Just like my first time to La Cantoche, I was lost again. I blame it for the lack of the sign board that used to signal the entry to the Wa Lane, where La Cantoche is located at. But my feet hurried the hungry self in anticipation of the “party menu” that was just launched at the popular French-Vietnamese restaurant.
You see, the restaurant has just launched a “group menu” that allows you to book dinner for a large group, anything from a rather intimate table of eight to a rowdy party of thirty. Depending on the group size, the chef will fire up the kitchen to cook up various dishes from the menu, so all you need to do is to sit back and let the food and drinks – choose from red, white or rose – flow endlessly throughout the night.
And so the feasting began, and I am happy to report that La Cantoche hasn’t lost its charm since the last time I visited. If the dishes served to the table for the night was anything to go by, it seems like the kitchen got better since they opened more than one year ago. Here were some winners from the night:
Just like my first visit, the signature Rice Krispies lettuce wrap was easily the best dish for the night. Mixed with bits of pork, shiso leaf and spices, the Rice Krispies is devoured wrapped with lettuce leaves. The result was a refreshing combination of fresh greens with spices and puffed up rice (of which I kinda learned how to cook that night). It was a secret recipe of the owner’s mom. When asked if she ever did try the version at La Cantoche, the owner cheekily told us that she gave it a 90% rating. That made me wondered what was the 10% missing ingredient, coz to me this was already close to perfect on its own!
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There’s something terribly satisfying about making your own bread. Especially when you are overworked, stressed and those hours on the treadmills just won’t cut it anymore.
So one weekend afternoon I found myself at The Mixing Bowl HK, a cozy apartment slash baking studio for an afternoon of bread-baking and merry-making. Friendly duo Victor and Kyle certainly turned on their charm as a table of strangers (there were four of us) try their hands to, literally speaking, raise the bread.
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My discovery on Groupon continues at Jiang Shan Hui which offers a mix of Shanghainese and Sichuan cuisine. When I saw what’s on offer – drunken chicken by award winning chef – I was intrigued. I walked by the past often enough during my Sheung Wan days, but never thought of “popping up”. If you are like me who can’t read Chinese, you always live in the fear that this will be that restaurant where the waitresses will mock you for being an illiterate Chinese and derisively laugh off my request for an English menu. Though I am happy to report this unlikely incident seldom happens, and it certainly did not at Jiang Shan Hui.
Because it was a set Groupon menu. Hah.
Platter of appertiser.
The starters for the night were rather uninspiring. I was looking forward to a steaming bowl of hot and spicy soup; what eventually transpired was a tepid serving of gooey starch. The platter of appetiser – shredded chicken in crystal flower sheet in sesame sauce, pork jelly in Zhejiang style, cucumber – fared better. I particularly enjoyed the crystal flower sheet. Very slurpy and fragrant with the sesame sauce (which I almost mistaken for peanut sauce, LOL). The xiao long bao was just alright, nothing to shout about.
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So I was at Sheung Wan one Saturday afternoon after a somewhat grueling workout, hungry for sustenance. It occurred to me that I had yet to check out Yonge Piggies (pronounced as “Young” Piggies) which is right across the street from the gym. Geographically speaking it couldn’t be any better; imagine hordes of starving gym bunnies descent upon Yonge Piggies all looking for their calorie fix. That gives a whole new meaning to “why did the bunny cross the road?, doesn’t it?
Anyway, so in total disregard to the workout I just did (I am using that term very loosely here), this non-bunny crossed the street for lunch. It was a rainy day, so there outside stools were removed, and I had to sit inside. Not that I am complaining; I do think Yonge Piggies is the perfect spot for some people watching while you digest some Canadian street food.
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Finding La Cantoche at Sheung Wan on a weekday night has been quite a challenge. For one, almost the entire Hollywood Road is deserted, with hardly any shops open. I did wonder if I got the address wrong, until I saw this sign outside Wa Lane Street.
Who would have thought! Clever them; otherwise I would have walked right past not knowing La Cantoche is down a smaller lane and not on the main road.
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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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In the blink of an eye, it has been half a year since I moved out from Sheung Wan. I do love my new place in Happy Valley, but there is something about the unpredictability of Sheung Wan which tugs at my heartstrings. The dingy back alleys, ubiquitous bars, hazardous wet markets and rowdy char chan teng are just some of the oddities of this westerly town on Hong Kong island which one might want to pay a visit.
Of the last oddity, I loved Kalok Restaurant the most. I lost count the number of times I had my breakfast, lunch, dinner and meals in between, alone and with friends. At the best of time the waiters are loud, rude and of questionable hygiene, but it was the food which I fell in love with. It was nothing fancy, but for a Chinese-styled cafe standard, they are good and reasonably priced.
Here are some of my top picks:
I blogged about this before and I had to blog about this again. The French Toast at Kalok is my absolute favorite. Two pieces of bread spread with peanut butter, fried with egg, served with a healthy dollop of melting butter and enough golden honey to drown a colony of bees. Every bite is a calorie-laden heaven.
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I overheard about Heirloom quite sometime back, but more of a breakfast cum brunch kinda a place. So when it popped up in an SCMP’s article about Mexican joints in the city, I was pleasantly surprised. Since then I have tore out in the entire article and pinned it to my wall, as reminder to myself to check out these places out one day.
Obviously, the day came way sooner than I thought. It was late Saturday afternoon and I needed a place for lunch at Sheung Wan. I thought, why not?
So I walked my way in the hot, humid weather to Heirloom and wasn’t entirely pleased to find the place was packed and the upstairs seatings were not open. Had no choice but to wait under the sweltering heat (urgh!) but lucky for me, some twenty minutes a large table was made vacant, so I plonked myself onto the generous seat, ordered a beer and settled in with a book while waiting for my lunch companion to turn up.
While waiting (it was a rather long wait, ehem), I couldn’t help but notice the little details that went into the design of Heirloom. Decked in black, beige and other decidedly neutral colours, Heirloom projects a very understated setting but in a very classy way. The chandelier on the ceiling was a clue, so is the beautiful, beautiful toilet. You have to check it out.
And so it was time for food! We decided to order quite a few small-portioned dishes to try.
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When I first moved to Sheung Wan three years ago, I was rather excited when I discovered that there was a Michelin-starred restaurant just a stone throw away from my (previous) house. Over the ensuing two years plus, I pondered, wondered, contemplated, wished (I’m running of adjectives for procrastination here…) to have a meal at Tim’s Kitchen.
Three years later, I am finally paid a visit, thanks to Chris and Liren! It was a belated birthday dinner, one of which invitation I gladly accepted. I was told to be honest about my review (they are both readers of this blog) even though it was a birthday treat.
So I will :D
I find it a little strange that this plate of century eggs came with sugar. I tried it with the ginger, and then with the eggs, together and separately, and still can’t figure out how it helped with the taste. That said the century eggs were a decent fare, though I must say it is still a far cry from the divine eggs I had at Yung Kee.
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So you have heard much about Doppio Zero being the next big thing in the local Italian food scene. That their chef-in-residence Jake Addeo adores experimenting with food, combining the best of Italian cooking with a local twist. That they have recently launched a brunch menu, and opens on Sunday to help you cure that mother-of-a-hangover. That despite the excellent food quality and impeccable service, Doppio Zero is still a little known gem.
Ladies and gentlemen, all that you heard is true.
Just lest than a year old, this Italian restaurant is already Michelin-endorsed and can be best described as a trattoria. At night the restaurant goes up the scale, more like a ristorante, with dimmed light and a more romantic menu. But if you decide to drop in on a weekend afternoon, come in your comfortable sandals, favorite magazines in hand.
For the brunch menu is a wonderful collection of original recipes at reasonable prices. Food portion is hearty and particularly comforting if you had a late night out and want uncomplicated but interesting food.
Ready to order? Here are some of my recommendations:
Signature Truffled Fried Oyster
I love deep fried oysters, as much as I love fresh oysters. The problem with deep fried oysters is that you tend to overcoat your morsels with too much batter, making the whole chunk one oily mess. This one was perfectly done, with a sprinkling of black truffle and a bed of creamed spinach (which was finger-licking-good when eaten with toast).
Try not to order two if you are watching your calories!
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