicy garlic chile sauce, just the right amount of heat.

Glass noodles tossed with tofu and bean sprouts. Also lightly spicy, and chilled which was pleasant on a hot evening.

The main event, Shanghai soup dumplings. The pork was fall apart tender, the broth rich and savory, the dumpling wrapper perfect and unbroken, and the vinegar and ginger a perfect compliment. The overall sense of freshness was astounding.

The mushroom and vegetable dumpling was surprising flavorful considering how much green stuff was minced in, but not my favorite.

The fried rice was exceptional, but again, how could it compare to the rest of the meal?

Ok, so I’m sold. While we’ve had good soup dumplings on Sawtelle, I’m more than willing to make the hike to Glendale. Or perhaps stop by Irvine on one of our treks to San Digeo.

Too Hot for School

Upon recommendation of a local cousin, we tried School Food on a leisurely rainy afternoon. The nearest location of this modern Korean fusion restaurant was just steps from our Hong Kong hotel.

The menu was overwhelming. Not a single dish was familiar, and those could identify had a distinct twist. Eager to see how hey would interpret LA’s street truck mashups, I selected the Bulgolgi Quesadilla. It was decidedly different and I’m not sure if I liked it. Ground bulgogi with a little bit of jack cheese in a crispy tortilla and drizzled with a sweet teriyaki sauce. It needed something more, something spicy or tangy like sirracha or kimchi.

Always a sucker for soup, my wife went for the fried chicken ramen. The sauce was very thick, really a Japanese curry, but spicier. The fried chicken was tender, but didn’t add much to the dish.  

To drink on such a hot day, we had a pitcher of Mango Athie (portmanteau of icee?), an iced mango juice and soda mixture that was very refreshing.

Was it great? No, but definitely a place we would try again to explore more of the bizarre menu! If only schools actually served food like this!

…. Update…. There’s a location on Western and Wishire in LA. We must visit after returning home.

Dim Some More

Apparently my inlaws didn’t get enough dim sum yesterday, so today started out with another morning of gorging.

It’s another order from a form place instead of our familiar cart to table places.

 We pretty much had the same stuff as yesterday but much more variety as there were 9 of us this morning – Pearl’s aunt, uncle and cousin joined us.  

  Daikon cakeHargow (yesterday’s was better BTW)  Char Sui bao aka steamed bbq pork buns  Ginger Tripe  Shrimp and beef chuong fun or rice noodlesMa lai go aka sponge cake    Sui Mai  Custard bunsosamthamus jelly  beef meatballs with worcheshire sauce  Date  jellyChicken feet    Lotus leaf wrapped rice “burrito”  fried pork dumpling

I don’t think we can handle another round of dim sum.  So hopefully this will be the second and last dim sum post for this trip.

Now time to walk it off.

Back to the Goose

Yung Kee Restaurant, which I raved about 5 years ago, is actually three restaurants in one. This time the ground floor was closed for renovation, and we weren’t dropping the big bucks for the VIP room this time, which put us this time in the middle tier, literally on the second floor. A typical nice Cantonese banquet hall greeted us.

Immediately my in-laws started asking me if I wanted the beef or the pork. Like I would get anything but the goose, the dish that made this place famous and earned the Michelin star.

Even though this wasn’t the most formal restaurnt, the presentation was still beautiful. Even dime vegetables with tofu skin, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and ginkgo seeds was presented immaculately.

 Next, my sister-in-laws’ favorite, a perfectly grilled filet mignonette, sliced thin and stir fired in a sweet sauce with onions. It was sweet, smokey, savory, and the beer amazingly tender.

When our plates were dirtied after the beef, the staff replaced them with clean ones and brought out a beautiful fried rice presented in wrapped leaves. Perfect texture, light flavor, and lots of little chunks of meats and shrip to keep you satiated while we waited for the main event…

 The roast goose – crispy skin, flavorful meat, and not nearly as fatty or oily as duck. This was a total different presentation than the last time we were here. Instead of the Peking duck style wrappers, it was served with a gravy poured over the top, and a sweet tangy ginger sauce on the side. Yet still, this was as delicious as I remember.