Posts tagged “good value

The Grand Stage – Dim Sum in Sheung Wan

Review:

I’ve had lunch at The Grand Stage on the 2nd floor of Western Market twice in the past couple of weeks, and I’m pretty impressed, and only have one quibble.

Photo snatched from their wedding club website

Food: Fairly comprehensive offering of trad Dim Sum. Beef balls, siu mei, wanton, turnip pasties, radish cakes, cha siu bao, sticky rice in lotus leaves – you get the picture.  The execution is also exceedingly good, and I think that it’s some of the tastiest Dim Sum in Hong Kong. It had a certain freshness and crispiness which was very pleasing.

However, and this is just stupidity – it arrived at the table barely warm which really took the edge off for me, and was frustrating – otherwise I’d have been jumping up and down on sofas and declaring a love of Katie Holmes.

The first time I went and experienced this lukewarm fare I put it down to being part of a large group and never being the first to dip into the baskets, but the second time I went we were just a party of four, so the sad fact is their service process must be all screwed up. It just goes to show how good it is though that the taste and freshness shone through the lack of warmth.

Ambience: The Grand Stage must be one of the biggest spaces in Hong Kong. It is fantastic to be under such a soaring ceiling.  It’s all a bit Mainland nightclub what with the red walls and the neon lighting, but it’s a lot of fun and I love the chandeliers. The great thing about the high ceilings is that even when you’re surrounded by 400 other people, the sound gets whipped away into the rafters so you don’t feel that it’s super noisy.

Service: Pretty typical Hong Kong. I’m a gweilo with non-existent Canto skills so I’m used to being misunderstood in Dim Sum restaurants. It was always easy to catch someone’s attention even if it was difficult to convey my meaning, so the fact you got swift service was good enough in my book.

Price: Not much more than $100 per person for a really decent amount of food, so good value.

Location: In Western Market right at the end of Des Voeux Road in Sheung Wan.  Best to book ahead as it seems to always be busy. Tel: (852) 2815 2311.

As I’m often in Sheung Wan I shall return to The Grand Stage again I’m sure. If I had holidaying visitors coming to Hong Kong I would probably take them here over Luk Yu Teahouse and the Dynasty in Wanchai’s Renaissance Harbour View just because it’s a bit more fun in the case of Dynasty and better food and service in the case of Luk Yu. For business lunch though, I would definitely opt for Dynasty.

I was vacillating over the category of The Grand Stage – Mama/Huhu or Candy, but even though the temperature wasn’t spot on, the food was very good and the overall experience has tipped it into the candy category for me – maybe it’s the New Year spirit that is making me feel generous!

Lot 10 – Tiny and Tasty in NoHo

I don’t know about you, but sometimes the inspiration to commit paws to typewriter is difficult to catch – but having looted the wine corner, I’m now armed with a large glass of a rather wonderful Argiano Brunello, and if that doesn’t inspire me – then shoot me now (well when I’ve finished drinking it…)

Right – on to Lot 10.

Review:

Thanks to a couple of comments posted to Caustic Candy, and a scour of Chowhound I decided to give this much ignored (by me, deliberately) little bolt hole a try.

I don’t know why it’s never made me want to give it a go – I’ve seen it for years, and walked by it hundreds of times, but I suppose I’ve been rather tired of “French” restaurants in HK. I know it’s not fashionable, but I just don’t (or didn’t in the case of Plats) think places like La Bouteille, Plats or Le Blanc were really any good (too much dodgy foie gras and low quali steaks), so when I saw Lot 10 open during that gold rush of private kitchen styley establishments I just wasn’t interested (Lot 10 has apparently changed hands since those early 2005 days but who’d have known?)

*Of course the shining example of private kitchen’s for me used to be Frank Ching’s Tribute when it was on Cochrane Street, but that may have been something to do with the wonderful evenings I spent there with some friends of his, where we used to ransack his kitchen after-hours and he’d let us taste all his latest creations. The sooner he’s up and running again the better – Go Frank!

And so to supper:

Food:  French inspired, locally sourced fish where possible, local produce used where possible – yes, yes, yes.  This is what we want Hong Kong.

Companion had French onion soup to start – very good, tasty stock base.

For mains, I had the crispy pork shoulder on a bed of lentils.  For those of you who like bbq pork neck at Thai restaurants, this pork shoulder had a similar texture – incredibly tender with slightly crispy edges. And Oh My Lord the Lentils!  If you think lentils are for hippies, too Robert Carrier 70′s or only fit for dal, then you are very wrong – Lot 10′s lentils were a revelation. They were so subtly seasoned and spiced, they were wonderful (how geeky is that?!).

My wonderful (and in no way erstwhile) dining companion had a steak with a macaroni gratin  - steak was good quality: a well cooked slab of flesh. Macaroni gratin added a very light accompaniment, but was a bit too oot of the ordinary and not a winning combo for either of us – but hey, worth a try.

We did though have lettuce with peas and bacon (grrr, yum, yum) and duck fat roasted potatoes (almost…almost…as good as my own), so overall the food was very well received.

Drinks: Reasonable and well thought out wine list.  We had a very decent Torbreck for around $400.

Ambience: A bolt hole. There are only 3-4 tables downstairs (and it’s a push past the kitchen to sidle into the washrooms). A couple of tables outside on Shing Hing Terrace, and another larger room good for private parties hidden upstairs. Clean lines, white linen, white walls (slightly small tables and chairs, but then it’s a slightly small restaurant).

Service: Quiet and competent service.

Price: We paid around $1200 for a meal for 2.  Mains were around $250 on average. Food was quality, and wine a good price, so I think good value for the experience. Will return.

Location: On corner of Gough St and Shin Hing Terrace, so nice and quiet.  34 Gough Street (NoHo), Central, Hong Kong. Tel 2155 9210.

UPDATE:

Went for lunch last week and had a lovely meal.

Just $98 for two courses + tea or coffee – fantastic value.

I had home cured gravlax and a local caught snapper, grilled which were both very good, and my companion had a good sized, tasty Caesar salad and a very decent steak.  We sat outside on the street terrace and were thoroughly entertained by the guys playing shuttlecock (Jianzi in Mando, not sure what the Canto is), one of whom must have been about 80 and was the very definition of spry.

A perfect break from the office in the middle of the day, and such good value for money (we even succumbed to sharing a chocolate pot for desert for $30 extra – delish). Will become a regular haunt.

Thai Farmers’ Restaurant – Wanchai

Reivew:

There were four of us for supper last night in Wanchai, and we fancied showing our new friends the delights of Thai Hut.

As previously explained, there are only a tiny number of seats there since the Po-leece stopped them from setting up tables outside, so you do take your chances.  Unfortunately, last night  we were unlucky, as there was an old gweilo dude slumped on a stool taking up 3 precious seats, chin on chest, snoring drunkenly away (it was only 11pm), so we had to find an alternative.

That’s how we ended up at Thai Farmers’ restaurant across the way on Lockhart Road, sandwiched between The Bell Inn (which seems to have become the pub of the moment for all the International School kids) and some low dive strip-joint.

Food: All the usual Thai staples. Large menu, pretty much as home-style as Thai Hut. Everything we had was very tasty, although not quite as punch-your-lights-out hot as Thai’s usually like for themselves.  Portions were very generous, and the dips they provided with the pork neck and spring rolls were really good, as were those items themselves.

Drinks:  Standard drinks list for Wanchai – beer, canned softs, a few juices. Cheap and cheerful.

Ambience:  Very simple. Love the bold tablecloths. It’s a little shoebox of a place with seating for not more than 30, clean and simple, if a little rough around the edges.  The only others in the restaurant were a Thai couple, one of whom was a decidedly pre-op lady-boy, in desperate need of a stylist.

Service:  The food came quick, and the staff were friendly and attentive.

Price: We spent just over $400 for four of us, and we were only drinking soft drinks.  We had 6 dishes plus rice. So, really rather good value!

Location: G/F King Tao Building 98 Lockhart Road Wanchai Hong Kong. Tel 2520 6607. Almost opposite Agave.

I hadn’t been to this restaurant for years, and was really wondering why after this meal. Chili Club, which is actually almost upstairs from this place, and  seems to be so popular still after all these years, despite having zero ambience and mass produced tasting fare is a poor second to Thai Farmers’. This little restaurant has more authentic food, a more intimate atmosphere and is great value for money.

“The Turkish” – homestyling in Mui Wo, Lantau.

Review:

Went to The Turkish a couple of nights ago (real name Bahce Turkish).  No idea why I don’t go there more often, as it serves seriously good food.

Food:  Well….it’s Turkish.  Very home cooking feel, well presented. Fresh ingredients, with the impression  that everything is lovingly prepared.  All the dips and sauces are fresh made, and they roll dolmas neater than Cheech rolls joints.

Very tasty marinated lamb and chicken, and the special eggplant dip is so smoky and sweet you won’t want to eat normal baba ghanoush ever again. The haloumi was great as well.  Not squeaky and hard, but served with gerkins and dill, it was really good.

Drinks: wide selection of fresh teas, coffee and soft drinks. Couple of beers on tap and the rest in bottles.

Ambience: Simple, sturdy, and has tables outside which is a boon.  Emphasis is on food not decor, and you’d be nuts to spend a bunch of cash on that kind of thing in Lantau, as you will never make your money back.

Service:  lovely service. Humble, friendly, efficient and thoughtful (shame they don’t take over the Stoep!)

Price: Dinner  was $350 for two, and they don’t charge service, so it was a pleasure to leave a big tip.  We shared a mixed mezze, a separate halloumi dish and a lamb kebab, and it that was far and away enough between two of us.  Good value for the quality of the food and the service.

Location: Mui Wo Centre, Lantau Island. Tel: +852 2984 0221, very close to the 7/11 opposite the bus station.

By far the best restaurant in Mui Wo.  There are a couple of tasty canto places, but they don’t show as much care and attention to their food as this.

Mrs Jones, Central – a bit mama/huhu

Review:

Popped along for lunch at the new Mrs Jones restaurant at the top of Pottinger St a few days ago.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Concept Creations venues so far as their service has generally been really good and friendly. However, I have to say that lunch was a bit horsey horsey tiger tiger and that’s forced me to invent a new category on my blog, (hit and miss to the those not in on the Mando reference).

Food: Italian. My companion and I opted for a 3 course set lunch.

We both had salads to begin with, which were let down by the overcooked mush of carrots, and an indifferent mix of leaves and Parma ham.

My pasta main was disappointing, primarily because it was bog-standard bought pasta – literally the farfalle I buy down at the supermarket.

Now, I think that’s a bit of a cop out. Fresh pasta using organic flour would be cheaper to make than buying mass produced dried stuff, and definitely less expensive than some of the very good quality dried pastas, and is super easy to make – so why serve your customers the boring bought stuff, when you can make a selling point out of having fresh, organic pasta instead?

My companion’s main course on the other hand was very tasty – Chicken with olive mash and a creamy mushroom sauce.

What absolutely saved my meal though was the stunning lime curd tart for dessert.  Fresh from the oven. This was a stroke of genius.

Perfect light pastry, a warm delicately textured and flavoured lime filling and a really good vanilla custard creme on the side that was a great accompaniment. No holding back here – it was superb.

Drinks: Didn’t have a look at the wine list, so can’t comment on that.

Ambience: This venue has always been a nice space, the decor is warm and inviting, and the seats comfortable.  It is however a bit rough around the edges.

There is paint peeling off the walls at the entrance for example, and that just confuses me – is this a new restaurant, or are they just using the space to see if this concept works before redecorating? I don’t know, but again this makes me think they have a bit of a lackadaisical attitude to this venture.

Service: The service was very friendly and attentive, although the restaurant was not busy – if it had been, then the one waiter may have been overstretched.

Cost: $98 for a three course set lunch in Central is good value.

Location: Entrance is at the top of Pottinger Street just down from Wyndham St, where Soda used to be. Upper Basement, Harilela House, 79 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong. Tel: 25228118

Overall, I consider the glitches I encountered as teething problems and would definitely go back for lunch in a few weeks time.

Between the two of us, exactly half the dishes were definite misses and half were definite hits, so it would be churlish to not give them another go.

However, at the moment my vote of Caustic or Candy is to be withheld, and instead I must create a new category – mama/huhu.

马马虎虎 – ma ma hu hu; (Horsey Horsey Tiger Tiger) definition is so-so, hit and miss, passable, careless.


Brantos – veggie Indian canteen. Quick and tasty.

Review:

So I found myself on the Dark Side yesterday at a tailor on Hankow Road around suppertime and it struck me that I hadn’t been to Brantos for bloomin ages. My partner and I both felt we could do with laying off the meat for a day, and so a veggie Indian was the perfect solution.

Food: Brantos is awesome for fast food style snacks. They serve all sorts of puri, idli and wada, as well as having a list of Dosa as long as your arm, which when they arrive are also as long as your arm.

I could fill my boots purely from this left hand side of the menu, but then I’d miss out on the curries, which are really very good. Yesterday we had a yellow dahl which was really intensely flavoured, and a jalfrezi whose vegetables maintained a good bite on them, (which was a delightful change to some of the mush I have been served in many curry houses). Everything was very tasty and satisfying.

You can order thalis and set menus for well under $100, and after I’d stuffed myself to bursting was wishing I’d ordered one of them instead.

Drinks: Non-alcoholic drinks only here, usual sodas, lassi’s and tea.

Service: Service is pretty informal and not particularly attentive, levels of English vary by waiter, but if you need any dishes explained they are very friendly and helpful.

Ambience: Canteen style, rough around the edges, packing in as many tables as possible. It’s about the food here and nothing else. Usually pretty bustling and at weekends you can expect to wait for a table if you hit at rush hour. Caters very much to families and office workers.

Price: It would be almost impossible to spend even $200 per person no matter how large your group or your appetite.  Yesterday the two of us had four dishes, a bunch of chapatis and three soft drinks for $278 before service. We were stuffed to the gills and could easily have done without any one of those dishes. Good value for money.

Location: 1F, 9-11 Lock Road, TST. Lock Road is off Peking Road about 50m from TST MTR exit C1. Look for the more obvious signs of the Red Lion Pub and Branto’s is in the building next door. It looks like you are going into a set of old flats, you have to ring the buzzer for them to let you in – so don’t be confused, you are at the right place. Tel: 2366 8171

Open: Branto’s is open for lunch (11-3) and dinner (6-10:30) 7 days a week.

Korea Garden – Fast and furious in Sheung Wan.

Review:

I’ve been dining at Korea Garden for the decade or so I’ve been in Hong Kong, and although this is lazy, I’ve really never bothered to find an alternative, as I really like going there.

The Korean lady who runs it has been doing so for a least two decades, setting up in what used to be the Korea Building on Des Voeux Road, which is now the Bahunia Serviced Apartments.

Food: Total comfort food.  BBQ, bibimbap (stone pot), Sam-gye-tang (ginseng chicken soup), etc. Tasty and plentiful, your bbq comes with a table full of kimchi and other banchan, as well as rice and daikon soup, and if you run out, just ask for more and they will keep it coming (within reason).  I’ve enjoyed every single meal I’ve ever had here, although I do spend the next day oozing garlic out of every pore.

Drinks: usual stuff, tea and beers (they also sell Hite and OB), careful when you order spirits, as they are likely to just bring you a full bottle and plonk it on the table (got to admire the Korean appetite for getting completely battered, they really are the Scandi’s of Asia).

Service: Sometimes too swift. When they get very busy you just have to shout out the numbers of what you want. If you’re not quick enough they may run off without taking the whole order. As I say the lady who runs it oversees the restaurant as though she’s feeding her own children – if you are looking for a bit of face time, then chat to her rather than the waiters who will give you short shrift.

Ambience: Plastic flowers, dark wood panelling, low ceilings, tables packed in – it’s not going to win any prizes for style, but it’s busy, jolly and steaming. There are always a bunch of Koreans in the place, either expats or out-of-towners which is a good sign. They also have a couple of good sized private rooms where they will put larger parties.

Price: You can really spend as little or as much as you like here.  A stone pot meal in itself is under $100, whereas some of the top end beef rib bbq’s will set you back $200+ a plate. Usually we spend around $200 a head.  They do an array of good value set menus which are, if I remember correctly, around $180 (+10%) per head.

Location: 1F, Blissful Building, 247 Des Voeux Road, Sheung Wan, very close to MTR exit B. Tel: 2542 2339.

Open: Mon-Sat, lunch and dinner.  This place is rammed at lunchtime, so best to book ahead. I’ve never had a problem yet getting a table in the evening for dinner.

Just thinking about this restaurant now makes me crave bulgogi – I must rally the troops to go.

San Xi Lou, Central. Lip tingling, tongue twanging Sichuan.

Review:

I am a stupid gweimui.

I used to go to a Sichuan restaurant in Causeway Bay, on the first floor of a building on the corner of Hennesey and Percival, but it didn’t have an English name. It was ludicrous hot, very reasonably priced, had monthly beer bucket specials and was just fun, fun, fun.

So, when it closed about two and a half years ago, I was at a bit of a loss. Filled with sadness, I started hunting for a replacement, and have never been totally satisfied with what I have found.

Yesterday, through the holy power of t’internet and Google translate, I discovered that said restaurant had reopened under a different name (and telephone number…*!$%!) in Mid-Levels.  Coda Plaza to be exact.  Two years ago it opened and two bloody years it took me to discover that. What a noddy!

The new restaurant is called San Xi Lou, (and the old one was called Man Jiang Hong), and such is my fondness for their old restaurant, that I went there straight away for supper, and I can tell you my little chickadees – I was not disappointed.

Food: Big menu, lots of quintessential Sichuan dishes, lots of chilli, lots of hot, lots of cold, good collection of soups too.

It starts off well when they bring you pickles (for free: Hunan Garden…) that can blow the top of your head off. Gets you right in da mood.

Stalwart of Sichuan dining, chicken with dry chilli and pepper (or stupid gweilo chicken as it’s more fondly known by me) San Xi Lou style, is a fully interactive experience.

You have to dig for those nuggets of chicken through mounds of dry chilli and sichuan pepper. Oo, the fights that have taken place to try and find the last bits of chicken, the satisfaction of gnawing round the bones, the sweetness of the cashew nuts and the freshness of the coriander. Just delicious. As soon as my lips began to tingle from the hua jiao, my mind was at peace – certain dishes evoke big, happy memories, and for me this is one of my favourite.

lip tingling, tongue twanging stuff
lip tingling, tongue twanging stuff

Let’s not get carried away though. This is not the most elegant Sichuan cuisine you can find in Hong Kong. It’s a bit greasy (well in fact some of the dishes are just huge buckets of produce stewed in oil), but I suppose it’s even more authentic because of this. I certainly haven’t come out of a Sichuan restaurant in Chengdu without a great, red, oily stain around my chops.

What it is though, is solid Sichuan – silly hot, tasty and fresh.

Drink: Decent selection of beer, lots of good teas (we had a very delicate ginseng oolong yesterday), the usual soft drinks and juices (although no drinking yoghurt to calm the stomach), and a selection of wines – still can’t wrap my head around the idea of red and white wine with spicy, super robust flavours. I think the only wine that might possibly go with Sichuan is a good biscuity Champagne (but then I might have to wear my sunglasses at the table just to complete the ludicrous visual of that idea…)

Service: Efficient, friendly – good service. The level of English varies by waiter, so for non-Canto or Mando speakers double check your order.

Ambience: Understated. Brown and earthy shades – lots of carved wooden panels, straight backed, wooden chairs (but with cushions) and booths. Nothing slick or fashionable. Thick carpet, so the noise is dampened.  It was busy and there was a real mix of Hongkees, Mandarin speakers and gweilos.

Price: We paid HK$450 for two, including tea and beer, which we thought was good value. The food was very tasty, the portions large, the service efficient, and the surroundings comfortable.

Location: 7th Floor, Coda Plaza, 51 Garden Road, Central. Tel: 2838 8811

Open: 11am-11pm every day (they also do dim sum lunch and hot pot. Last orders at 10pm)

So there you have it – if you need a break from Madame Wong’s operatics at Da Ping Huo (I love the food, but I go less than I want to because a couple of her notes made my ears bleed) then San Xi Lou is a really good option.

And who needs more than two Sichuan restaurants in Hong Kong? One is elegant and sophisticated in both cuisine and decor, the other is robust and unpretentious.

That’s Sichuans sorted then.

UPDATE:

Took some first time visitors to HK to San Xi Lou last week (28th Dec 09)and they loved it.  They really like spicy food but had never had Sichuan before, they were delighted by all the different flavours.  Much brownie points for me…

Song – good place for a quiet, relaxing lunch in Noho

Review:

For supper Song could be considered a little pricey, so there are other Vietnamese restaurants that come further up my list than here. However, for lunch it has a very reasonable buffet, and it’s a lovely spot to duck out of the mayhem if you’re having a hellish day with Kevin in accounts.

Food: Bit more of a modern Vietnamese feel rather than simply serving the old favourites.  There isn’t a huge choice on the buffet, but I quite like that – sometimes too much choice involves the wasting of too much time and brain power. They don’t put huge platters of food out, so it’s never flacid or stale, in fact they replenish quickly and often. All in all, it’s good, fresh, crisp, well thought out fare.

Drinks: Good drinks list, lots of interesting teas and juices which is great at lunchtime, plus a range of Vietnamese beers and a wine list.

Ambience: This is a small restaurant, but it looks out onto a wee public park that is stuffed with greenery, so it’s very relaxing during the day – it’s down a little alley off Hollywood Road, so you feel like it’s a bit of a secret oasis.

The main reason I don’t come here at night is that when it’s dark outside, the venue feels pokey and cluttered when it’s busy, plus you lose the beauty of the location – I haven’t been for supper for many years, but lunch there regularly.

Service: I’ve never seen it chokka at lunch time which again is one of the reasons I like to come, and the service has always been discreet and efficient.

Price: Lunch buffet is $98 + service, so it’s good value for the quality of the food and the overall experience.

Location: Basement, 75 Hollywood Rd, Central, Hong Kong. Tel 2559 0997. If you are walking west along along Hollywood then it’s the first little alleyway after Peel St, turn back if you get to Aberdeen St. There is a Red sign overhead when you reach the alley so look for it.

Suan Thip – great way to spend a few hours in Bangkok

Review:

Follow these instructions carefully and you will have a great half day in Bangkok, and one of the best Thai meals in the capital.

suan thip caustic candy

1) Get your lifestyle manager (I have mine through my Vertu mobile phone ) or your hotel concierge to organise a longtail boat for half a day’s river trip.  We paid Bht5000 for 5 hours (no doubt you can get it cheaper, but I like to spread my money into the economy).

2) Set off around 10:30am and go on an explore around the Klongs for an hour or so.  Well worth it to see the wildlife, the temples and businesses along the canals.

3) After an hour or so head upriver to Suan Thip, it takes around 60mins and it’s just fascinating seeing all the action on the river.  The barges, the military installations, the temples, the timber yards, the houses etc.  It’s a lovely way to spend an hour relaxing whilst watching the world go by.

suan thip river bangkok caustic candy

4) Stuff face at Suan Thip which is a lovely old complex comprising a restaurant/cooking school/banquet hall and a beautiful garden. (If you are there in the daytime then ask to sit in a sala by the river.  At night I’m not sure how horrific the mozzies might be, so consider carefully whether you want inside or out for dinner).

5) Roll back in your boat and digest the huge amount of food you are likely to have eaten whilst you whizz back to BKK, in time for a shopping spree and a massage before dinner.

Suan Thip is very popular at night, and I’m sure it would be all sorts of romantik in the garden but you would miss seeing all the life along the river if you went in the dark. Lunch wasn’t very busy so it was super relaxing.

Food: Surprisingly it’s Thai… They have a huge menu, and they do pride themselves on showcasing the country’s cuisine, and it’s really very good.  We particularly like the more jungle style soups and curries, whose flavours were incredibly delicate yet still lovely and hot, certainly not your bog standard fare.

If you like your Thai food proper Thai-hot then do impress this on your waiter as they automatically tone it down for foreigners.  The other great thing is that all the dishes come in small or large portions, so if you are a couple you can let rip and order lots of different things – very smart thinking that restauranteur.

Ambience: Just lovely in the salas in the garden. Insects chirupping, the occasional roar of boat engines, surrounded by palms and pot-plants. There was a massive tour group in the main restaurant when we went and I was glad to be out in the garden.  As I say – if you go for dinner make sure you have the mozzie repellant.

Service:  Very good service.  Staff are very friendly and knowledgeable about the food.

Price: Incredibly reasonably priced for the quality of the food and the venue.  Delightful meal, around US$20-30 a head – good value.

Location: 17 Soknai,Wat Koo Road, Pakkret. Tel: +66-2583-3748

You can also get here by going to Mo Chit Skytrain station and then it’s a 10km taxi ride – but why would you bother when the river trip is so much part of the experience.

Open: Daily from 11am to 11pm, with last orders at 10pm.

Note: If you’re not a regular to BKK then take the advice and make sure you send a lunch-box down to your boatman at the restaurant and if you buy food and drinks on the canals then share with him too. Sometimes when you are enjoying yourself these things slip your mind.

Double Happiness – One of the good restaurants in SoHo…

Review:

Double Happiness is tiny.  Many an evening has ended in frustration when it’s full, I’m starving, and I’m left wracking my brains about where else I can get tasty East Asian food in SoHo that’s not going to set me back a packet and where I don’t have to traipse up and down the hill in my Botega Venettas (I sometimes live in in Sai Ying Pun, so Soho is on the way home from work otherwise I would rarely go for dinner – I have a love/hate relationship with Soho, I think it’s filled with braying, short-term-expat-swill for the most part, and the bulk of restaurants are over-priced, but there are a few really decent bars and restaurants – for example my other favourite pub 1911 is on on Staunton Street. But enough! that’s a whole other post).

This cafe serves super tasty home-style, mainland rather than Canto Chinese, and does so at reasonable prices.

Food: Mainland Chinese with a few Italian/French additions, which I must admit I haven’t been drawn to myself. They make a mean Sichuan prawns, delicious green jade bamboo shoots, awesome chicken with black beans, and rocking soups made with stocks that have been lovingly tended for days by the taste.

Drinks: Inneresting list of teas and other hot and cold juices, basic range of beers.

Ambience: Red, red, more red. Stuffed with all sorts of nicknacks with the Double Happiness character on them, I’m always tempted to grab the old-school oversize matchbox and run away – it would look perfick on my kitchen shelving.  It’s cute, it’s tiny. It’s got small, hard wooden chairs and narrow tables, so it’s always a bit of balancing act not least for my arse, but also to keep all the dishes on the table as we tend to order a lot.

Service: Family feel, very swift and pleasant.  Unfortunately for buffoons like myself who speak almost no Canto I’ve got no insight into the background of the restaurant/the eclectic mix on the menu as the guys don’t speak a massive amount of English either.

Cost: Reasonable. It’s not cheapest of cheap, but definitely good value for money in Soho. Dinner for 2 comes in at between $170 to $250 per head, my advice is to get a crew together and go gangbusters as the portions are big and there are so many items on the menu you will want to try.

Location: 48 Staunton Street, Central, on the part of the street that’s further on from where Elgin Street veers steeply off to the left. 2549 1862

Open: Monday to Saturday lunch through dinner. Sunday dinner only. Jesus Hongkees work hard.

Peking Garden – good for non-Canto Chinese food

13 March 2012

Due to a decision to rate any restaurant that serves sharks fin as caustic from now on, Peking Garden changes from SuperCandy to Caustic.

Review:

Since my favourite Sichuan restaurant closed in Causeway Bay -and it took me two years to find that it had just moved to Central (San Xi Lou) – I always struggled to find a suitable alternative when I’m not in the mood for Canto. Peking Garden became an interim venue of choice. Embarrassingly it was a friend from visiting from the UK who first suggested we go!

Peking Garden

It’s a bit more posh that I would usually choose for an everyday supper, but it’s very stylish, well decorated, comfortable and they bring out special chaps to make noodles for entertainment (so thin they can pass through the eye of a darning needle as they like to demonstrate to the oos and ahs of the assembled tourists).

I likey.

Food: Northern Chinese, got some heat and spice in there, serves one of the best Peking ducks in HK (leaves Quanjude spinning in the dust, thank god it’s closed in Wanchai), dan dan noodles, and a great hot and sour soup (in fact all their soups are tip top). Good menu (if you ignore the shark’s fin section). Food is very well executed: clean and crisp.

Drinks: Lots of tea options, beers and a pretty extensive wine list (I still haven’t moved off beer with Chinese food).

Service:  It’s a bit abrupt, but then so it is in most Chinese restaurants.  Food comes pretty swiftly though so no complaints there. Boys usually appreciate the lovely receptionists who wear skirts slashed to the hip joint…

Ambience:  It’s actually quite sumptuous.  Try and get a table in the main room which is on the left as you walk in, it’s got super high ceilings so coupled with the thick carpets it’s less noisy and the tables are much further apart from the room at the back. Resist the temptation to steal the crockery, it’s really pretty stuff.  I like to bring guests to HK here, everyone seems to enjoy it.

Price:  Good value for such surroundings. The thing about this restaurant is that you can spend as little or as much as you like.  We can go in for supper for two and spend $150 a head, or we can go in and spend $400 a head, the price of dishes varies that much – obviously much better with large groups though so you can get loads of dishes. I’ve always wondered why Chinese restaurants don’t serve two different sizes of all dishes so that smaller groups can order more stuff – I’m sure people would end up spending more money.

Location:  Very convenient, in the basement of Alexandra House on Chater Road. The MTR exit spits you out almost straight into it. Shop B1, Basement 1, Alexandra House, Central. Tel. +852 2526 6456.

Open:  Lunch and dinner every day.

Think there is now a branch in Pacific Place as well if I noted correctly as I ran past the other day.  It’s a Maxim’s joint so makes sense for it to be, I think there are 3 or 4 in total around HK.

Cafe de Laos, Bangkok – Bring me my sossidge.

Review:

If you haven’t been to Laos, then you really should.  It is a beautiful, simple, spiritual place with awesomely hot food, and one particular dish that I will kill for – Laos sausage (the very good ones in Thai Hut in Wanchai, still pale in comparison to the real thing).

Laos

If you need some more convincing then the next time you’re in Bangkok go try the food.  There are a few Laotian/Isaan restaurants in BKK, the most well known one being Vientiane Kitchen.  We were put off this one by the concierge and the fact that they have a band and dancing, which isn’t really my bag, so instead we went for Cafe de Laos.

Cafe de Laos

Food: Very tasty food.  Laos sausage-tastic.  These are rustic, garlicky slightly fermented sausages served with fresh coriander leaves, slices of chili and peanuts.  Bloody love them.  The beer marinated pork neck and  jungle curry were also really good. Quite a lot of interesting dishes with more of a bent towards river fish and shellfish rather than seafood as Laos is landlocked, so flavours are quite delicate.  DO tell them that you eat food hot like they do, otherwise they will tone down on the chillis for sure, thinking that you are a useless nancy farang.

Drinks: They serve Beer Lao which is always a bonus.  They even have a wine list, although I’m not really up for pairing Laos food with wine yet.  Beer is perfect for me!

Ambience: Restaurant is in an old colonial house, and it’s pleasant enough, but the main ground floor room where we ate was rather bright and lacked any vibe at all, which is a shame because the food is very good.  There is also a lot of wood and tiles, so very little material that damps down noise.  You do feel a bit like you are in a National Trust tea-room in the UK.

Service: Service was a little slow, and fortunately for us they actually forgot one dish which was fine as we were stuffed.

Price: Very reasonable, can’t remember exactly, but it was very good value for the quality of food.

Location: In Silom, 16 Silom Road Soi 19. Tel +662 6352 3389

There are a few more Laos and Isaan restaurants in Bangkok which I would try over going back to this restaurant, simply because I believe there must be somewhere with better ambience.  Can’t fault the food though.

Peninsula Bangkok – Surprisingly Convenient

Review:

As the credit crunch was starting to bite me in the butt we booked a 72 hour package to BKK rather than book flights and hotel separately as usual. I was a little apprehensive as for non-business travel I don’t like large hotels.  Have to say that the package was very good value for money, and the Peninsula turned out to be a really good choice.

Rooms: Could do with an update, especially lacking in techno gadgets. Large, comfortable, clean but a bit tired round the edges and very early 90s pastels. Each room looks out across the River Praya and the views really are cool.

Bangkok Skyline from the Pen

Bangkok Skyline from the Pen

Service:  Very good service, and the concierge was top notch.  Pointed us to a couple of really good restaurants, booked cinema tickets for us, organised a boatman to take us on a trip round the klongs and then up to Suan Thip for lunch.

Price: Part of a package, and was good value.

Facilities:  Nice gardens and pool, 5* so gym, business centres etc. I did get my legs waxed in the beauty salon and it was fine but massively expensive.  Think I paid HK$600!

Restaurants/Bars: No interest in eating inside the hotel. Did go to the whiskey bar for a night cap one evening, pretty decent jazz singer, cosy etc.

Location:  On first glance I though the location was going to be a nightmare. So far as I was concerned it was the wrong side of the river and too far south from all the locations I usually go to: Siam Square, Sukhumvit etc. In fact it was great.  The Pen has a little boat that takes you over to the Skytrain on the opposite bank, and then the Skytrain takes you to within 10mins of most places you would ever want to go.  Unless it’s late at night, it really isn’t worth getting a taxi in BKK, so your accomm does need to be very close to the Skytrains or underground to get about (or be wildly irresponsible and take motorbike taxis).

All in all, for a large hotel with little charm, it had top notch service, great views and convenient transport links.