The One With #OccupyCentral

Many of you have heard stories and news about the #OccupyCentral movement in Hong Kong. This amorphous, leaderless and grassroot protest is sweeping major business and commercial districts as I type this, and I am proud and honoured to share that I was on the ground with the people last night.

The decision to take part was not a complicated one. For the record, I do not agree with the #OccupyCentral's objectives and philosophies. What turned on my dismay and anger was the unnecessary and over-the-top violent stance taken by the authority when they clashed with the largely peaceful protesters on the street last Sunday.

So I joined the throngs of ordinary citizens and residents on the street at the first chance I got. I started at Causeway Bay, where a large crowd was growing, with people seated on both sides of the street. There were people pushing trolleys with food and supplies (which reminded me of inflight service!), people offering me plastic bag (for sitting on the wet pavement) and wet towel, and people holding up placards in multiple languages reminding protesters to keep calm, be alert, stay peaceful, fight for democracy etc etc.

I slowly made my way out of Causeway Bay, into Wan Chai MTR station and headed to Central, where an even larger crowd was gathered on the expressway. As clueless and directionless as I was, I found myself within sight of Tamar, the government headquarter which was the scene of clash on Sunday. Self-appointed leaders with loudhailers advised the crowd on what to do in case of a police crackdown, weather warnings, and development from other spots of the protests. That night, Hong Kong-ers in their tens of thousands occupied Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok.

I sat on the ground and watched as the people came and went around me but never leaving the street empty. At where I was there wasn't any spontaneous singing or cheering; a calm and orderly atmosphere prevailed, with applause breaking out every now and then as motorcycles brought supplies to resource stations and foreigner kids shouted their support for Hong Kong.

There was a moment when a sea of lights lighted up from one end of the protest to the other. There wasn't any loud cheering or singing - just a show of hands of people seeking for democracy. And they numbered in their thousands.

After spending five hours on the street, we decided to call it a night. I walked from Central all the way to Causeway Bay (for a much needed Ichiran break) and then Happy Valley. Along the way I see my fellow "comrades" - people dressed in black with a yellow ribbon, moving along the empty streets of Hong Kong. At one point heaven opened and it poured, and it was then a sea of umbrellas and I was reminded how the humble brollie has become the icon for the movement, when it was used as protection against pepper spray and tear gas last Sunday.

It was a surreal experience. Throughout the night and the few days leading up to it, I have learned a lot about my home city and its people. What I saw - see - is a land of hope and determination, of resilience and perseverance, and of dignity and faith. Though I do not think the movement will achieve the result it wants, it has already done one thing well - that is to remind, rebuild and reinforce the love Hong Kong citizens and residents (like yours truly) have for their home city.

And that is a major victory.

The One With A Bulging Waistline

waistline

Today I finally bit the bullet.

I couldn’t hide from the fact anymore. Getting ready for the day every morning has turned from delight to dread. In the space of mere months (nine, in fact), I have ballooned by two inches on the waistline, one shirt size larger and unmitigated shame on the weighing scale.

Sucking in my tummy has been a daily grit, hour on the hour. Friends after friends expressed concern on my transformation. I am blessed, the excuse went. Prosperous and happy, so they were told.

But it remains deep inside I am not happy.

So I decided to do something drastic about it. I bought an entire new wardrobe, one size larger, and modified all my pants and suits. As a cruel act of reminder of the man I have become, I deliberately went for the most uncreative and boring set of clothes that is totally not my style. While I will be comfortable in my own clothes – I took some much needed little joy from that – it will also be a daily reminder that work needs to be done. Plenty of them, to get back to where I was.

I have learned that it takes a different set of courage to admit your own shortcomings. I reckon it will take a whole different of determination to reverse what has been done.

The One With W Hotel “Sweet / Spiral” Afternoon T Buffet – Leisurely Tea With Class

I had never regretted going back to W Hotel, time and time again.

There’s just some kind of magic going on between the hotel and I. I loved the funky, impressive deco and their pun-tastic tagline they have for almost everything. So when there was an opportunity to try their afternoon tea buffet on a weekend, I jumped at the chance.

W Hotel WOOBAR’s "SWEET / SPIRAL" Afternoon T Buffet

The brainchild of W’s new culinary director Chef Alain Allaire, the buffet was like summer on a table – as it was. More than twenty different savoury and sweet items were available, displayed inviting in a riot of red, orange and yellow.

As with any buffet, there were bounds to be some hits and misses, and sure enough I preferred some of the selections much more than the others. The goat cheese puff with sundried tomato, pistachio and peach got my vote for it’s rich, contrasting flavours in such a tiny package.

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The One With Butchers Club Deli – Meat Sweat-ed & Lovin’ It

I was perspiring rather heavily, partly because of the weather, partly because there was so much meat involved, I had to stand up and walk about in the middle of the meal.

The Butchers Club Deli

The scene was at The Butchers Club Deli, the latest addition to The Butchers Club located at a nondescript industrial building along Wong Chuk Hang road. Sharing the same space as ED1TUS (Hong Kong’s first luxury fashion and lifestyle showroom for men), the restaurant is a New York-style deli by day, and a private dining room by night. A huge 7,000 square foot garden with BBQ facilities and some 500 seats will be opened later this year.

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The One With Ho Lee Fook – Holy F*cking Good

I wrote the title of this post in case you missed the homonym of the cheeky name for a certain expletive, like I did. I honestly thought Ho Lee Fook was one of those trendy restaurants in Soho with a penchant for Asian names. Literally translated as “good fortune in the mouth”, Ho Lee Fook is third restaurant of Taiwan-born chef Jowett Yu. To give the restaurant its playful vibe, Yu collaborated with Douglas Young of G.O.D to come up with the many touches of off-beat Asian funkiness, including its name sake.

It was weekday night when a group of us #hkfoodbloggers descended into the basement of this Soho shop for a night of good food and great companionship. We literally ordered the entire menu, so I am in the position to tell you that, like most popular opinions, the food at Ho Lee Fook was as good as it looks despite all the cheeky sounding names.

Ho Lee Fook

Perhaps one of the key things you should know about Chef Yu is his obsession with sauces. We requested for a platter of these and he happily obliged. From extreme right, going clockwise – lemongrass chili paste, fresh chili, pickled chili, roasted black almond chili, chili sambal, salted chili, chili oil, and XO sauce at the center. I sampled each one and loved the zesty lemongrass chili paste the best. Gimme a huge bowl of rice with that.

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The One With The Pasta Place – Hearty Family Dishes

It has been slightly more than two years since I moved out from Sheung Wan, and it is increasingly evident that the moment I move out of a place, restaurants and cafes will start to pop up all over my ex-neighbourhood, like mushrooms after a rainy season. While it certainly heartens me that so many hip places are opening in Sheung Wan, it maddens me somewhat that the trend did not happen while I was living there.

That was a long preamble.

I was trying to tell you about a new cafe in the neighbourhood which I visited earlier this year. A touch of New York City has arrived in the form of the Big Apple’s comfort food and authentic Italian dishes, all at very reasonable prices.

The Pasta Place

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The One With Old Bazaar Kitchen – Timeless Oldie Favourites

There is good food, and then then there is really good food.

I can’t remember the last time I gushed this much over a meal. It was completely unexpected and a gem of a find really. Upon some research, I discovered that Old Bazaar Kitchen has a long history with a prior location in Tin Hau that shuttered its door in 2012, only to re-emerged in Wanchai. The waitstaff was unfailingly polite and extreme helpful, and the boss, Angel Cheung was quick to help us with the menu. Since there were only two of us, we decided to go for three dishes. And lucky we did, for the portion is nothing short of enormous.

Old Bazaar Kitchen

Cold squid – I greeted this dish with an unmanly gasp. The squid was easily the length of my arm! Skillfully cut and plated, this simple squid was fresh, crunchy and succulent. I though I had good squid but this blew everything else before out of the water. Served with a choice of either wasabi or chilli sauce, I reckon this gorgeous baby serves at least four.

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The One With Seasons By Olivier Elzer – Immaculate French Cuisine

I had always liked to dine in front of an open kitchen. The upclose experience watching your meal being cooked by a crew of kitchen staffs so well trained, it’s like watching the food version of an amazing classical concert. Every one has a part to play, perfectly in rhythm, with verses and tunes seamless weaving in between each other, conducted by a conductor aka the head chef.

Seasons by Olivier Elzer

The Restaurant

The head chef in question tonight was one Olivier Elzer, a kitchen extraordinaire with a credential so sparkling, it’s hard not to get your hopes up dining at his very own restaurant. The three-Michelin-star chef’s latest foray in Lee Garden, Causeway Bay packs much promises for those who love French food, or simply good food.

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The One With The Butchers Club Burgers – It’s No Place For A Diet

I couldn’t remember the last time I had burger this good.

The Butchers Club Burgers

Imagine this – a packed corner shop with hard, tall stools and sharp edged tables. A roaring kitchen doing a brisk trade and a bustling crew of waiters serving trays of burgers and fries. I was eating standing up – partly because I figured I would use less space that way, and because I expect my waistline to dangerously expand after some serious burger-guzzling.

Which I did. And it did.

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The One With Shanghai Lo – Surprising Restaurant Packing Quite A Punch

It wasn’t exactly love at first sight.

As we stepped into the restaurant, the somewhat gloomy interior and dark furnishing reminded me strongly (for some strange reasons) of a karaoke lounge. Granted, Shanghai Lo is probably very new, and the deco – contemporary Chinese with hard straight lines exuded a vibe of privacy and seclusion. The cubicle tables comfortably seats four though most were used by couples, and I saw some very promising private rooms perfect for a small group gatherings. It was buzzy without being too noisy.

The One With Shanghai Lo

But I wasn’t there to comment on its interior. The tasting menu ($368 per pax) looked very pretty good, so we went for those.

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