An eerie silence permeates the night.
As I walk down the muddy path from the edge of the forest where our cab left us, I look up into the clear sky and see stars. My awe is shortlived as suddenly, something dashes across our path into the bushes just to the left. I curse under my breathe and strain my eyes looking for the sign. Any sign. To be honest, at that time of the night, a sign of another human being would be a welcome sight.
If this sounds like a scene from Indiana Jones, I don’t blame you. I feel like one. I am at a God-forsaken village in the middle of nowhere in Sai Kung, where bus stops running and only cabs can reach. Street lights are far and few in between, and as the night deepens I am eager to reach my destination.
Where’s that, you ask? Why, a food place, of course. A seafood private kitchen, to be exact. Only that I am armed only with an address (in Chinese!) and Google Map isn’t of much help.
It is hard to believe that, half an hour after that dramatic scene, I am seated at a table for ten, sipping red wine and wishing the birthday boy the best of luck for the year ahead. The private kitchen we are at is quite elusive and known to a precious few.
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I will be the first to admit; I like my food stuffed.
It doesn’t matter if it is Chinese, Indian, Christmas, Chinese New Year, I do like things stuffed in things. Case in point; Thanksgiving turkey. Isn’t it wonderful to stuff the birds with all sort of goodies, and drench it with delicious gravy?
Spanish Piquillo pepper stuffed with seafood.
So when I encountered this Spanish Piquillo pepper stuffed with seafood (boiled fish and crunchy shrimps), I was in heaven.
Papada de cerdo al vino tinto.
The place – Eclectic, the new kid on the Spanish private kitchen block. Located in Sheung Wan, the place can be a challenge to find, but once you crossed the threshold, you will be transported to someone’s home.
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I have been meaning to write about this place since ages ago. Ages ago – as in since I started food blogging. I discovered this place during my first month in Hong Kong, courtesy of some local friends whom brought me there one weekday night.
There were many reasons why I didn’t manage to write about it. Firstly, for the life of me I couldn’t remember where the place was. I had to rely on my (less than stellar) photographic memory to recall the street, shops and lobby before rediscovering the place.
Secondly, the place has no English name. I tried asking my friends to translate it, but the Chinese name is goddamn long it was impossible. Hence there is no way for me to “research” for its exact location.
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I have been living in Hong Kong for almost three years now, and the term “private kitchen” still puzzles me. Is this the name given to residential flats converted to quasi-restaurants serving a select table of discerning diners? Or a place with too few tables that, with their popularity, their waiting lists are at least weeks-long? Or, or… are private kitchens just that – a kitchen in a house, a private residential address, a handful of regular customers?
Maybe my more experienced foodies will be able able to shed light into this, but for now, let me share with you a gem of a find I had in the heart of Lan Kwai Fong.
And I do mean in the heart of Lan Kwai Fong. To reach Fa Zu Jie (法租界) was also part and parcel of its mystic and experience. Snaking your way round unassuming stalls, down suspicious looking alleyways, climbing the most unlikely looking staircases, even your iPhone GPS and printed maps may be of little use.
So, what do you do? Follow your nose. When you are confronted with a nondescript door with the unmistakable smell of delicious cooking and faint clinking of champagne glasses, you do what your gut tells you.
Stepping into Fa Zu Jie is like attending a party where you know nobody yet you feel right at home. The immaculate space, with its glassroofed backyard and open kitchen, could comfortably seats 30 patrons on a busy day. And it was a busy night.
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