Hunan Garden (洞庭樓)

There are actually two Hunan Garden’s in Hong Kong. One in Central (Exchange Square) and the other in Causeway Bay (Times Square). The one in Central is decorated in a more Chinese fashion, but perhaps a bit dated. The one in Causeway Bay is newer and looks like a modern high end restaurant. Hunan Garden is normally quite expensive, but if you go to the one in Times Square for lunch from Monday to Saturday, you can get 50% off the a la carte menu (excluding certain items and dim sum). But overall, this deal is still great as there are many tasty dishes that you can still order while applying the 50% discount.

The appetisers of tofu/cucumber and chilli were good and I would recommend eating them together if you aren’t fussy about spiciness.

Appetisers - Tofu/Cucumber and Chilli

Hunan Deep-fried Prawns in Chilli Sauce (湖南左宗棠蝦) – The prawns were smaller than I expected, but they were fresh and nice and juicy. The chilli sauce that surrounds it is reasonably spicy but I suggest using only a little in order not to overpower the natural prawn taste.
Stewed Tientsin Cabbage with Minced Ham (金華腿茸扒津膽) – The vegetables were nice and refreshing with the other dishes all being spicy. I thought that it was a little bland but this could simply be down to the other dishes being spicy.
Fried Chicken with Dried Chilli (小鄉里霸王辣子雞) – Despite the chicken looking dry, it is cooked really well and is extremely succulent and juicy. The chilli’s and peanuts complemented the chicken well, but for all the chilli the dish appears to have, I wouldn’t mind it being even more spicy (but that’s just some minor details).

Hunan Deep-fried Prawns in Chilli Sauce (湖南左宗棠蝦)
Stewed Tientsin Cabbage with Minced Ham (金華腿茸扒津膽)
Fried Chicken with Dried Chilli (小鄉里霸王辣子雞)

Highly Recommended:

  • Fried Chicken with Dried Chilli (小鄉里霸王辣子雞)
  • Hunan Deep-fried Prawns in Chilli Sauce (湖南左宗棠蝦)

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Hunan Garden (洞庭樓)
Shop 1302, 13/F, 1 Matheson Street, Times Square, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
2506 9288

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California Vintage

This place was recommended by a friend and so we decided to drop by and give it a try for another friend’s birthday. The place was pretty much full when we got there around 6:30pm and so there really wasn’t much choice and we were seated at the very back on the bar table facing the open kitchen. Actually, this was my preferred choice since I love watching chefs cook and in any case, in the end, this was to our benefit as we noticed and got to try the staff special (see below).

Open kitchen and bar table

They offer two types of menus, the normal paper ones, and then the more technological advanced iPad version. All that is missing now is being able to order straight from the iPad, in which case you can then hire less people.

Normal menu
iPad menu

I was a little disappointed with their beer selection with Anchor Steam being the only choice. California is supposed to have quite a few really good micro-breweries and I would certainly love to try them in Hong Kong. The other thing is that I can get Anchor Steam at Inn Side Out and their related restaurants at a cheaper price so I would not order it here. On the other hand, their wine selection is pretty good and the pricing appears to be quite competitive for a restaurant especially if you order by the bottle.

Gilroy Garlic Fries – The fries were not too garlicky and rather than just being cooked outside the fries, I think that the garlic was actually infused into the potatoes. In any case, it tasted great and you are given a choice of whether to use ketchup or truffle aioli as a dip.
California Sliders with Angus Beef Burger and Bravo Farms Cheddar Cheese – The sliders were excellent. The beef was cooked medium and extremely juicy when you bite into them. The buns were hot toasted and crispy and slowly soaked up the juices from the beef and the caramelized onions. My one gripe is that for two sliders, it was pretty expensive considering the two sliders put together did not make a normal sized burger.
California Tacos with Baja Fish – This is Baja fish batter-fried, served on a soft corn tortilla topped with shredded cabbage, pico de gallo (aka salsa fresca) and cumin-enriched sour cream. This is not your standard taco as you can hardly use your hands to lift it up. The only way to eat it is to cut using your knife and fork watching as it slowly falls apart before piecing it back together again on your fork. Still, the fish was nicely cooked with its slight batter crunch and matched with the tortilla, cabbage, salsa and sour cream.
California Tacos with Carnitas and Salsa Roja – Essentially shredded pork shoulder served on a corn tortilla with house made salsa and Guaillo chilies. Unfortunately the pork shoulder seemed a bit dry and tough. The chilies added a bit of spice, but I don’t mind if there was more whereas the tortilla and house made salsa was nice. Again, its not really your standard tortilla and definitely required a knife and fork to eat.
The Staff Special (Grilled Pork with Fried Rice [off the menu]) – We had finished our meal and were just sitting around, sipping our second bottle of wine, when the staff took turns coming by the bar table to have their own dinner. The chef cooked up what was essentially grilled pork and fried rice but it smelt amazing. It was our friend’s birthday and after being deflected through a few different channels, the chef did finally cook up the special for us. The pork was tender and juicy with a nice char-grilled flavour. The fried rice was cooked with eggs and chives and a mystery sauce. Very simple, yet very tasty as well.

Gilroy Garlic Fries
California Sliders with Angus Beef Burger and Bravo Farms Cheddar Cheese
California Tacos with Baja Fish
California Tacos with Carnitas and Salsa Roja
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I enjoyed myself at this restaurant. The food was great, but perhaps a bit expensive for the portion size. The wine on the other hand is a good deal and I would love to try a few others. The next time I eat here, I would continue to sit at the bar table despite not being able to face each other, as the tables in the main area does seem a bit small and cramped. The only thing that stops me from putting this restaurant in the highly recommended category is perhaps the price.

Highly Recommended:

  • California Tacos with Baja Fish
  • California Sliders with Angus Beef Burger and Bravo Farms Cheddar Cheese
  • The Staff Special – Grilled Pork with Fried Rice (off the menu)

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California Vintage
G/F, 77 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
2525 9808

Xia Fei Shanghainese Restaurant (霞飛點心拉麵)

I would recommend making a reservation for this place. We called ahead and tried to make a reservation ourselves, but they said that the reservations were full for that night. They suggested we just walkup instead since they have some seats just for those who walkup. We got there quite early around 6:15pm but the tables inside were already full and we had to wait a bit. Luckily, there wasn’t too many others waiting and it took only about 10 minutes to get a table. By the time we left though, there was a lot more people gathered outside waiting for a table!

Wild Vegetable and Diced Bean Curd in Sauce (馬蘭頭百葉卷) – The rolls were smaller than I expected but tasted nice with vinegar. The vegetables have a grassy earthy taste which I like, but may not be for everyone. This dish was the only one that I felt was a bit overpriced though.
Chinese Yellow Wine Marinated Chicken (醉雞) – Normally I’m not a big fan of this dish, but this was done pretty well. The alcohol did not over power the chicken flavour and the chicken was not too fatty.
Signature Noodle Soup with Minced Pork in Spicy Sesame Sauce (招牌擔擔麵) – I like my Dan Dan Noodles, but this was not the kind I enjoy. ‘Proper’ Dan Dan Noodles in my opinion, has very little soup and ought to be spicy. This was completely the opposite with way too much broth and not enough spice. Go to Yu in CWB for excellent Dan Dan Noodles!! (Note: I do realise that this is a Shanghainese restaurant and not a Sichuan one… but still…)
Fried Diced Chicken with Cashew Nuts & Chili (官保雞丁) – The chicken was soft and juicy and tasted excellent. There was also a suprinsingly good amount of cashews given. The only thing I can add is that it needs to be more spicy though. Not enough chilis for a dish of this kind!
Steamed Minced Pork Dumpling (鲜肉小龍包) – The skin was not too thick and the soup and meat were nice and hot as you bit into it. Very nice!
Steamed Vegetable Dumpling (花素蒸餃) – Generally, I love the vegetable dumplings alot and would order them in any restaurant that I see them in. While the ones served here were not the best I’ve tried, they were still very good and worth a try. Great with lots of vinegar!
Pan-dried Minced Pork Bun (鲜肉生煎饅頭) – The bun was crunchy, yet the meat inside was still nice and juicy. The bun itself was also sweetish and went well with the seasame that covered it.

Wild Vegetable and Diced Bean Curd in Sauce (馬蘭頭百葉卷)
Chinese Yellow Wine Marinated Chicken (醉雞)
Signature Noodle Soup with Minced Pork in Spicy Sesame Sauce (招牌擔擔麵)
Fried Diced Chicken with Cashew Nuts & Chili (官保雞丁)
Steamed Minced Pork Dumpling (鲜肉小龍包)
Steamed Vegetable Dumpling (花素蒸餃)
Pan-dried Minced Pork Bun (鲜肉生煎饅頭)

Personally, I thought the dim sum dishes were great. The other dishes needed a little extra such as not being spicy enough. The Dan Dan Noodles especially errked me (is there such a word)? But apparently, as I check on Openrice… this is the way Hong Konger’s like it done (soup, peanuts, not too spicy), sigh… But overall, the price is reasonable and worth visiting so long as I pick and choose what to order. I can easily recommend this over Din Tai Fung (the ones in Hong Kong that is…)

Highly Recommended:

  • Pan-dried Minced Pork Bun (鲜肉生煎饅頭)
  • Steamed Minced Pork Dumpling (鲜肉小龍包)
  • Steamed Vegetable Dumpling (花素蒸餃)

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Xia Fei Shanghainese Restaurant (霞飛點心拉麵)
Shop B226-227, 18 Hanoi Road, K11, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
2801 6111

Khua Kling + Pak Sod (คั่วกลิ้ง + ผักสด) (Bangkok)

This Southern Thai restaurant was highly recommended by a friend who took us there. No where around the restaurant or the name card did it mention its English name, but I’ve translated it to be Khua Kling + Pak Sod which I think is the name of two Thai dishes. Hidden in a small street, the outside of the restaurant is very unassuming and if I just drove by (and not knowing Thai), I would not have known that it was a restaurant. Inside, the restaurant is like a relaxing family style restaurant, simple yet cozy. While for most dishes, presentation is not the main focus, for sure the taste of the foods are, and they are excellent!

Unassuming entrance

Pork Leg with Tofu and Eggs – A simple dish yet very flavourful. The pork was cooked very tender and the hard boiled eggs went well with the sauce. The tofu was the fried kind and tasted great as it soaked up much of the sauce.
Fried Basil (Ka-Prow) with Chicken – Another simple dish, but I love my spices, and the fried basil was cooked really nicely with the chicken.
Thai Style Omelet – This looks exactly like the corned beef and eggs I’ve eaten at Hong Kong bing sut’s, but instead of corned beef, this one uses minced pork. Again, very simple, very tasty. Yum!
Southern Green Curry and Chili with Beef – Most Thai green curries I’ve tried tended to be watery. This Southern Green Curry had a thick sauce for a change and was nice. There was good spice to the curry and the beef was soft and tender. Perfect to mix with rice.
Fried Fish with Turmeric Flavor – Very appetising when you first look at it, and it reminded me of a fried fish that I ate in Jakarta which was excellent. While the fish was nicely cooked and not oily, unfortunately, I felt that the flavours were slightly lacking.
Deep Fried Prawn with Tamarind Sauce – This was easily the best dish of the night and highly recommended. The prawns were fresh and succulent and the sauce was slightly sweet but went really well with the prawns. The fried garlic chips also added some nice crunch and flavours to the prawns.
Khua Kling with Soft Bone – I said that I liked spicy foods and so this dish was ordered. What can I say? Slow burn… and once it gets started, it doesn’t stop! Don’t get me wrong, this dish was wonderful and the name of the dish is in the name of the restaurant afterall!! The burning sensation though, is totally different from Sichuan spice and perhaps suprised me a bit. Very spicy but good!

Pork Leg with Tofu and Eggs
Fried Basil (Ka-Prow) with Chicken
Thai Style Omelet
Southern Green Curry and Chili with Beef
Fried Fish with Turmeric Flavor
Deep Fried Prawn with Tamarind Sauce - SO tasty! I want more!
Khua Kling with Soft Bone

This restaurant is truly a great place to eat. Though there is English on the menu, it seemed like everyone else in the restaurant was Thai, and that’s just the way I like it. The best foods are usually where the locals eat and therefore this is the kind of place I love to visit.

Highly Recommended:

  • Deep Fried Prawn with Tamarind Sauce
  • Fried Basil (Ka-Prow) with Chicken
  • Khua Kling with Soft Bone (if you like spicy)

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Khua Kling + Pak Sod (คั่วกลิ้ง + ผักสด)
98/1, Thong Lor Soi 5, Bangkok, Thailand (near-ish Thong Lor BTS)
+66 02 785 3977

In The Mood For Love – Sushi Bar & Bistro (Bangkok)

In The Mood For Love, the name is funky for a sushi bar and is based off of the Wong Kar Wai movie. It sets the tone for their specialty rolls which are a mix of funky new styles and old traditional recipes. For the most part, the food was excellent but at the same time, quite expensive for a restaurant in Bangkok. The decor at the restaurant is quite cozy and the seating is nicely spaced.

Sweet 16 – eel . spicy tuna . avocado . shrimp roe . strawberry
The Sweet 16 is the restaurant’s signature maki and showcases their funkiness. Strawberries? I gotta say that I thought this was a bit weird. Who puts strawberries in their sushi? But upon trying it, the sweetness of the strawberries surprisingly went quite well with the spicy tuna. All in all, it was pleasant surprise.

Sweet 16 - eel . spicy tuna . avocado . shrimp roe . strawberry

Guilty but happy – shrimp tempura . ebiko . cream cheese . scallion . mayo . red sauce drizzle . wasabi mayo . nitsume sauce
You can’t really go wrong with shrimp tempura and cream cheese. The shrimp was nice and crispy and the roll tasted good, but perhaps could use a bit less mayo.

Guilty but happy - shrimp tempura . ebiko . cream cheese . scallion . mayo . red sauce drizzle . wasabi mayo . nitsume sauce

Aikamo toban
This is pan-fried duck breast with bunno sauce. The duck was cooked well and very tender whilst the sauce was not too sweet.

C4 – deep fried bbq eel . mozzarella . spicy salmon . cucumber . drizzle of nitsume sauce
Another funky roll as the deep fried BBQ eel was nice and crispy and tasted great with the spice of the spicy salmon.

Spicy tuna roll
There was good spice to the tuna roll and it tasted fresh.

Gindara saikyo yaki
Grilled black cod with miso. With cod being such a fatty fish, it should taste good no matter what you do it. It was grilled nicely with a nice colour and a squeeze of lemon adds nice acidity and taste to the fish.

Black widow roll – soft shell crab . avocado
Soft shell crab and avocado were fresh and nice.

Roku nigiri
More fresh and tasty fish!

Four seasons roll – Thai-French beef with four dippings
A nice light sear on the beef.

Aikamo toban
C4 - deep fried bbq eel . mozzarella . spicy salmon . cucumber . drizzle of nitsume sauce
Spicy tuna roll
Gindara saikyo yaki
Black widow roll - soft shell crab . avocado
Roku nigiri
Four seasons roll - Thai-French beef with four dippings

Recommended:

  • Guilty but happy – shrimp tempura . ebiko . cream cheese . scallion . mayo . red sauce drizzle . wasabi mayo . nitsume sauce
  • C4 – deep fried bbq eel . mozzarella . spicy salmon . cucumber . drizzle of nitsume sauce
  • Aikamo toban

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In The Mood For Love – Sushi Bar & Bistro
9/9, Sukhumvit Soi 36, Klongtuey, Bangkok, Thailand 10110 (near Thong Lo BTS)
+66 02 661 5076

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