Sunday, 19 April 2015

Big Fernand - the French take on a burger

French Fries are great right?  I mean, they've been around for as long as I've been eating, apart for a very short period of time when the worldwide geopolitical situation dictated that some call them Freedom Fries.  However, I digress...  French Fries are great and I'm partial to eating them pretty much any time I grab a burger.

French Burgers, now there's something I'd never really thought about.. I mean, burgers are quintessentially American, but with the worldwide trend of burger domination, it's perhaps natural that the French would give burgers a crack.  

Big Fernand is a French burger chain that opened Paris in 2012 and has been dominating the European burger scene.  Listed by the Wall Street Journal as the best burger concept in France, it was only a matter of time before world wide domination beckoned.  With a base of six different burger types, one of the elements that sets Big Fernand apart is the liberal use of cheese in their burgers.

I'd sauntered over to IFC, where Hong Kong's first and so far only Big Fernand is housed, for a quick solo lunch.  It was fairly early still, and while there was a queue of people waiting to place their order, there were plenty of seats still available.  Joining the queue, one of the wait staff asked in a sexy French accent if it was my first time...  Such a personal question, but I got the gist and agreed that it was in fact my first time for a French burger.

Little Bao - fun and intimate casual dining

It sure can be hard getting into the cooler and more popular restaurants in Hong Kong, it's either walk up and wait or book some time in advance.  Oh, and make sure you turn up on time, 'cause if you're fifteen minutes late, your table is gone!  We'd booked into one of Sheung Wan's most popular new restaurants recently and were pretty excited, but some last minute schedule changes at work meant that we had to reschedule.  It was another catch up dinner with fellow blogger buddy JustCozItsTuesday, the last for a while before she heads back to Australia for a few months.

With our first plan in chaos, we decided that we'd have to take a chance with one of the aforementioned cool restaurants where it's first come first served.  We had a couple of targets in mind, interestingly enough all around our new favourite hang out spot in Central, the old PMQ.  First on our list was Little Bao, which as been pretty packed on the times when we've walked by, and we'd never been to before (well, Cynthia had been a few times).  Knowing how difficult it would be, SC cased out the joint and gave a heads up that three would be joining for dinner (hoping that it would make a difference).

Little Bao started it's life as a small stall in the Island East Markets, and focussed on traditional Chinese but mixing with the globe's biggest phenomenon in the last few years, burgers.  Chef and owner May Chow's concept of Chinese style bao topped with delicious and contemporary filling seemed to be the right idea at the right time, exploding into people's consciousness.  The next step of a restaurant was a logical step and the up-and-coming PMQ district in Soho was the perfect spot (a little foresight goes a long way).

Saturday, 18 April 2015

ManMo Cafe - interesting but pricy dumplings

When we were looking around Hong Kong for a place to live, Sheung Wan was on a relatively short list of areas that I wanted to live.  We had a pretty demanding list of requirements, and as new residents to Hong Kong, didn't really have the right requirements on the list.  As it turned out, we  didn't move into the area, which in hindsight is a shame...  I really love the vibrancy and energy in Sheung Wan, oh, of course I love all of the the little laneways that are full of funky little cafes and restaurants.

It's not as if we live a long distance from Sheung Wan, in fact, we live just up the mountain in the Mid Levels, so it only takes us ten minutes to walk down the hill (up the hill is another matter). We spend a lot of time wandering around the area, just soaking up the vibe and last weekend, we checked out the Portobello Markets (unfortunately not the same as the Notting Hill version). Apart from meeting some really cool peeps (that we will be hanging out with for dinner soon), we found a little dumpling cafe that looked the goods.

ManMo Cafe bills itself as a 'contemporary dim sum with brilliant flavour in Sheung Wan' and serves up a contemporary mix of fusion and eclectic vegetarian friendly Chinese.  Normally, with a title like that, I'd run for the hills, but given we were pretty hungry and the cafe really did look inviting, we went in to check it out.

ManMo is an interesting name, and is labeled after a famous neighbouring temple and was conceived by Swiss-born Nicolas Elalouf to serve a burgeoning crowd of East meets West foodie.  Throwing everything into the menu, Nicholas has scoured the dining scene looking for input from chefs with pedigrees that includes Robuchon and Din Tai Fung.  As a result, ManMo boasts a menu that is contemporary and quite different from any other dim sum place around.

Chom Chom - A taste of Hanoi in HK

Spending a lot of time wandering around the streets of Hong Kong, in particular Central and SoHo, you get a sense for which restaurants are popular and which are struggling a little bit.  I'm often amazed that one funky little dining spot might have a crowd spilling onto the pavement, while another will be empty all the time.  With so many cool looking little spots about to try out, my list keeps getting bigger!

I was recently contacted by a restauranteur I know in Brisbane who has some of the most popular dining spots in town, with a recommendation to check out SoHo hotspot Chom Chom.  It was the inspiration for one of his most popular little food joints called Kwan Brothers (see post here) and DG thought it would be great for me to connect with Chom Chom mastermind Peter Franklin.  So, linking up with our favorite HK food blogger Cynthia from JustCozItsTuesday, we made our way across.

It was a hot and steamy HK evening when we made our way up the hill from Central to Chom Chom and the first thing I noted was how often I'd walked past Chom Chom, not realising that it was one of those funky little dining spots I'd been keen to check out.  Cynthia was already warming a seat while we waited for a table to clear inside, so with nothing else to do, we sat outside catching up while the girls cracked on with some cocktails.


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