Where to Eat: Hong Kong Edition

Oh, Hong Kong. The city is, in my opinion, as food obsessed as it can get. Indeed, there seems to be a restaurant, cafe, or food stall on every street and tucked behind every corner to satisfy every taste. The dishes and styles can range from inexpensive and comforting to sumptuous and luxurious. This is already apparent in the food markets. Traditional/wet markets are busy and noisy, touting piles of fresh meats, seafood, and produce. Contrarily, there are specialty food markets like Great or Citysuper where the shelves overflow with gourmet, imported (many European) products. These are the places to hit when searching for super-rich Hokkaido milk (which, incidentally, makes delicious soft serve ice cream) or fresh bread from Poilane (incredible sourdough bread… There are only three bakeries worldwide: two in Paris, one in London).
Poilane's famous sourdough (taken in London)

The markets are just the beginning though. There are so many exceptional spots with food from all around the world that it is possible to forgo home cooking altogether. Perhaps the fact that people eat out so frequently explains why they care so much about the quality of their food. Everyone and their mother seems to have an opinion of where to get the freshest and best of everything.

The fresh factor is an important one. If you've been to a traditional Chinese restaurant, you may recall the big blue fish tanks where you can literally observe your dinner in action before it lands on your plate. There are wet markets in Hong Kong today where you can buy live chickens too. How’s that for fresh?

It is impossible for me to cover everything delicious available in the city. In the short time that I was there, I'm positive I didn't even come close. I went to too many restaurants to count (dim sum, Cantonese, Shanghainese, Vietnamese, Japanese, the list goes on...) but rather than singling out a handful of random spots, I'll give a few quick snapshots of some highlights and where I got them.

Australia Dairy Co.

Real all-day breakfast: packed at 11pm
When I first heard the name of this place, I imagined a hokey Ben and Jerry's-type ice cream shop. In fact, this little restaurant in Kowloon has nothing to do with Australia and doesn't serve ice cream. However, as the top rated "HK style" restaurant at OpenRice.com (HK's version of Yelp and the like) I knew I had to try it.
The meal was...an experience in itself. The turnover is probably insanely high; I was in and out in under 30 minutes. Expect to order really, really quickly. (Case in point: the waiter literally walked away while I was mid-sentence in my order. By the time I finished the sentence the food had already landed on the table.) And while they don't actually rush you, this is not the kind of place where you'd feel comfortable kicking back and leisurely sip tea. I scarfed down the macaroni soup (a little salty with overcooked pasta, but that's the way it's supposed to be) and moved onto the scrambled eggs. The eggs are what make this place famous and they really were quite something: fluffy and buttery, soft and moist, served with ham and a very generously buttered thick piece of white toast. The meal was topped off with your choice of a hot drink (I had a Horlicks malted milk). The bill? 60 HKD for two servings, which is equivalent to just under 8 USD. Beat that.
Twenty minutes later
(more after the jump)

Where to Eat: Singapore Edition

For a city of its size (1 hour by car from east to west or so our cab driver said), Singapore definitely packs in its eateries. Or maybe it’s just an Asia thing (see the Hong Kong post).

It feels like the entire city is linked by an underground labyrinth of shopping malls. Most of these malls contain quality food courts... No Sbarro or McDonald’s here! It makes finding your next meal simple and convenient, but also challenging thanks to the number of choices. There are also great outdoor food markets like Lau Pa Sat if that's more your style.

The following are a few highlights from a whirlwind 48 hours in Singapore.


I heard that the best place to get satay is off Lau Pa Sat market (an outdoor covered food court). At night, the bordering Boon Tat Street is blocked off and filled with locals and visitors alike enjoying cold Tiger beers and freshly grilled satay.

There are numerous vendors set up along Boon Tat Street all attempting to hustle customers to their seating area. According to local sources, all the meat comes from a central supplier; it is the sauce that varies between stands. I went to stall number 8, mainly because there were plenty of patrons in the seating area and also because they claimed to have been featured in a Hong Kong travel publication.
The fan is used to control the flame on the charcoal grill. There are piles of satay in those plastic bags, waiting to meet the heat.
Chicken, beef and mutton skewers with peanut sauce and rice cake
There's something about sitting outdoors in the smoke laden air eating copious amounts of charred grilled meat that feels authentic. I felt a little like Anthony Bourdain, who has a penchant for eating probably-bad-for-you food in foreign outdoor settings. (The irreverent Mr. Bourdain is a foul-mouthed, steel-stomached celebrity chef who travels around the world eating crazy stuff like beating cobra hearts. He's a real badass in the food world, unlike one Mr. Ramsay... who's just a big bully.)

Hainanese chicken

Speaking of Mr. Bourdain, he visited Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice in the Maxwell Food Center and so I followed. If you ever go to Singapore, this is the “national dish” to seek out.

The chicken rice was probably the best 3 USD that I ever spent. The soup was mediocre (tasted like salt water to me) but the “oily” rice was so amazingly fragrant you just want to stick your face in it. I was also surprised that boiled chicken could taste that good.

(more after the jump)

Salmon to Love (Roasted, Herb-Crusted)

The Pacific Northwest is blessed with an abundance of wild salmon. Or, should I say, overabundance. We have salmon in the fridge so often that I had been running out of creative ways to prepare it.  This is my fifth salmon-themed post. I think it's also the only fish I've every written about.

Anyways, I may be able to end my search for variations because this is pretty darn tasty. The panko gets satisfyingly crispy and golden brown, while the crust seals the salmon and keeps it perfectly moist.

The side dish for the evening starred my favourite pasta-which-thinks-it's-rice, orzo. Dressed up with some lemon zest, herbs and parmesan, it played quite nicely with the salmon.

(Recipe after the jump)


Where to Eat: A Voce Columbus

I haven't written about a restaurant in a while. But when I realized that I have been repeatedly thinking back to this one dinner I had over a month ago, I decided that it is probably worth writing about. The restaurant that made such a lasting impression is A Voce at Columbus Circle. It is a contemporary Italian "chain" (if you could call it that. Its only other location is on Madison Ave.) but don't let that put you off. Sure, it has a Michelin star. But what I loved was that the food was the main focus, without the potential pretension that can accompany fine dining. The dining room was dimly lit, but was casual enough to feel completely relaxed. Although not quite an "open kitchen," there is a large window where you can look into the studio where the magic happens. (This is all I remember of the interior. Oh, and they have cool light bulbs hanging over the bar.) The restaurant claims to have views of Columbus Circle and Central Park, although there are mostly a few large semicircular banquettes next to the window, and they all face into the restaurant. The service was very friendly and prompt.  
 Nice bulbs

(More after the jump)