Thursday, December 29, 2011

Eating in Berlin: Food for the soul and the body

Berlin. What a city! 24 hours a day. Cinemas, cabarets. Bars...yes, the bars are amazing. As are the truly fantastic museums. And after a day walking, absorbing, interacting...what's better than to seat down with a good friend for a spot of dinner. borchardt is a place to see and to be seen...and the food is quite good too.

I have visited and eaten here at borchardt (like ee cummings, always spelt sans capitals, I don't know why) many times. But this time, the service was a bit lacking. Hurried. Curt. Not the worse I have encountered, but not as nice as usual. The place is a social epicenter, so to speak. Tables are crowded together...much like Parisian bistros, where the waiter has to pull out the table for one to get in.

But I was told, movie star and pop artise spottings are as common in this hall as are politicians. Even Angie Merkel has been spotted here once or twice.

I started with a rather large lobster bisque:

Beautiful. The soup had packed all the flavours of the sea and the lobster. Powerful. Lightly seasoned to bring out the crustacean. Nice!

My friend Dr. M had the wildlachs...wild salmond...

I did not taste it, but he assured me it was very good. Both the soup and the salmon went down very well with a coupe of champagne. Ruinart, I believed.

Both of us elected to have the steak...which was served with french fries at the side.

I had ordered mine in my usual style...Chicago medium-rare...charred on the outside, pink and medium-rare on the inside. I am not sure if the waiter understood me...though he presented me with an English menu, and appeared to speak English...but steak was medium-rare, no charring.

Like most European steaks, the meat was lean...but this was reasonably tender...perphaps some micro-marbling. And tasty. The fact that it lacked a nice burnt crust was overshadowed by the full beef-iness of the meat. Nice.

And to accompany, a nice St Emilion Grand Cru...Chateau Haut Pontet.

Reasonably priced at €53 for the bottle...nice, smooth tannins, though 2008 might seem young for a St. Emilion. But nice berries, ripe, ripe fruit. And an mild nose reminiscent of plums and blackberries.

And for dessert...Profiteroles

Quite nice...but profiteroles are always these are nothing special.

Nice place...but I liked it better the 2 or 3 times I was there for lunch than this time, when we came for dinner.

borchardt Restaurant
Franzosische Strasse 47
am Gendermenmarkt
10117 Berlin

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Eatery hopping in Hong Kong

I have written an article about restaurant hopping in Singapore once...where we did each course of a meal in a different restaurant...drawing from the specialities of each. Recently, I had a try of this in Hong Kong


Hong Kong skyline as photographed from the Star Ferry terminal at Tsim Tsa Tsui
click on the Hong Kong skyline above for a larger photograph.

A good friend/makan buddy and I found ourselves in Hong Kong at the same time for different reasons...and we decided we needed to have at least one meal together. After much foodies are bound to do...we have poor resistance to the lure of good food...we decided on Yixin. This is based primarlily on the recommendations of Jason Bonvivant a foodie bloger in Hong Kong whom I have been following for a while.

But I planned to have a cuppa ristretto first before going for dinner, so on my way out of the Star Ferry at Central, I stopped at an old favourite which I found several years ago while searching for beans in HKG...Zambra.

A double ristretto

A bit long for a ristretto. More like a double espresso...and even that a bit long. But nonetheless tasty, and nice mouth feel. Fixed the coffee needs for the day.

A short walk away is the traditional Yixin restaurant

We zoomed in on the 3 famous dishes...we had a vegetable dish as well...dou miao.

First the duck...

Pipa ya as it was called...featured a nice delicate crisp skin hiding the juicy succulent duck meat within. The serving above was for half a duck.

we also had the char siew that Jason raved about

But I found this to be a disappointing. The meat was very fat...we discussed this with the waitress later, and she confirmed that this was their best cut, and very popular with the Hong Kong people. I guess, our taste buds differ here. There was no crisp, burnt bits. The meat which was there was very fat (yes, I did mention that before), though very tender.

And the interesting dish called Fried Fresh Milk with crab meat.

I am not sure how this is done. But this turned out surprisingly tasty. Light, without the slightest hint of grease. The fried milk tasted very nice. And complemented the crab very well. Nice dish. Reminds me of the egg yolks and scallops I had at Restaurant Ten some time ago. BTW, the wonderful Restaurant Ten at Purvis Street is now sadly closed...the owners decided to ply their trade in China.

Back to Yixin...the servings were very large...too large for 2 grown, hungry men. Perhaps we needed to be a table of 6 to consume what we ordered.

But yet, we needed to look for dessert...and I remembered a dessert store I chanced on when I was in HKG last...somewhere along Pacific ease the large dinner, we walked...and found Xi Yan's dessert place.

Somewhat nondescript, but almost fully packed. The place served full meals...but we had ours. So I ordered a poached pear with tofu ice cream.

Quite exquisite. The tofu ice cream was quite a nice flavour...unusual, but for me excellent. The pears were nicely poached in syrup. And nice.

Interesting dinner...starting with a coffee at an old favourite which turned out to have lost some of its glitz, to a restaurant picked from a blogger's recommendation, and dessert in a place I have had great experience in the cooking in Singapore. Not bad for a night in Hong Kong.

Cafe Zambra
Shop 1. G/F.
239 Jaffe Road,
Wanchai, Hong Kong

Yixin Restaurant
G/F Shanghai Industrial Investment Building,
48-62 Hennessy Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong

Xi Yan Sweets
Shop 1, G/F, 8 Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai Hong Kong
2833 6299

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Feasting in Switzerland: Les Mossettes

When good friends invite you over to lunch at a restaurant where their sister is chef and the sister's husband is the sommelier, you don't think twice. You get up early for the 2 hour drive from Lausanne, and go.

So when Marco and his lovely wife Veronique asked me to join them for lunch at Les Mossettes...a restaurant in the mountains, where Veronique's sister has just taken over...and earned a respectable 12 Gault Millau points on the first year...I jumped at it. We were also joined by another good friend and gourmand: Alex and his lovely girlfriend Sophie. Makes wonderful company.

It was late November, up in the Swiss mountains...when in most years, it should have been covered in snow and freezing temperatures. But 2011 is an unusual year. And there we were, basking in the sunshine. At about 3pm, we got up to continue lunch inside the restaurant, after eating and drinking al fresco since noon...not because it was too cold, but because the onslaught of the sun was merciless...and it was getting too hot (!!!). But promptly at 4:30pm when the sun set, it became quite cold.

A quaint little cottage, almost in th emiddle of nowhere. As we drove up to the restaurant, we passed the Abbey of Valsainte...the monks who bottled the water we were to drink...and who are silent monks. The Abbey has been there for perhaps 700 years. And the Abbey complex was quite large and beautiful...especially considering that the community who lives within numbers about 20.

Anyway, this was an unforgettable lunch. Not only the food was unusual and only vaguely familiar to me, as all the ingredients were sourced locally. But the wines were also superb, well selected and quite unfamiliar to me as well. The wines turned out to be the star of the afternoon for me. All superb.

We started with some deep fried leaves...a bit of grease stuck on to the leaves, but it was crisp, light and seasoned with a little salt, very nice.

And the aperetif to go with this was a beautiful bottle of Pouilly-Fuisse...the only wine whose domaine I recognised that afternoon...

The starters were some seafood...

Well, I guess not all ingredients are from the area...we were up in the mountains, hundreds of kilometers from the the scallops must have been flown in. They were juicy, and sweet. Fresh. The fish, I understand is from the neaby lake - Lac Noir.

We had an intermediate white...a Premier Cru from Nuit St. unfamiliar domaine for me, but the wine was gorgeous:

And for mains, quail

Very nicely roasted, perfectly done. The quail had a slightly gamey flavour, but remained very mild, more like chicken with a bit of bite...and smaller. Very tasty.

To accompany...two reds...

All the wines were organic..and from vineyards who practice sustainable agriculture. And they were magnificent. All were chosen by the sommelier, Georgie (I am not sure how we spell his name...but it sounded lime geor-gee)...

And the cheese...

Being close to La Gruyere, of course it featured a large slice of the famous cheese. Magnificent.

And we went inside for desserts...too hot...

Fresh, light, and very nice. But the dessert wine was the surprise

Sparkling! yes...see the bubbles...but not from grapes, but from 20 different types of pears...

This was magnificent. Like a beautiful champagne...dry, beautiful bouquet. And the tingling bubbles, which were small, well formed and quite vivacious. Made only in magnums, and in very small quantities. This was a great treat. Truly memorable.

Magnificent trip. Beautiful food. Wonderful wines. And fantastic company. Plus what a great weather in November. What more can a man ask for.

La Pinte des Mossettes
La Valsainte, Cerniat 1654 , Switzerland
+41 (0) 269272097

Monday, December 19, 2011

Feasting in Switzerland: Restaurant de la Croix Ouchy

Eating with friends are the best. Absolutely! Good friends make a meal much more memorable, and much more enjoyable. This visit to Switzerland, I had the fortune of the company of my Italian Swiss friends...and of course, we eventually ended up at an Italian restaurant.

But not before experiencing some magical bartending at the bar of the Lausanne Palace.

Angelo, the attending barman is a sort of a legend in these parts. The bar was decorated like the set of a 1930s movie...I am almost expecting to see Hemmingway stroll into the bar and nod at Angelo for a drink...young Ernest did spend many a winter in Lausanne, and I would imagine he might have had a drink or two at this bar.

Angelo would ask you what you feel, and magically concoct up something which will soothe and suit your mood.

But it was getting late, and we were getting hungry. So off to the port of a little bistro, serving home made Italian cuisine...Restaurant de la Croix Ouchy.

When we arrive...the place was jam the brim!

We thought we have had too much meats and fish, so we opted for 3 servings of carbs...two pasta and a risotto. And we did the communual thing and shared all 3 dishes. The pictures are the serving size of our individual portions...

First the pappardelle:

Beautiful, fresh prawns. Wonderful home made pasta. Al dente. Cooked perfectly.

Next, ravioli with stuffed veal

Again, magnificent. Done the traditional Italian way, the sauce was enough...but not drowning the it should be.

But for me, the star of the evening was the risotto...

I have a soft spot for good risotto. And this one hits the spot for me. The rice was perfectly cooked...each grain absorbed the broth and was bursting with the flavours. The tomato sauce was wisely balanced...the right touch of acidity with the perfect balance of sweet and spice. And the prawns were magnificent. Really good risotto.

For me, this meal was a return to the basics in Switzerland this trip...where gastronomic indulgence was the order of the day. And perhaps its the little boy in me, but I do feel a good pasta (or noodle, or ramen) makes my day. Two thumbs up for the restaurant, and to Marco and Alex for bringing me there.

La Croix d'Ouchy
Avenue d'Ouchy 43 CH - 1006 Ouchy
Lausanne, Switzerland

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Feasting in Switzerland: Le Poisson at Auvernier, near Neuchatel

Neuchatel. Lovely city. Pearched on the lake, it enjoys the mountains on one side, and the lake on the other. However, being a little lower in altitude, and by the lake, it does get quite a lot of fog.

Click here for a wide pano from the mountains looking over Lake Neuchatel. The Alps in the distance, and the fog over the city.

In the evenings, it is a bit more lively than most Swiss cities. But a short drive away, in the little village of Auvernier, lies this wonderful fish restaurant...its namesake in French Le Poisson (meaning fish).

We started with a glass of champagne and oysters. I cannot imagine a better combination for fresh oysters.

Fresh as it can be. Sweet, delicious. With a whiff of the fragrance of the distant sea.

And of course, I had fish...sole, pan fried with butter, and a serving of shoe string fries.

Needless to say, the sole was fresh. Firm flesh, white creamy. Pan fried to perfection...thin, slightly crisp on the outside. Smooth, rich, moist inside. Beautiful.

And the fries...superb. Crisp covering...and a creamy interior. I imagined the fries to be deep fried in tallow or a mix of tallow and butter to give it the rich, creamy mouthfeel. Sinful, but oh, so good.

For desserts, I had a small scoop of ice cream...pistachio

Home made. Delicious. And...

a triple decked decadence of pear and cream within crisp pastry. Heavenly.

Truly a magnificent place to dine in or near Neuchatel. We went to the restaurant on a Monday evening, and it was brimming...full. Merely 5 days later on Friday, we had a magnificently catered meal at a private residence attended by the chef of Poisson himself labouring in the kitchen.

He moves fast, this man.

Needless to say, it was a magnificent meal, featuring one of the best langoustines and veal dishes I have had in a long time.

The meat was superb. Sous vide, and expertly browned. Tender to melting. Smooth, creamy mouth feel. Superb.

Washed down with these magnificent wines.

I cannot begin to describe the Chateau Cheval Blanc. The first bottle (yes, we had 2 bottles) was superb...truly magnificent, in its prime. The second was still excellent, and had it not been the wonderful palate and nose of the first, we would have hailed it as a beautiful drink. But in comparison, it was perhaps a bit over in terms of aging. Perhaps a month earlier. But both bottles were superb. All its touted to be.

And for desserts, home made glazes...the marron was particularly wonderful.

Again fully confirms that this is one of the best restaurants in the land. Superb.

Restaurant Le Poisson
Rue des Epancheurs 1,
Auvernier 2012, Switzerland
032 / 731 62 31

Monday, December 12, 2011

Feasting in Switzerland: Auberge de L'Onde

I recently had some extremely good gastronomic experiences with my Swiss friends. So in my two weeks in Switzerland, I ate well. Very well indeed. Allow me to start with L'Onde. An extraordinary restaurant in a small town (compared to Asian towns and cities, Swiss towns and even cities are miniscule. But each with character, and pride.).

It garnered its first Michelin star for 2012, I believe...and currently has 16 Gault Millau points. Housed in a two storey building, with a full grill on the upper floor, the restaurant is bright, and airy.

The pastry chef is remarkable. All the pastry churned out in the restaurant is lovingly hand made by him. The bread platter is no exception

Exceptional. Light, fluffy. And yet very tasty.

I started with the lobster soup...made from Boston lobster.

Exquisite. The meat was firm yet yielding, tasty, and sweet. The broth had a wonderfully aromatic crusteacean flavour. Excellent.

And to accompany, a crisp, French white wine...

Beautiful. Dry, crisp, very fine. The nose hints of vanilla and spices. On the palate, its refined, composed even...and very smooth, delicate. Flavours meld. And goes extremely well with shellfish. Perhaps 2010 is a little young, but still delicious.

And for mains, a nice, juicy steak...Australian Angus

As usual, I am not particularly fond of the red wine reduction sauce...should have remembered to ask for the sauce on the side. But the steak was very nicely done...perfect medium/medium rare.

And a great bottle of red from the area...

Swiss wines are an interesting bunch. Less famous than their neighbours...France and Italy (and even Germany), they do nevertheless make some excellent wines. Full bodied, more a Bordeaux style than Burgundy. Ripe, luscious with strong hints of berries and a very light bite of tannins. On the nose, a floral bouquet sends its greetings. Nice.

And for desserts, a selection of ice creams and sorbets...all home made.

A truly superb meal. Beautiful surroundings. Magnificent wines. Great food. And most importantly, wonderful friends. Thanks Marco and Veronique.

Highly recommended if you are in the Lausanne area.

The Auberge de l'Onde
Village Centre
1071 St-Saphorin
Tel. +41 (0)21 925 49 00
Fax +41 (0)21 925 49 01