When DJ Dennis finally has time to meet up with me for an overdue birthday celebration, we opted for a place that is convenient for both of us – the newly opened Aji Yakitori in Happy Valley.
This tiny restaurant can at most seat 20 pax at one time, with tables and chairs packed along the corridor next to its open kitchen, all the way to space at the back. Servings were attentive (though I do think they are a little overstaffed), but it was certainly in a good way.
The menu… oh, the menu. They must have close to a hundred different items of yakitori, and since I am rather noob to this food category I random selected items which seems interesting. All of them turned out to be great – of particular mention is the grilled puffer fish which was fragrant and sweet. The Japanese liquor drink list is pretty good too. Price wise it can be on the high side, but then again, it’s quality food, and this is Happy Valley.
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I have been eating round a lot in Happy Valley lately, trying out new places and venturing into unfamiliar restaurants. Though I have been here for almost two years now, it wasn’t until I have a buddy to do this with did I dig into with gusto recently :)
Oyster Island, without a doubt, was one of those little secret of Happy Valley that came as a pleasant surprise. Tucked at the end of a quiet road in the Valley, the restaurant was quiet looking for an eve-of-public-holiday-night. But the other half wanted oysters, so in we went into the blue, mysterious looking restaurant.
All was well. Because we were the only occupied table, service was attentive and we felt very comfortable with the wait staff. To start off the night, we pondered over the selection of oysters available, and opted for the lighter and sweeter variety, Rocky Bay and Namibia, to the denser, heavier tasting Gillerdeau and Sydney Rock.
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The other half was craving for xiao long bao (steamed pork dumplings) one night, and I vaguely recall a Shanghainese restaurant in the valley that I never dared to venture into. In fact, there are quite a couple of places in Happy Valley that I always shy away from because… because their menus are in Chinese. Or so I thought.
Well, the menu at Shanghai Lane was bilingual. Who would have thought! This brightly lit restaurant was abuzz with milling waiters and hungry patrons, though it wasn’t packed and we were seated at possible the prime spot – a table for four right by the window. The service was super efficient when our first order arrived at the table less than five minutes after we ordered, so I suspected mediocre food. But boy was I in for a surprise!
We ordered a portion of the dan dan noodles in chilli sauce to be shared. I loved the peanut-y taste in the broth of dan dan noodles, and the version at Shanghai Lane didn’t disappoint. We slurped up every last strand of noodles in an attempt to get all the delicious, slightly spicy broth. In retrospect we should have just ordered two portions of that.
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So I missed hanging out with a certain dear friend of mine. He has been traveling, and I have been, you know, in and out of hospital (it’s a long story), so when he texted to arrange for a long overdue catch-up session, I said yes. Happy Valley Bar & Grill was my choice.
The decision was two-fold. First of all, I have been to this pub twice before, both times with different people but for the same reason – to chill. And chill we did. Happy Valley Bar & Grill has one of the largest beer selection I have seen apart from The Globe. As Happy Valley isn’t connected to any train station and is only accessible by buses and trams, we do not suffer endless crowds and was able to enjoy relatively serene surroundings… coming from a someone who resides on HK Island, that’s a rarity.
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So after some misses with Na Thai, I was finally able to make pay a visit for dinner one weekend night. Na Thai has been on my foodie radar for some time, and I do need a great Thai food spot to nurse that occasional craving. It is rather near to my place, and came recommended by a fellow food lover. Her recommendation has yet to stray far from being excellent, and this time it was no different.
Yum Pla Duk Fu – Deep Fried Crispy Crayfish (HK$95)
The star of the night. I was half expecting whole pieces of crayfish deep fried, but what turned out was a complete surprise. The bits of crayfish were fried to a golden crisp, almost like meat floss. Tossed with a refreshing spicy mango salad and peanuts, the contrast of texture and flavour was nothing short of intoxicating. I liked that, unlike many other Thai salad, the mango salad wasn’t overwhelmingly spicy. The sour in the green mango was nicely complemented by the bits of cili padi. Be warned though – it’s unlikely that one person can finish the whole dish, so play nice and share.
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So it was my first visit to Pang’s Kitchen, one of the latest additions to Michelin Star Restaurants 2013. I have been told by fellow foodies and neighbours that Pang’s Kitchen is one of the best eats in Happy Valley. But since most of the time I eat out alone, and that the restaurant is packed to the brim almost every night, I didn’t venture in until tonight.
Was it because the the Michelin award? Truth to be told, I was more intrigued by how the owner of the restaurant, Pang Pak-sheung said when he learned that Pang’s Kitchen has received one star in the 2013 Michelin Guide. According to SCMP, his reaction was “Keep me out of this”.
Putting aside the folly of the Michelin star system in Hong Kong, I was there for a special dinner with my better half. After asking fellow foodies from #HKFoodBloggers, we ordered some of the crowd favorite.
Strawberry Pork Ribs (HK$98)
Recommended by almost everyone I spoke to, it is easy to understand why. Though this dish is rather common in Cantonese restaurants, cooking it in strawberry was certainly a first for me. Usually, “gou lou yook” is cooked with pineapples. To use strawberry instead seems like a good choice, especially for those of us who doesn’t like their meat dish too sweet. The pork was lean, deep fried with a light batter that made it quite a delight to savour. I can see why almost every table in Pang Kitchen’s had the same dish for the night.
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Honestly, I wasn’t that hungry when I walked through the door of Tasty Congee & Noodle Wantun Shop.
The night was humid, dense with anticipation of the approaching typhoon. My stomach was still hard at work deciding if the afternoon tea earlier on was worth keeping (read: else, to “repel” it, if you get my drift). I was tired after a long day. So it was the prospect of catching up with a friend and trying out a new place in Happy Valley that got me going.
Tasty Congee & Noodle Wantun Shop (what a mouthful!) looked promising from the outside. You couldn’t get any more Chinese than with waiters in costume, dark paneled wall and antique-like furniture. It was almost like the restaurant was afraid that random strangers might come through the door and not know it is a Chinese restaurant. And what’s up with the name? I mean, it can’t get anymore SEO-friendly than this… only if their website (which I won’t bother to link here) is working.
Does this sound like an opening of a bad review of this place? Quite the opposite. Tasty Congee & Noodle Wantun Shop was quite a gem, keeping true to its name sake, true and true. I found out that Tasty Congee is the second generation shop of Hong Kong’s congee and noodle expert Ho Hung Kee.
It certainly didn’t disappoint!
Fresh Fish Slices & Preserved Egg Congee (HK$46)
I was amazed by its congee menu; it was over four pages long! Cheap ones, expensive ones, simple ones, elaborate ones… the options danced in front of my tired eyes, so I decided to go for something simple. I was talking to my friend when the first spoonful, and it literally got me swooning. The congee was smooth yet not too watery, while the fresh fish slices and preserved eggs felt like dancing on my taste buds. And that was before I added a dash of pepper. Kick butt.
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Nowadays when I go out for meals, I always ask my friends to order food for everyone to share. This is because (1) I almost never go out and eat alone, and (2) if I am the ordering, I would often end up with food with familiar-sounding names.
That was my explanation during my recent dinner at Classified. Nevertheless, I was asked what would those “familiar sounding” food would be, so I obliged. I pointed at this and that, and in the end we ended up ordering almost the exact same thing.
So much for being adventurous.
The Classified outlet in Happy Valley has a very laid-back feel to it. Wooden stools, hardback chairs and an open kitchen made it felt like an all-day diner, and it was. The all day menu was only 3-4 pages, which I liked as I am one of those indecisive ones when presented with endless choices.
Roasted Pumpkin & Chorizo Salad (HK$82)
This was a good choice as starter. Served with wild leaves, green beans and vine tomatoes, the portion of roasted pumpkin was too small for my taste though the excellent chorizo more than made up for it. A word of warning though: the “chilli & lime” dressing actually comes with cili padi – sliced bird’s eye chili which is extremely spicy, so if you are novice I suggest you ask for the salad without it. But if you are adventurous, like I did, I enjoyed the salad with glassed of plain water.
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Hotpot has got to be the best invention of Chinese cuisine. There are so many ways of doing a pot – from experimenting with different broths to dumping anything edible into it – that at every turn, you bound to be surprised.
I thought my hotpot discovery was excellent, until Sichuan hotpot dropped a fiery bomb onto my radar. My (hotpot) life will never the same again.
Golden Valley Restaurant was like a throw back to ancient times, when Hong Kongers revel in all things gold plated, and thick carpeting with swirly patterns commanded a mortgage to install. Located at Emperor Hotel (which is literally two minutes from my door step), it was a restaurant fit for a king.
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Hot on the tail since my last review of my fav eating Indian place in Happy Valley, here’s another one – Mak Siu Kee traditional wonton noodle.
Happy Valley seems not short of noodle places. The trick is to find a nice one which won’t cause a huge dent in your wallet. Mak Siu Kee, decent as it was, is too expensive in my opinion. I was there for lunch one fine day as I was, err, on a bit of a loose end.
Shrimp Wonton With Noodle (HK$45)
A seemingly simple dish. The wontons were crunchy to the bite, its shrimp fresh and succulent in a way I find more fitting for a salad. The accompanying bowl of soup has much MSG. The egg noodle itself was alright, though I would prefer it to be done the Malaysian way; tossed with think, dark soy sauce. Overall the combination was quite pleasant.
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