Sunday, 8 May 2016

Burger Joys - great burgers but a little too cheesy?

I'm always on the lookout for a new burger joint and moving to Wanchai has certainly opened up a few more options.

I'd been noticing posters all over the place advertising a place called Burger Joys, so set about tracking it down for a spot of lunch.

Wanchai is an interesting location, it's got a wide variety of dining options that range from three Michelin Starred fine dining restaurants, hip and happening 'now' spots, as well as down and dirty grungy bar cum restaurants.  

We'd moved away from the glamorous end of Wanchai to the much seedier side, where the nightlife runs from seedy bars to strip clubs.  Burger Joys finds itself right in the middle of the Wanchai red light district, which is pretty benign during the day and pretty darn racy in the evening.

I was pretty surprised by how small Burger Joys actually was, expecting something a little bigger than the 'almost' hole in the wall diner on Lockhart Road.  Small as it was, there was still room for a half dozen or so tables to be crammed around the serving area, which looked very much as if it doubled as a bar once the sun went down.  We'd arrived for a Saturday lunch and the place was pretty empty, so we had no trouble finding a table which surprisingly was managed by table service.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Zafran - Spanish Cooking Master Class

Those of you who know me would be familiar with my foodie adventures and be well aware that I'm not a great cook.  My Instagram feed is full of restaurant meals and the very, very rare photo of a home cooked meal.

So when I get the opportunity to participate in master classes and learn something new in a kitchen, I jump at the chance.  Chope Hong Kong had partnered with the Aqua Restaurant group and Zafran Spanish restaurant to have new Chef Pere run a small group of bloggers through his famous "Black Paella".  Interestingly, the last time I'd had a masterclass, it was at Mondo Organics in Brisbane and a Spanish feast fit for a king (see post here).  

Seemingly, I am destined to improve my Spanish cuisine repertoire, which is certainly ironic living in the heart of Hong Kong.

I'd always thought that Zafran was a nightclub in the few times I wandered down Wyndham Street, but was surprised to find a funky looking basement restaurant as I descended the stairs to the Masterclass.  We were met by Zafran's new chef, hot off the boat from his native Barcelona, who seemed a little nervous to be fronted by so many food bloggers and cameras.

Mak Mak - secret entrance to Thai heaven

I had no idea!  Seriously.

Every morning, I'd been walking through the Landmark on the way to work and had passed Mak Mak thinking that the funky looking little spot was a blend of Thai grocery store and a cafe doing 'take away' coffee in the morning.  On first appearances, Mak Mak is exactly that; a small kiosk like area that served take away drinks.

And it is that, and so much more.

My first experience that there could be so much more to the retro looking replica of a traditional Thai grocery shopfront was having a quick bite to eat with a work colleague.  We had a short window in between meetings, and she suggested a quick bite to eat in a great little Thai restaurant that she knew, right next to our workplace.  Everyone loves good Thai, right?  

As JP took me to the front of Mak Mak, I thought to myself, where the heck are we going to eat lunch?

All was revealed when a secret button was pressed and a wall slowly recessed into the wall and the true nature of Mak Mak was revealed!  Hidden behind the grocery facade was a sixty seat 'Thai residence-style' dining area and it literally blew my mind!

That first experience in the newest restaurant in the prodigious JAI group string of restaurants was enough to get me talking, and it wasn't long before I'd arranged for a visit with the girl.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Tosca - insanely good Italian

Amazing food and service that is so outstanding that you can't wait for your return visit should be the aim of every restaurant, but is delivered by so few.

I'd arranged for a working lunch with a colleague and after a last minute change, found myself sitting on the 101st floor at the Ritz-Carlton's Tosca.  Of course I'd heard about the Michelin Starred restaurant, but until that moment, it had been some way down my list of 'must-visit' dining spaces.

In hindsight, that had been a huge mistake on my behalf!

I was a little early for my reservation, but from the moment I stepped out of the lift at the Ritz-Carlton to the moment my dining companion arrived, I was treated like royalty.  My table was close enough to the floor to ceiling windows of Hong Kong's tallest building to truly appreciate the magnificence of the view.  It wasn't too shabby inside either, with the very modern dining room, centred around an open kitchen, drawing my eye away from the HK skyline!  

No easy feat considering the view.

While I was waiting, sipping on my still water from a cut crystal glass, I was able to watch the kitchen preparing for lunch, led by acclaimed Chef Pino Lavarra.  That Chef Pino has found himself leading the Michelin Starred Tosca in one of the most recognisable and distinctive restaurant brands in the world is no accident.  A prodigious talent, Chef Pino has been recognised as "One of the Best Chefs in the World" by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, as well as running Two Michelin Starred Rossellinis.


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