Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Greyhound Cafe

Usually I like to give restaurants the benefit of the doubt, especially when they have only been open for a few weeks, but there is just no excuse for how bad the food was and how disorganized the service.

I was quite excited about the opening of Greyhound Cafe - probably a result of all the ads and publicity they did throughout IFC during the run-up to their opening (I'm a sucker for marketing). I was also curious about whether it had any affiliation to Greyhound Buses, made famous in 2008 by a passenger's decapitation of another whilst riding the line (ironically, Greyhound's slogan was, "there's a reason you've never heard of bus rage"). After a quick search on the matter, I discovered that Greyhound is in fact a chic clothing and boutique store in Bangkok which later spurned a number of cafes that are apparently very popular for rich tai-tai's and celebrities. Their opening in Hong Kong is the brand's first venture outside of Thailand and was brought here in collaboration with the Gaia group (known for Isola, Joia, and of course Gaia itself).

I wondered whether there were any trademark infringements here, but I did notice the greyhound logos of Greyhound Buses and Greyhound Cafe are facing in opposite directions, which reminded me of Lacoste vs. Hong Kong's Crocodile brand :P Then again, I doubt a fashion cafe that prides itself on its stylish and contemporary interior could get much (positive) free publicity associating itself with an aging budget bus company notorious for its lack of security and crazy people.

I had made reservations for 8:30pm yesterday evening and when I arrived was told that the tables weren't ready yet. There was a big group of people also waiting and when asked, apparently all of them had reservations too...We ended up being seated close to 9pm which already put me in a bad mood. What's the point of reserving when you don't get seated at the time of your reservation!?

I did cheer up when I saw the menu with it's cute binders:


Quite whimsical, it almost reminded me of Madam Sixty Ate's menu (without the cute piggies). The interior was also charming, though acoustics were absolutely terrible and impossible to hold conversations in.

my sad attempt at obscuring the identity of the diners :P

I had heard rave reviews about the famous "Greyhound Cafe Iced Lemon Tea" so decided to order a glass to see what all the fuss was about.

iced lemon tea ($38)

Er...absolutely nothing special about this iced tea besides the fact that the ice cubes were frozen lemon tea cubes (which I must concede is quite ingenious) and there is a LOT of sugar at the bottom of the cup. Perhaps Hong Kong cha chaan teng's are just that much better at doing ice teas than what you typically get in Thailand...

We ordered a selection of dishes to share and were quite annoyed that they all came out at once (within 5 mins of our ordering, thus questioning the freshness of the dishes). Given that our table was pretty tiny, there was hardly any space to eat. You would think that they would give us the appetizers and then the mains...but nope. They didn't even bother to clean our appetizers once we were done even though we were obviously struggling with the overload of plates.

pomelo salad ($88)

This came in a tiny portion and wasn't all that exciting. The pomelo was shredded to tiny pieces which some people may like but I'd rather eat larger chunks. There was hardly anything by way of adornment to the dish, with a very stingy sprinkling of peanuts and dried shrimp (which also tasted stale). Could easily make something yummier at home at a fraction of the price.

greyhound cafe's famous chicken wings ($68)

This is one of Greyhound's signature items which has had rave reviews in the Bangkok branches. They do give quite a fair amount, though the wings are mini. Basically just deep-fried and apparently marinated in fish sauce, you can't really go wrong. But seriously, it tasted so ordinary I don't know where they came up with the idea that this was an age-old family recipe and I did not taste anything remotely close to fish sauce. Perhaps we were meant to dip the wings ourselves...

grilled angus sirloin (HK$248)

I believe this is the most expensive menu item and it was also the most awful of the dishes we tried. When it came out, I wanted to disown the dish and say we never ordered it. The colour of the meat was completely off and looked utterly unappealing. It came with a very pathetic side salad and sticky rice (in the covered box at the back) which had zero taste and had a funny consistency - it didn't taste like they used the proper glutinous rice grains for sticky rice but instead steamed up mushy clumpy ordinary rice. The beef itself tasted as unappealing as it looked. It had to be doused in the spicy sauce to give it any sort of flavour. Highly disappointed for the price paid...really, angus beef?!

"miss saigon" rice vermicelli (HK$98)

This tasted like a dish I used to always eat at a random food court in North Point when I had an internship in the area. Over in North Point the dish probably cost me $35 with a drink. It also tasted better. The fishballs were pretty sad here and had absolutely no taste whatsoever. The shrimp balls fared a little better (though I remembered to cover it in the accompanying fish sauce), but the shrimp were the biggest letdown. Tiny, rubbery, very subpar. It was also a tiny bowl of noodles, though you might not be able to tell in the picture above. All in all, another fail. Seems to be the recurring theme that you have to eat everything with copious amounts of sauce in order for it to taste passable.

We were hesitant about ordering dessert given our impression of the food thus far, but figured if we were having such an awful experience, might as well finish it with a bang. Funniest thing was, even though we had been finished for a while and numerous waiters walked past (including one who took our order for dessert), no one bothered to come clean up our table. We were wondering whether it would be cleared before our dessert came, and were amused when our suspicions were confirmed:


No clearing of plates... Considering this is not a dai pai dong or cha taan teng (which actually are quite good at clearing plates), I was not impressed.

mango sticky rice (HK$68)

Thankfully, this dish wasn't too bad. The mango was quite sweet (though I swear they left part of the skin on it) and the glutinous rice pretty decent, though I thought the coconut milk on top tasted a little different. While this may have been the highlight of our meal, I would still have much preferred getting the same at Honeymoon Desserts for half the price.

We had to wait 10 minutes for the bill to come, despite numerous waitstaff who were apparently standing around doing nothing, and were getting so fed up by it all that we got up and were going to leave the restaurant. Unfortunately, they rushed out with the bill just as we were walking to the door (should have made a quicker escape!) The meal came up to a total of HK$711 for 2, and was easily the most not-worth-it meal I've had in the past few months if not year. Bad food, bad service, expensive prices for "Thai" food = a very grumpy me.

I'm curious to know what other people think of the place. I wonder if I'm just being seriously over-critical. Do let me know if any of you decide to pop by despite my very big warning not to!

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Greyhound Cafe
Shop 1082, 1/F
IFC, Central

Monday, October 24, 2011

La Creperie

Ever since I heard of La Creperie, I've been dying to try it because I so so miss galettes (savoury crepes) from Paris and La Rochelle. For some odd reason, it has taken me close to a year to finally get here and I really hope it doesn't take me another year to re-visit because the crepes were spot on!

The restaurant itself feels rather claustrophic with as many tables as possible crammed into a tiny space and loads of waiting diners milling around the front door. However, the decor is cosy and the waitstaff very friendly and attentive. I had already decided I would like this place when a big pot of tea came out looking like this:


The tea set made me feel like I was on a beachfront in Brittany :) Oh if only...


Surprisingly, hot lemon tea pairs beautifully with crepes!

As we were here for lunch, we had the opportunity to sample a savoury and dessert crepe for only $88 (including a drink). One quick glance and I knew exactly what I wanted. The galette complet was my ultimate favourite while living in France. It's simple and traditional, with just a slice of ham and runny egg under a heaping of emmental cheese. Perfection!

galette compl├Ęte

This galette tasted like the real deal. I loved that they use buckwheat flour (works much better with savoury crepes) as most places in HK still haven't adopted this traditional ingredient. It was filled with lots of yummy melted cheese, tasting just like a croque monsieur but better (and hopefully slightly healthier!) Unfortunately the egg was hidden under the salad but trust me, it was glorious to burst!

chicken?

My friend opted for the savoury crepe with chicken that I believe was in a kind of curry sauce. Tasting less traditional, it was still delicious and had quite a kick to it with all the spices!

Again I knew exactly which crepe I wanted for my dessert:

butter and sugar crepe

This was my go-to sweet crepe in Paris (sometimes with the addition of lemon), an easy snack purchased on the side of the road after a long day of classes. Simple is definitely better! Light and fluffy, it was a great end to the meal. I only wished I had a bigger stomach to fit it all in!

chocolate crepe

I didn't try this but it came out smelling amazing. I assume it was just the same as mine except with chocolate sauce drizzled on top. Pretty decadent!


galette in paris

Back while I was studying in Paris, I didn't really take food photos so the picture's not great...BUT I have to say, the galettes from La Creperie look even better than the one above, taken at a very traditional bistro in Paris.

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La Creperie
1/F, Kui Chi Mansion
100-102 Queen's Road East
Wan Chai

Friday, October 21, 2011

Weekend Brunch

I can never decide whether I enjoy going for yum cha or weekend brunches more. Lately it's been veering towards the latter as I've finally discovered the best bagel in hong kong at Oolaa (one of my favourite restaurants for good food at decent prices).

oolaa's new york bagel ($70)

The bagel is a perfect consistency, smothered with cream cheese and filled with a very generous helping of smoked salmon and red onions. I loved the capers in the little spoon too, along with the side salad. Absolutely delicious and a pretty good size considering the price was cheaper than the Press Room's bagel which seems to get smaller each time I visit... I believe Press Room bagels cost $90+.

oolaa's eggs bene ($95)

Oolaa eggs bene is very substantial and deliciously moreish. The hollaindaise sauce used here has a hint of citrus which gives it a nice tang. The picture above was leg ham and buttered baby spinach, but you can get smoked salmon / spinach, or bacon / avocado. Definitely want to come back to try their salmon rosti and french toast! Oolaa's salads are also delicious - my go to meal when I want a healthier dinner.

On the hunt for more bagels (yes I am obsessed), I checked out Red, Soho the following weekend:

red soho bagel ($98)

I liked that the bagel came with avocado which is another of my current obsessions but the bagel itself was not good :( Tasted almost like a sandwich, completely lacking the chewy density of typical New York bagels. They were also very stingy on the cream cheese (though they will give you more when asked). Pretty mediocre.

pure's grilled chicken & avocado sandwich ($108)

This was pretty yummy with nice succulent chicken pieces but I thought the bread was overly toasted - it was quite hard to chew and hurt the roof of my mouth. I did enjoy the chili jam that came in the pot though, and the wedge fries were delicious! Definitely a better pick than the bagel.

press room's crepe ($78)

I don't usually want sweet food the first thing in the morning but we saw this come out and had to order it! Decent crepes served with vanilla ice cream (which I wished we had more of) and doused in chocolate sauce and hazlenut bits. Can't really go wrong with a combination like that!

bircher muesli

And I can't put up a brunch post without my ultimate favourite brunch item - bircher muesli. I know you can make it quite easily at home but noting the name of my blog, I'm just far too lazy. Bircher muesli is soo much better than your typical breakfast cereal and is packed with good nutrients. I love feeling healthy first thing in the morning!

Am still on the hunt for good bircher muesli in Hong Kong, and other brunch spots in general. Will post up anything I find :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lo Chiu Vietnamese Restaurant


I posted about eating at The Vietnam Woods in Wanchai a while back and have mixed feelings about the place (my first visit was amazing, the subsequent two were subpar). However, I had heard that the Vietnam Woods is the upscale sister restaurant of Lo Chiu Vietnamese Restaurant, long famed for its authentic vietnamese fare (I believe the restaurant has been operating for over 20 years!) One night while staying at Elements, me and dad decided to see what all the fuss was about - the restaurant is a mere 5-8 min walk away from the mall.

I was shocked by how different the interiors of the two restaurants are. While the Vietnam Woods is done up all glam, with large spaces in between tables and a glorious high ceiling, Lo Chiu is like your typical cha chaan teng and really focuses on the local crowd. I guess I shouldn't have expected more given its location in a grungy part of Jordan.

Me and dad got a selection of food to share:

pho tai

Wow!! The broth was really nice and rich (as you can see in the photo) and they gave a generous helping of beef which was of surprisingly good quality and very tender. Super comfort food, though I did make quite a mess slurping up my heavenly noodles! Good thing I was in a cha chaan teng ;)

spring rolls and bahn hoi

Wah loved the spring rolls. Wasn't sure if I was meant to eat it wrapped in the bahn hoi to the right of the picture, but figuring that would be far too much coordination for a very ungraceful eater like me, I just stuck to wrapping the spring rolls in the super fresh lettuce. SO GOOD. Dipped the bahn hoi, which taste very much like vermicelli, in the fish sauce and it was pretty delicious too. I love how light and fluffy it is!

bahn cuon (?)

I think this is bahn cuon but my knowledge of Vietnamese food is rather limited :\ Basically just a rice roll filled with ground pork and other seasonings. Really enjoyed the chewy rice sheet but could only manage one as it was packed quite densely!

All in all, a very good value meal and much better than the Vietnam Woods in my opinion. Everything tasted authentic and fresh, and I would happily return to try their curries! Should probably come with a bigger crowd so you can try more dishes - though that said, the restaurant is pretty small and tightly packed.

(Btw, if you want to get your bahn mi fix, Tim Kee is on the same street at #30 and they serve up pretty good bahn mi's that are probably on par with delicieux bistro on Graham Street at a fraction of the price).

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Lo Chiu Vietnamese Restaurant
G/F, 25-27 Man Yuen Street
Jordan

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

O Green Cafe

I forget where I read a review of this place but it's been on my "to try" list for a long time now. In the interests of having a healthy, feel-good meal, I finally got around to checking the place out for a light lunch before a game of squash (beach vacation in two weeks means an attempt to diet + getting my lazy butt away from trash TV...) I have subsequently been back two more times within two weeks - testament to how much I enjoy my meals here!

O Green, as the name suggests, is a small cafe serving up predominantly organic food. It's also a very vegetarian-friendly joint with at least half of the food items falling under that category. I was surprised by how extensive their menu(s) was. I had thought they would serve up simple cafe food, with one or two signature sandwiches, limp ready-made salads, and the rare pasta dish. Instead, they presented us with four menus full of drool-worthy descriptions that made it very hard to pick just one. The dishes are also labelled as being "GF" (gluten free), "V" (vegan), "HP" (high protein), low-fat, low-sugar, low-carb etc. I felt like I was on serious detox at some secluded, yoga-loving retreat in the middle of India (in a good way of course!)

While the cafe is small and cramped, I quite enjoyed the layout. One wall was lined with a bunch of organic products (cookies, jams, wines) and cook books, while the back was an open kitchen. They also played fun golden oldies music, though I suppose to most people this would be a drawback :P

On my first lunch there, I decided to go vegetarian and ordered an organic tofu and eggplant sandwich.

organic tofu cake & roasted italian eggplant sandwich ($42)

Delicious! I was impressed by how much tofu was packed in there, which was nice and lightly pan-fried, and the tomatoes and lettuce were super crispy and fresh. They also use a home-made vegan mayo dressing which worked great with the rest of the ingredients. I'm not exaggerating when I say this is one of the best vegetarian sandwiches I've had in HK! I didn't expect to like it so much given I was expecting more of a panini-style sandwich with ciabatta bread...rather than a simple whole wheat sandwich that wasn't toasted. I found out later on that you can actually request them to toast your bread but to be honest, you don't really need it once you sink your teeth into this beauty :)

fish n chips salad

The fish was amazing. Light and flaky, with a citrusy dressing that made the dish feel so fresh and summer! The potatoes were good too though we wished there were more! They do make up for it though with the hefty size of the fish, which I suppose is where the real value is :)

On my second visit there (within the same week of the first), we had:

pan-fried organic almond chicken salad ($138)

I had ordered the above with an extra side of avocado but they had forgotten it the first time round. Not a big deal though, they just added the half avocado on top:


Yum! While I did wish my salad was more colourful, it was absolutely delicious. I know this post is getting a bit boring with all my ravings about the place... but seriously. The dressing, which was a homemade basil walnut pesto sauce with hints of dried figs, was absolutely heavenly and worked perfectly with the pan-fried almond chicken which was super juicy with lots of flavour despite being breast meat. Maybe that's testament to the fact that it's organically farmed chicken? I was also glad I opted for a side of avocado because it was extra fresh and creamy. They top each salad with a lovely almond mill crumble which adds a nice crunch, but my favourite part is the addition of quinoa! Big thumbs up!

pork chop ribs ($258)

This came recommended by the waitstaff and apparently they use australian pork chops that are free-range, hormone-free and generally all-organic, healthy goodness. It comes with a yummy side salad and potatoes (though there could be more), but what was best was their house made organic marmalade to dip the pork chops in! All in all, a very succulent piece of meat that I would happily eat again.

Third visit food:

organic almond and smoked salmon salad ($138)

Okay, so this was almost like my chicken breast salad above but I really loved the salad last time and wanted my almond mill crunch and quinoa! The smoked salmon was very fresh and they gave a decent amount. There were a few sundried tomatoes in there which I always enjoy.

organic chicken breast and cheese burger ($148)

Wow!! So juicy! Cheese was so yummy (should've asked what kind they used). The dressing (tasted like a slightly tamed down version of dijon mustard) also gave it a nice kick, and I was surprised how much I didn't miss having a beef patty :P The only downside was it could've been bigger... but I guess portion control is all part of the "eating healthy" mantra!

organic brownie

The only thing that was a bit of a fail was their organic brownie. I didn't like the addition of dried fruit in it, and it wasn't moist at all. I suppose desserts should remain full fat and indulgent :P

All in all though, I've remained impressed each time I've visited and can't wait to go again! There are a number of pastas that look particularly inviting, and I definitely want to try their version of the "BLT" :)

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O Green Cafe
27 Hillier Street,
Sheung Wan

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Men-dokoro Ryo Tei


Apparently, Ryo-Tei ramen is one of the best ramen chains in Sydney and now has two locations in Hong Kong - one in Sheung Wan and the other in Tai Koo. It seems a bit strange that a ramen chain would come from Sydney, but I'm always up for trying new things :) The store is relatively small but quite comfortable, and there were only a few tables taken on Sunday evening.


There was also a giant bowl sitting on a shelf on the wall and a challenge to finish all the ramen in that bowl to win $1000 and a free meal. Obviously the "winners board" was empty.

Ryo-Tei claims to do traditional Fukuoka-style ramen (famed for its thicker and saltier broth) which has been popularized by the likes of Ippudo, Butao, and Hide-chan. I've never been a big fan of this style - I usually leave the restaurant feeling quite sick by the heaviness and to be honest, I'm happier with a bowl of instant noodles or even ajisen ramen!

We ordered a few side dishes but were first given side salads:

complimentary salad

Luckily this was free. So much mayo and really bitter cucumbers. I just picked out the corn :)

gyoza

This was quite okay - I liked their small size and it didn't feel overly greasy. The vinegar sauce worked well with it too! Was trying out new functions on my iPhone so this photo came out really orange haha.

chicken karaage

Was really excited to try this because I've never tried chicken karaage in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, this was a huge let down. Really fatty, really fried, not much taste except when doused in the accompanying mayo.

cha siu ramen in pork broth

I requested less salt so the flavour was okay but it was still a bit too heavy for me. I guess I'm not the right person to be reviewing a Fukuoka-ramen joint... The noodles themselves were alright, quite springy :) The cha siu was decent, though the fat to meat ratio was heavily skewed towards fat. The egg wasn't the best I had and was a little overcooked.

While the restaurant definitely gives huge sized portions for their prices, the quality wasn't great and I left feeling pretty sick of grease. I suppose it's perfect on a cold night when all you have left to do is go home and pass out.


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Men-Dokoro Ryo Tei
15 Hillier Street
Sheung Wan

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dragon Seal

Had the chance to try Dragon Seal for lunch last Sunday. Situated on the 101st floor of ICC, it's probably the highest restaurant I've been to. I believe the restaurant only opened earlier this year by celebrity chef and food presenter Wong Wing-chee. I watched his show later that evening (every Sunday at 8pm on Jade) and he was off traipsing to Malaysia before serving his celebrity guests a big feast right at the table I was sitting at for lunch!

There are a couple other restaurants in ICCs "sky dining" floor - two Japanese that are currently in business as well as a Shanghainese that's opening soon. The view was a bit hazy the day we were there but still quite spectacular - the restaurant definitely made the most of its location with sprawling floor-to-ceiling windows and a great bar area, and luckily we got the most coveted seats right by the window. Better than Ozone for sure! (Too bad our meal was constantly interrupted by families shuffling next to our table to take pictures...)


We had the set lunch for 4 people, and everything came beautifully plated in individual portions:

black fungus, roast pork, and shredded chicken


The pork was amazing. Probably better than the one I recently had at Summer Palace with super crackly skin and a thin layer of fat in between skin and meat. Yum!

cha xiu bao, lo bak gou, snow pea shoot dumpling


Probably my favourite dim sum of the meal! The cha siu bao was fantastic! If only we had ordered an additional serving...

double boiled soup

I really enjoyed this too - especially the fact that it was served on top of a candle to keep it nicely warm. It was a simple seafood broth but very flavourful, comforting, and altogether a big hit across the table. I wish I could have this each time I'm sick, it felt so nourishing and good for me!

grouper

I again enjoyed this dish - though by this point I was getting really really full. The presentation was very elegant and I liked that they didn't overdo it with unnecessary accompaniments.

fried rice

Meh. Nothing too exciting about this, or I was too full to really give it my full attention... I did pick out the prawns though :)

seseme lo mai chi

sau bao

but with taro sweet potato paste inside!!

All in all, I found this a pretty excellent meal. It's definitely above the standards of your typical Cantonese restaurant, though I can't comment on the prices as I luckily ate here for free. I have heard some gripes about how expensive it is but restaurants with such prime location are always gonna milk it so you should probably come in expecting that..

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Dragon Seal
101/F, International Commerce Centre
1 Austin Road West, Kowloon