Food Trippin’ The Michelin Star Way

I guess it’s a pretty known fact that HK is one of my favorite destinations abroad – it’s just a two-hour flight (shorter than going to Fairview from Makati on a weeknight), and it has theme parks (kid at heart here!), shopping (hello, outlet stores!), and perhaps the best reason of all: it is a paradise for foodies like me.

For my trip with my friends last holiday season, we wanted it to be as laid back as possible, and maybe sneak in a couple of tourist spots. But our main agenda was, yes, you guessed it: FOOD.

And we couldn’t even wait until we stepped out of the airport. First stop – the one Michelin star Ho Hung Kee. We were initially planning on going to their main outlet over at Hysan Place in Causeway Bay but as we where about to step out of the airport, we noticed that there is actually a Ho Hung Kee right there!

We weren’t really that hungry so we just got some shrimp siomai, noodles, and of course, their world famous congee.

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To be honest, I am not a dimsum fan. In fact, I don’t even like Chinese food that much (or maybe, I grew up eating too much of it that I had grown too used to it). But their siomai was so good. Ever thought of how some siomais tend to rely on their main ingredient, like if it’s pork, it’s just the pork that carries the entire dish? Well, the meat of this one was equal parts sweet and salty, and the shrimp was fresh and tender and not gummy at all. Even the yellow wrap was very tasty – I wanted to cut the siomai into different parts so I could taste each. And the crab roe added a nice texture to the siomai. I didn’t even need my usual soy sauce/chili/calamansi mix!

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We couldn’t decide on what noodle dish to get so we got the house specialty wonton noodles in soup. The wonton was good! Same with the siomai, the wrapper itself was tasty. And, the noodles were also a bit sweet! A welcome surprise as I had gotten used to salty noodles. Plus, the dish itself was very heavy – we split all our food into three parts but we still could not finish everything.

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For our finale – we got their abalone, pork and chicken congee. I was expecting a lot from their congee since this was what got them on the Michelin list. But, I was quite taken aback that it was… Sweet. The porridge was a little too sweet for my taste, and the rice too fine that it felt like I was eating puree. I had to drizzle pepper and salt on mine before I could eat it. It was good and tasty, with the individual ingredients all accounted for in terms of taste and yet creating a whole that was greater than each part but, maybe for my Pinoy tastebuds, it wasn’t what I was expecting in a congee. I was expecting something along the lines of my beloved arroz caldo with all its ginger, chicken, salt, and atsuete seed coloring but got something like ginataan malagkit, minus the coconut and a tad less sweet.

All in all, I would still recommend Ho Hung Kee, if only to experience that authentic congee and dimsum. And, for a Michelin-rated restaurant, the price was pretty much hard to beat: our entire meal only costs us about HK$600, with drinks.

(Watch out for the next parts of my HK Food Trip!)

 

Food Trip: Lilac Street

Hubby and I love to eat and while we do have our favorites, there are just so many new places to try. One particular weekend, I got bored and decided to drag him to Marikina – one of those not quite under the radar yet not quite mainstream foodie havens that we have not yet explored. One particular place got my attention because, well, how can you not be curious when it’s got a name as pretty as lilac?

Lilac Street is one long strip dotted with quaint restos, cafes, and bars. We got there mid-afternoon and spent a couple of minutes driving up and down the street until we decided on a cluster of three restos near the end of the strip. One offered Filipino food (based on the name), another offered pizza, pasta and steaks, and a third offered street food.

Hubby and I were quite famished as we haven’t eaten anything and it was past 3PM, so we went to Leon’s Bistro to have a very late brunch.

First off: nachos supreme, a steal at Php 135. The presentation immediately piqued me, as it was served on a wooden board instead of the usual bowl. And the toppings of beef, veggies (crispy fresh!), and cheese was so generous; serving was generous too, as it was enough for three grown adults. 😋

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I normally avoid ordering pasta in new restos since I often get disappointed but since this was a food trip after all, I figured, why not risk it?

Well, one bite and I knew the gamble paid off: I got the aglio olio with anchovies and sundried tomatoes, another steal at Php 160. I loved how perfectly done the pasta was and how the anchovies and tomatoes perfectly complemented each other. I hate tomatoes in general, but this was just too perfect. The only comment I have is that the bread was rather too hard, like it has been microwaved too long and left to harden. Other than that, I actually finished the entire order as it was that good.

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The hubby, upon seeing the menu, quickly settled on the most high-blood inducing dish available: bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin medallion with mashed potato, which, at Php 330, is also the most expensive they have to offer.

Meat on meat can be too much for other people, including me, but the bacon and beef medallion were so perfectly soft and juicy, yet well-done. And the gravy was a good foil, a bit salty with a dash of pepper. I honestly wanted to grab the plate from hubby. Haha.

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Anyway, we enjoyed what we got so far, so much that we decided to order the baby back ribs, Php 225, which was another hit. Seriously, I want to find out how they make the meat so tender, juicy and tasty, that we didn’t even need the sauce that came with it.image

Leon’s also offers dessert but we wanted to try the Urban Street next door, which offered, quite obviously, street food. I mean, the last place I have been to that offered grilled isaw was the Mercato Centrale in BGC, and that was out in the open with all the smoke wafting in and around you (no, I am not complaining, but for a person like me who is allergic to dust, smoke, sweat, and scents, that can be an ordeal). This place offered the same food in the airconditioned comfort of a rustic little neighborhood tambayan.

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Anyway, we got a bit predictable and ordered the Manila Stret Food Tusok Tusok, Php 75, a plate of fish and squid balls and kikiam with sweet and chili sauces. I haven’t had fish balls in years!

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We’ve been dying to try their churros since spying it on the blackboard outside and it did not disappoint either. Crunchy and sugary on the outside, yet soft, buttery and creamy on the inside, this is, I think, one of the best churros this side of town. And when dunked in the chocolate dip, it made me forget all about my diet plans.

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But let’s save the best for last: their frozen salted caramel cheesecake, Php 110, with Himalayan pink salt. It is to die for. How come no one thought of freezing cheesecake before?!? It was so good the hubby forgot about me and ate off the last morsel as I was busy saving photos.

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I wasn’t really expecting much from our food trip but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m already thinking of next week, and maybe driving all the way to Antipolo for a little cool breeze. And the best part? For three adults, we spent a total of less than Php 1,500 for our lunch and dessert, including glasses of fresh iced tea. That’s quite hard to beat if you eat at a mall. I am definitely coming back.

Vienna: The Pursuit of the Sacher Torte

Vienna may be famous for music but there is one other thing it is famous for: the sacher torte, aka the most famous chocolate cake in the whole world. So famous in fact, that December 5 has been designated as National Sachertorte Day.

The sachertorte actually has royal beginnings. Back in 1832, Prince Wenzel von Metternich asked his chef to come up with a special dessert for his royal guests and the chef’s young apprentice, Franz Sacher, came up with this chocolate cake.

It didn’t immediately gain the fame it would later have until Franz’ son, Eduard, tweaked and perfected the torte during his training at the Demel bakery where it was first served, and later on at the Hotel Sacher, which was established by Eduard.

Anyway, now the torte is served in various cafes and pastry shops all over Vienna and my friends and I set out to eat just about all the versions of it that our tummies could handle. First stop: Aida.

Aida is quite hard to miss as there are almost three dozen shops all over. Its pastel pink interiors with its name written in big cursive letters and the undeniable scent of confectioner’s sugar and coffee drifting out of its windows stand out amidst all those historical buildings.

I am quite a predictable coffee drinker in that I prefer the traditional flavours – which is probably why I felt right at home there: I got myself a nice cup of cappuccino to wake me up for our 1st morning in Vienna, and a fruity tart to go with it. Coffee was good, not outstanding but I could definitely get used to it.

IMG_4126We also tried their apfelstrudel (apple pie), which was quite different from the apple pies I’m used to; it was starchy and not overflowing with crunchy apples. But with a nice scoop cream, it more than made me a happy camper.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAida is famous for its wide array of tortes (or cakes), and since we were in in Vienna, why not try their version of the sachertorte? And at the risk of sounding cliche, we also tried the Mozart Torte, a dark chocolate sponge cake with nougat and pistacchio marzipan all topped with fondant icing. It even had a chocolate button with Mozart’s profile on it!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur quest for the sachertorte didn’t end at Aida. We also tried the sachertorte at the Gloriette of the Schonbrunn, which tasted okay, though I found it a bit too dry for my taste.

IMG_4131As I mentioned earlier,the recipe for the sachertorte was perfected by Eduard during his training at Demel so I knew we had to find this bakery. It took as a bit of going around side streets and alleyways with hard to read much less pronounce names, but thanks to our trusty trip advisor app, we found it a few blocks away from our hotel at the St. Stephensplatz.

Now, there had been legal battles surrounding the sachertorte – after all, Eduard served it in his Hotel Demel (which later filed for bankruptcy) while the “original sachertorte” was offered by Demel. When his widow Anna died and the Hotel Demel filed for bankruptcy, his son Eduard (yeah, same name) became an employee at Demel, bringing with him the right for the Eduard Sachertorte. Anyway, the two establishments slugged it out in court until they finally settled it by letting the Hotel Sacher have the rights to use “the original sachertorte” while Demel was given the rights to put triangular seals on their cakes bearing the words “Eduard Sachertorte.”

Demel was packed! I don’t remember anymore if there was a third floor, but we found ourselves sharing a small table at the 2nd floor of the building. And of course, we got the sachertorte and apfelstrudel. Their version of the former had one layer of jam between the chocolate icing and sponge portion. It’s not your usual chocolate cake, since it is not fluffy or chocolatey sweet but rather dense and has a light tinge of bitter cocoa that saves it from being overwhelming.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe apfelstrudel at Demel was better than at Aida’s, perhaps because I found it had more apples and had a nice sprinkling of powdered sugar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince we’ve tried just about all versions of the sachertorte in Vienna, we couldn’t let our visit end without going to the Hotel Sacher now, can we?

The Hotel Sacher, a five-star hotel in the vicinity of the plaza, serves sachertortes that are made using the secret recipe that Franz Sacher created almost two hundred years ago. Hundreds of thousands of sachertortes are made almost entirely by hand by its staff every year, to be served in its cafes and restaurants, or bought as souvenirs. They also accept orders (even online!) which can be shipped to various cities all over the world.

IMG_4140This version of the famous cake has not one but two layers of jam compared which I loved, since it broke the monotony of too much chocolate. I also found it fluffier and more moist (at least as moist a cake in Vienna could probably get), and therefore, more to my liking. IMG_4139Well, of all the sachertortes I’ve tasted, I’d give my money to Hotel Sacher, since I prefer the taste of their chocolate (dark and smoother) and their fluffier sponge cake. Plus, the ambience is perfect for catching up with friends without the crowd.

Now, I wonder if they ship to Manila? 😀

Foodtrip: Chef du Partie At Rockwell

I have this affinity for all things French: my favorite shoes and clothing brands, macarons, Paris…So I was really excited to try Chef du Partie, or CDP, with my favorite travel buddies.

Chef du Partie means line or station cook, and is third in command in the kitchen, after the head chef and the sous chef. As the name suggests, he is in charge of a particular area or department of production. Well, I don’t know why the owners named this quaint little resto in Rockwell Chef du Partie but it’s French so count me in.

I have been craving for French onion soup for the longest time but sadly, there aren’t that many places serving a decent version of this. My favorite is from Cafe Adriatico but the nearest one is still quite a drive away. Imagine my happiness when I got to CDP and found that my friend Leah had ordered this particular soup for us (we’re both light eaters so we usually share). I liked that it’s not very thick and overpowering, and while it is onion soup, there was enough mix of cheese and soup that I didn’t feel choked (some restos tend to overdo their onion soup). imageFor starters, we got the Fritto Misto, a plate of fried tawilis, squid and shrimp. I am forever a fan of these three – allergies be damned. And for someone to actually combine them in one plate? Psychic. Aside from the obvious love at first bite, I loved that the taste of each individual ingredient wasn’t overpowered by starchy breading. I wish I had a plate of boiled spinach though – I always eat my tawilis with spinach on rainy days. Yum.

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Our next plate was the truffle macaroni. I read somewhere that anything with truffle in it should be approached with caution, and we did. This little dish looked deceptively simple which is probably why we enjoyed it – light flavoring from the truffle paste and cream and the salty dried taste of parma ham. Serving was quite big too, as even with three of us, we weren’t able to finish it.imageOur main dish, the Sancoccho, was just what your grandmother would prescribe when you’re down with the flu: a big bowl of chicken, beef and pork stew (an updated version of the bulalo with chicken and pork) served with brown rice and avocado toppings. Perfect comfort food. I think we finished this right down to the last strip of meat. imageThis last dish is probably something you would not expect me to eat. To be honest, when one of my friends ordered this, I wanted to protest because I could not imagine myself eating Pig Ear Fries. Yes, you read that right – pig ears. But surprisingly, this was the hit of the night. It was crispy, tasty…and a bit moist. While I loved the taste and mixed with the anchovy vinaigrette, it was heavenly, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was eating pig’s ears…and all those eeky things inside. Hahaha!

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I was having a rotten week, and a particulalry rotten day, so qdrinks were in order. Fine, I am just making an excuse to have a drink or teo – ever since our European adventure last summer, we’ve taken to having drinks with our meals. And we were quite interested to taste the cremant-based cocktails at CDP. Cremant refers to sparkling wine that is made following the same method of fermentation as champagne, but using different varieties of grapes. I suppose it’s also a simple way to refer to sparkling wine made elsewhere than Champagne.

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Anyway, most of the bubbly in the menu appeared to be bitter, so we opted for the rosalee, a mixture of cremant, tanqueray gin, rose water and lychee liquor. It tasted strongly of gin, quite bitter, with the tiniest hint of lychee. I doubt that it has a high alcoholic content though, as I didn’t feel tipsy at all but my friends have low tolerance so we shared the mug of rosalee. The mug is quite big, so it is good for sharing which is a big plus in my book. 😃

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Overall, I loved the casual yet chic setting, perfect for catching up with friends, and the unique menu and drink selection assures you of having somehing new to try – heck, I ate pig ears!