Monday, 25 May 2015

Lei Garden - Franchise. Chinese. Michelin


When thinking about Michelin Starred restaurants, I have a picture in my mind of unique little and sometimes large restaurants with a mad chef toiling in the kitchen striving for perfection. Sure, there are some exceptions, such as the global phenomenon Joel Robuchon and his chain of L'Atelier Joel Robuchon restaurants (see post here and here).  But those restaurants are spread across the globe, and until recently, I thought an exception.

Lei Garden is a bit of a local success story in Hong Kong, starting from humble beginnings in 1973 with a lone outlet in Sham Shui Po to a restaurant empire with twenty four branches across Hong Kong, Macau, China and Singapore.  Most impressively, in Hong Kong along, there are six outlets that have acquired coveted Michelin Stars. While that sounds impressive, the business hit its peak in 2012 when it held eight individual stars and even more impressively, a two star restaurant at Mong Kok.

We'd walked past a number of the Lei Gardens in our time exploring Hong Kong, with many of them being located in some of the larger shopping complexes.  It wasn't until one Sunday evening, wandering around ICF in Central that we'd decided to give the restaurant a try.  There is a fun game I play at times, trying to get into Michelin Starred restaurants without a booking, something that would be impossible in Europe, but quite achievable in HK.  As luck would have it, we managed to score a table....  With the proviso that we would be finished within an hour, so we didn't have too much time to waste.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Yardbird - the bits of a chicken you'd normally not eat


What are the chances, I mean seriously!  We're living in a city with over seven million inhabitants and more than 79,000 restaurants. So what were the chances of inadvertently sitting next to our dining companions from the previous week's dinner catch up? (see post here

Well, if you're talking about one of the hottest restaurants around, one so desirable, that it's almost impossible to get a table, I'd have thought pretty non existent.  Apparently not!

Yardbird is a tiny little yakitori place that SC had visited a few weeks back, while I'd been travelling OS for work.  She'd been so impressed with the place, she'd pretty much not stopped talking about it, so of course we needed to get along so I could write about it.  With a no reservations policy, you need to take your chances with Yardbird, and we'd had a couple of false starts before we eventually scored a table.

If you've not been to a yakitori restaurant before, they pretty much only serve the many different parts of a chicken, including the heart, liver, oyster, neck, skin etc.  Usually cooked over a traditional binchotan charcoal grill, Yardbird is perhaps the best example of the modern izikaya-style restaurant I'd come across.  Not surprising though, given that Yardbird is from the crew that run funky little Sunday's Grocery (see post here) and uber cool bar/restaurant Ronin.

Fish & Meat Co - farm to table dining


I don't like to think of myself as your typical Expat living in a foreign city, hitting the Expat spots, drinking away in large groups and generally trying to carve out a little slice of 'home'.  Not that there's anything inherently wrong with that, it's just not my scene.  It's why I try not to spend much time in the typical Aussie and British watering holes and restaurants near Wyndham Street and parts of SoHo.

Drinking aside, I am drawn into all parts of Hong Kong to check out dining spots and I was recently lured back in to what you'd normally think of Expat territory to visit a restaurant that seemed to tick all of my 'must try' boxes.  We'd arranged to meet some fellow Aussie Expats for dinner and after comparing our list of 'not tried' dining spots, found ourselves at Fish and Meat by the Maximal Concept Group.  

If you've been living in Hong Kong for any period of time, it's likely that you've been to at least one of the Maximal Concept Group restaurants.  Running a diverse portfolio of restaurants, including the amazing Mott32 (see post here) and the down and dirty Double D Burgers (see post here), food director Malcolm Wood has a knack of putting together a winning restaurant experience.  Malcolm has teamed up with Head Chef Russell Doctrove, formerly of 3 Michelin Starred restaurants 'The Waterside Inn' and 'Restaurant Gordon Ramsay'.  

We'd arranged to meet at Fish & Meet for a Friday night dinner and as is often the case in Hong Kong, it had been a ridiculously hot and sticky day, so by the time we walked up the hill from Central, we were bathed in sweat.  Thankfully, the air conditioning was blasting inside Fish and Meat, so we made our way to our table and ordered a bottle of cool water while we waited for our dining companions.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Bo Innovation - X-treme Chinese perfection


We've been attending the 2015 'Chefs Talks', organised by the Fringe Club and Slow Food Hong Kong, where Hong Kong's best and most popular chefs come along and have a candid chat with an audience.  They've been really good.  One that I was really interested in getting along to was Bo Innovation's Alvin Leung Jnr, but fate wasn't on my side and I missed it due to work commitments.  SC on the other hand was able to get along and hear Alvin's view on the world, which was apparently quite amusing!

As fortune would have it, when I suggested that we book a table for arguably Hong Kong's best restaurant, we were able to secure a spot at the Chef's Table the following Saturday night.  With three Michelin Stars and a string of other accolades including appearing in the San Pellegrino Asia's Top 50 restaurants (#28) and the World's Top 50 restaurants (#97), restaurants don't get much better.

Fronted by a man that's been called the 'demon chef' (well, he calls himself the demon chef), Alvin Leung presents as quite the character.  Walking out of the elevator that took us from Ship Street in Wan Chai, we were greeted by a large wall mosaic of the demon chef himself.  Once we'd walked the dozen or so steps to the front of the restaurant, we'd been greeted warmly by many of the multitude of wait staff on hand to make our night's dining experience a memorable one.  

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