99% Food 1% Skin

Archive for January, 2014|Monthly archive page

The Commons and Dumplings

In Eating Out, Food, Food Product for Home on January 31, 2014 at 15:59

Doof Out

We had a girls night out at the Commons in the quiet wine country Woodinville.

I heard that this place was opened by the same people who owned Purple Café and Wine Bar.

The place was very causal with sandwiches, burgers and biscuits to choose from their menu.

Since I did not have to drive that night, I also tried one of the delicious-sounding boozy milkshake, Feldberg.

The drink was sinfully yummy and strong!

It was made with bourbon, chocolate liqueur and coffee liqueur with ice cream and amaretto syrup.

WP_20131222_18_04_58_Pro

It was super thick, cold and creamy, and I had to share this with my girlfriends since it was very substantial.

I really wanted to try their biscuits and ordered the maple braised pork belly biscuits with spinach, fried eggs and grilled onions.

I love this!

The portion was very generous and the pork belly was the lean kind which I preferred.

The maple gave a hint of sweetness to the sandwich and the egg added creaminess from its runny egg yolks.

The biscuit itself was crumbly inside and a harder tasty crust outside, it was quite wonderful!

WP_20131222_18_18_05_Pro

My friend really wanted a burger, and we got the Woodinville Whiskey BBQ burger with onions and pickles.

The Commons used decent beef from Painted Hills, which were grass-fed and all natural with no added chemicals.

The burger was done just right and fairly flavorful — nothing to write home about though.

Portion was again quite huge.

WP_20131222_18_17_51_Pro

We got some vegetables on the sides and they were the highlights of the night: a fried brussels sprouts with bacon, garlic, maple syrup and apple cider glaze, and a farro and spinach salad.

WP_20131222_18_18_17_Pro

The brussels sprouts were awesomely delicious – sweet and salty with the smokiness from the bacon, I could eat that non-stop!

The farro and spinach salad was very creative and I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of the ingredients.

It had chopped cauliflowers, tomatoes, red onions along with the farro and spinach.

The mix of ingredients worked really well both in flavors and in texture – some crunchiness and some chewiness at the same time.

The experience was not “WOW”; on the other hand, nothing we tried had disappointed us.

It was a safe option with plenty of great drinks!

The Commons on Urbanspoon

Doof In

Discovered this WOW and amazingly delicious gyoza from our area Costco — Ajinomoto Gyoza.

WP_20140129_10_14_51_Pro

Unfortunately it did not have a completely clean ingredient list, but it was really delicious.

Most importantly, every one could make perfect gyoza!

The revolutionary smart food technology was that each tray of the dumplings already came with frozen ice and oil mixture, and the company called it EZ ice.

Literally, all we needed was a hot pan, and added frozen dumplings in the pan.

WP_20140129_10_16_18_Pro

The ice/oil mixture slowly melted over the gyoza, and cooked them perfectly.

I was just marveled by the fact that added frozen ice and oil mixture to the packaging seemed to be a simple thing to do, but I had not encounter a product like this until now.

It was a fantastic idea!

The instruction said it would take 12 mins to finish cooking, and I had waited longer than that.

Once all the water evaporated, the gyoza were left with the perfect crisp bottom.

The gyoza skin was very thin and with the right chewiness, and the meat and cabbage fillings were tasty with crunches from the water chestnuts.

WP_20140129_10_37_18_Pro

I found the gyoza plenty salty, and skipped the sauce that came with the packaging.

Ajinomoto was famous as the producer of MSG.

I looked for MSG immediately on the package and could not find any.

However, there was the combination of disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate which were both flavor enhancers, and function similar to MSG.

If eating clean-ingredient food was important, this product was definitely not a candidate.

As an infrequent quick food, I believe this was still a great option.

Advertisements

Seattle Yakitori 4649

In Eating Out, Food on January 29, 2014 at 10:02

Doof Out

I was looking forward to try 4649 since there was not that many yakitori place in Seattle and the ones around were not that great.

Usually when I am truly craving for yakitori, I will take the trip to Vancouver BC’s Zakkushi.

Our party decided to have small plates to maximize trying different items on the menu.

We got okonomiyaki, another of my favorite Japanese food that had no representation in Seattle; an avocado tempura that my friend was keen to experience; a Hokkaido style fried chicken and a pan seared wild salmon with butter miso sauce.

We ordered an array of skewers to try:  mochi with bacon, japanese shishitou peppers, chicken skin, beef round with diakon and ponzu, pork belly with plum sauce, chicken thigh with 4649 spice and a tsukune (a kind of chicken meat ball formed long on a skewer) with yuzu citrus butter.

The okonomiyaki was decent, but not close to the real ones in Japan nor from Izumiya at Japan town in San Francisco.

WP_20131215_19_29_02_Pro

The Hokkaido style fried chicken was not what I expected.

WP_20131215_19_17_33_Pro

The flavor of the chicken was great, but the texture was not crisp and yet not soggy; it was an in between texture that I did not care for.

I found the avocado tempura very interesting.

WP_20131215_19_20_40_Pro

My friend who was keen to try it actually ended up not enjoying it as much as I did.

A whole avocado with skin was fried to perfection.

The warm avocado flesh was buttery and flavorful;  most surprising was the skin.

Contrary to my encounter with raw avocado skin that was so tough, it was edible and soft after frying.

The miso salmon was delicious and the cabbage at the bottom of the plate that soaked up all the sauces were the best.

Of all the skewer, the tsukune was the best with tender and crunchy texture; our option of yuzu citrus butter was light and wonderful.

L: mocha skewer with bacon - R top: shishitou peppers - R bottom: beef with daikon and ponzu sauce

L: mocha skewer with bacon – R top: shishitou peppers – R bottom: beef with daikon and ponzu sauce

The Japanese shishitou peppers were sweet and tasty, perfectly grilled with some light charred flavor without being burnt.

The pork belly and beef were tougher and drier than my liking.

L: miso butter salmon - R top: tsukune with yuzu butter - R middle: chicken skin - R bottom: chicken thigh with 4649 spice

L: miso butter salmon – R top: tsukune with yuzu butter – R middle: chicken skin – R bottom: chicken thigh with 4649 spice

The flavors of all three of the meat skewers, chicken thigh, beef and pork, were not through and through as if the meats were grilled separately and sauces/flavoring were put on top; the meats were fairly bland.

The mochi was disappointing as it had no flavor and was completely bland.

It looked like the mochi came straight out of the box from Japanese grocery store as it was still in its rectangular shapes.

The chicken skin skewer was also a disappointment as the skins were not crisp at all.

I was introduced to this lovely sparkling peach flavored sake at the restaurant.

WP_20131215_19_12_55_Pro

It was one of those deadly drinks that one could have large amount of and got drunk without realizing.

When we were there, lots of folks were having ramen, perhaps it was the dish to try there?

Unfortunately, I will still need to make the trip to Vancouver BC for yakitori in the near future.

4649 Yoroshiku on Urbanspoon

Sous-vide Experience

In Food, Home Creation on January 27, 2014 at 16:17

Doof Home

My first ever live sous-vide experience!

This home food experience took place at my friend’s house.

I had sous-vide food at restaurants before but never got to see how they were made.

Steaks being sous-vide in water bath

Steaks being sous-vide in water bath

Sous-vide referred to the process of cooking food inside vacuum sealed bags in a hot water bath.

I was observing the making of some thick cut steaks, about 3 inches tall.

The temperature of the water bath was tightly regulated with the gadget (the black one with the temperature display), while the steaks submerged and bobbed in the water.

That particular day, the steaks were placed in the water bath for 3 hours at 129F.

The advantages of cooking sous-vide was to retain the juice and aromatics of the food, which would otherwise be lost due to heat, evaporation or leakage into the water/broth that the food was cooked in.

There was also textural advantage in preparing food this way.

In general, food items were being cooked at a lower than normal temperature; coupled with the even cooking made possible by water bath, food were cooked thoroughly to its doneness at a much lower temperature.

This allowed the meat to be cooked tender without getting tough, and vegetables to be cooked and stayed crisp.

There were so much science involved to deliver the perfect sous-vide for flavor and texture, and to deliver food that was safe enough for consumption.

The danger of low heat cooking was that bacteria and viruses that could cause food borne illness did not get destroyed properly.

Consequently, sous-vide cooking was similar to pasteurization where combination of temperature and duration of heat exposure were taken into account to ensure the food was safe to eat.

fresh out of the sous-vide pouch

fresh out of the sous-vide pouch

Once the steaks were removed from the pouches, it was time to grill.

WP_20131214_13_22_42_Pro

With low temperature cooking, it was impossible to get browning that we were accustomed to from grilling, searing on a pan or even the crisp and dry outer layer from roasting or baking.

As a result, in meat application, grilling at high heat was desirable to obtain the brown flavors.

We were grilling the meat at the highest heat possible.

The surface of the steaks were dried off, grill marks were made and the process sealed in the flavors and juice of the steaks further.

WP_20131214_13_27_33_Pro

The resulting meat looked gorgeous.

WP_20131214_13_30_30_Pro

It was exceptionally flavorful and juicy.

However, the texture was not as tender as we expected.

We theorized that it might be the steaks since they were not very fatty to start with.

Nonetheless, the experience was wonderful, eye-opening and priceless!

High Tea @Trellis in Kirkland

In Eating Out, Food on January 24, 2014 at 18:46

Doof Out

I was excited to find out that Trellis Restaurant at the Kirkland Heathman Hotel had high tea in the afternoon from 12 to 4pm, on Thursdays to Sundays.

High Tea service will end on February 16 this year.

My girlfriend and I decided to give this high tea a try.

I always found high tea fun.

With all the delicately prepared varieties of food, experiencing different tastes and textures in one seating, it was a luxury.

I am also fascinated by the fact that it was an afternoon tea event, a snack, but with so much food!

Perhaps I was not supposed to finish all the delicious food?

Compare to high tea in England, it was definitely a far more casual experience.

There were many kinds of Mighty Leaf Teas to choose from for our tea.

We got proper big tea pots with cups, saucers, cream and sugar.

I felt the need to hold up my pinky as I sipped the tea!

A look at the menu told me that we were in for a meal!

WP_20131213_12_43_34_Pro

Food were served in the traditional high tea 3-tiered platter with savory sandwiches, scones and desserts.

WP_20131213_12_41_41_Pro

Started off with the savouries.

WP_20131213_12_42_06_Pro

The cucumber veggie cup was refreshing, flavorful and delicious, with a light tartness and fresh veggies.

The curry chicken with almonds were delicious — crunchy celery with sweet golden raisins, flavors were perfect and the sandwich managed to stay dry and not watery.

The salmon herb cream cheese was smooth, but I would like to see it with more salmon flavor as it was erred heavy on cream cheese flavor.

We also got extra pickled ham salad that was not on the menu.

The ham was amazingly finely chopped, the saltiness of the ham was a wonderful partner to the tartness in the pickles.

Finally the Harissa deviled eggs were to die for — creamy, delicious with light spiciness from harissa.

We made our way to the second level of cherry apricot scones with house-made crème fraiche and blackberry jam, alongside the madeleines.

WP_20131213_12_42_28_Pro

The scone was tasty with fluffy soft texture inside, with a hint of cherry and apricot flavors from the dried fruits.

The crème fraiche was creamy and light and the blackberry jam was packed with exceptional flavors.

Madeleines had eggy flavors and light sweetness, soft, spongy and fantastic.

On the last level, we found many delightful sweets.

WP_20131213_12_43_00_Pro

Partial to chocolate, my favorite was the chocolate tartlets with the strawberry on top.

This little bite size treat was packed with serious bittersweet chocolate.

The chocolate graham tart shell was fresh with crumbly goodness.

The ginger puffs with lemon cream (10 o’clock in the picture) was tart with a zing — big bold lemon flavor with a hint of spicy ginger, I really enjoyed it.

Berry cream roulade (4 o’clock in the picture) had sweet berry flavor wrapped inside a soft, light, and nicely flavored cake and fresh cream.

We actually got mini raspberry fruit tarts on a dish that was not on the menu.

They were lovely with eggy custard and fresh raspberries; the tart shell had a wonderful hard texture and buttery flavor.

The cookies and biscotti were both fantastic.

I actually did not know how the chocolate truffles were as by the time I got to them, I was thoroughly stuffed.

I brought home the truffles for DH as his treats, I believed he popped them in his mouth and followed with a smile.

Trellis on Urbanspoon

Gem of Bainbridge Island — Hitchcock Restaurant

In Eating Out, Food, Travel Food on January 22, 2014 at 11:50

Doof Out

Hitchcock restaurant was on the main street of Bainbridge Island, just right off the ferry terminal.

The restaurant has been around for almost 4 years, and the deli was added about 2 years ago.

The little place was romantic and lively at the same time.

Chef Brendan McGill was voted as one of the best new chefs in 2013, and his food most definitely live up to the reputation.

All the ingredients used in the restaurant were locally grown and harvested, and I could taste that freshness in our food.

For the two of us, we received different plates for 4 out of our 6 courses, and that was just plain fun!

We got to try so many more dishes and they were amazing!

We started with locally farmed oysters as our first course.

L: duck parfait, R top: cured pork belly, R bottom: oysters

L: duck parfait, R top: cured pork belly, R bottom: oysters

They were super fresh.

We each had one garnished with hot sauce, onion vinaigrette and most creative of the bunch, sweet pickled water melon rind.

Both the hot sauce and vinaigrette tasted great, strong and aromatic, but they were overpowering the oysters for our taste.

The water melon rind was fantastic.

It was very refreshing; the rinds lifted the oyster flavors and gave a different twist to the texture.

Then, we had our different second course: duck parfait and cured pork belly.

The duck parfait was out of this world!

It was smooth and flavorful.

Little shaved truffle and sea salt on top, it made the duck parfait even more decadent.

The toast for the duck was toasted perfectly with crisp on the crust and chewy inside.

This was the first time I ever had any food resembling a savory ice cream!

The pork belly flavor was great; we did prefer more meaty pork belly, and this one had too much fat in our opinion.

I could see pork belly connoisseur would really enjoy this.

The tartness and bitterness of the radicchio salad that accompanied the pork belly helped cut the fattiness away.

Our third course was clams.

WP_20140111_18_11_26_Pro

They were once again amazingly fresh.

Came with a cream sauce with smoked bacon bits, celery and potatoes, the clams were flavorful.

The celery gave a surprising texture to the dish, and helped cut through the creamy sauce, giving the dish another flavor dimension that was unexpected.

The fourth course was a squash soup with leek oil and creme fraiche.

WP_20140111_18_05_33_Pro

The soup was smooth, sweet, a little on the salty side; however, the leek oil was delicious.

We then were treated with a grapefruit palate cleanser: sweet, bitter, slight tartness, creamy and refreshing.

WP_20140111_18_23_42_Pro

A little bit of salt was added onto the palate cleanser–made us experienced all tastes on our tongue!

DH and I had different fifth course, a duck breast and a pork chop.

They were some of the most superbly done meats I had.

The duck breast was cooked perfectly rare with a lovely crisp skin.

WP_20140111_18_35_45_Pro

It was lightly flavor to taste the freshness of the duck meat.

Accompanied by well cooked rutabaga and farro on the side, and little extra duck mousse, it was excellent.

The pork was cooked perfectly pink and moist.

WP_20140111_18_36_41_Pro

Normally, I refused to order pork in Western restaurants because they were most often too tough and dry.

I would have this pork every meal if I could!

The meat was lightly flavored again, showcasing the quality pork, crisp on the skin and just melted in the mouth.

There were sweet apples on the side with spicy kimchi relish; all the flavors played so well together, this dish was another step ahead of the duck!

Then, we had cheese and desserts.

L: chocolate terrain, R top: sheep hard cheese and soft goat cheese, R bottom: caramel crème brulee with ginger cookie

L: chocolate terrine, R top: sheep hard cheese and soft goat cheese, R bottom: caramel crème brulee with ginger cookie

If we counted them separately, we technically had seven courses.

A wonderful hard sheep cheese which was nutty and smoky, and a soft fermented goat cheese, it was perfect for DH and me.

I generally liked the mild hard cheeses, and DH enjoyed the stinkier soft cheeses — we did not have to fight.

Desserts were yummy.

I am a chocoholic, and would always be partial to chocolate dessert.

I loved the chocolate terrine with saffron cream and white chocolate pistachio brittle.

It was smooth and very much strong dark chocolate; it was roasty, creamy and not very sweet at all.

The crunchy white chocolate pistachio brittle was wonderful with contrasting texture to the smoothness of the terrine, and hint of saltiness.

The addition of saffron was beautiful and exotic.

Normally I was not crazy about crème brulee, but this caramel crème brulee was very good.

It was creamy and smooth as expected but without the heaviness of cream; instead it was eggy, and I dared use the word “light” on a crème brulee.

It was fantastically done with a delicious piece of ginger cookie.

I will most definitely go back to eat at Hitchcock again even it means the extra money and time for the ferry ride!

Hitchcock on Urbanspoon

A Food Tour of Bainbridge Island, WA

In Eating Out, Food, Travel Food on January 20, 2014 at 13:27

Doof Out

For our wedding anniversary, I had planned a get-away to a quint little town, Bainbridge Island.

Bainbridge Island is not very far from Seattle, about 30-min ferry ride from downtown.

Many people commute from Bainbridge to work in the Seattle area every day.

For me, however, it was something special — it felt as if I was travelling to an exotic location again!

Managed to snap the picture of the Seattle Great Wheel with the unintentional effect showcasing the inside of the Washington State Ferry

Managed to snap the picture of the Seattle Great Wheel with the unintentional effect showcasing the inside of the Washington State Ferry

Unfortunately after searching high and low for accommodation, I concluded that everywhere on the island was pretty expensive.

I decided to only going for food.

We walked along the main street on the island and found Blackbird Bakery.

I heard praises for this bakery for a long time and glad that I finally made the trip.

The bakery offered wide range of selections from pastries, cookies, sandwiches to full and beautiful cakes.

WP_20140111_16_47_59_Pro

I got an orange cranberry ginger scone and it was fantastic.

The inside of the scone was fluffy with plenty of flavors – an overall sweet orange flavor, with zesty ginger bits and tart cranberries.

All the additions compliments the sweetness of the scone dough.

The outside was dry and had a nice harder crust, it was perfect!

Although there were plenty other lovely pastries, I told myself that restrain was necessary as a big dinner was near in sight.

Well, that thought lasted for 2 seconds.

We stepped out of the bakery, looked to our right, was Mora Iced Creamary.

I wanted to try ice cream from Mora for a very long time.

All the ice cream at Mora were made in small batches with clean ingredients.

WP_20140111_16_51_49_Pro

I loved the store’s simple design, clean and sleek.

Each flavor of the ice cream was hidden in a stainless steel bucket with stainless steel lids.

I really wanted to have the goat cheese fig ice cream that day, but it was sold out.

I tried the Marron Glace – chestnut cream.

It was creamy and tasty with excellent roasted chestnut flavor; however, DH did not like it.

We settled with Maraschino cherry flavor.

WP_20140111_16_56_10_Pro

I knew the cherry flavor wasn’t the freshest kind, and the color was the most unnatural, but I grew up with those little cherries on top of ice cream sundae or in canned fruit cocktail, the maraschino cherry flavor was every bit nostalgic for me.

The sweet cream flavor came through fantastically and it was very creamy.

The little snack before dinner was delicious and against all Chinese parents’ teaching, “no sweet food before dinner, you will spoil your appetite!”

I am glad that the ice cream did not do too much damage, and I was able to enjoy my 6-course tasting menu at Hitchcock (the meal was fantastic and deserved its own page…stay tune!)

On our way back, we joined the city in celebrating the Seahawks’ advancement into the NFC Championship Game, and now SuperBowl!!

WP_20140111_20_39_15_Pro

Blackbird Bakery on Urbanspoon

Mora Ice Cream Co on Urbanspoon

Le Petite Terroir, Non-Caffeinted Almond and Seasme Drinks

In Eating Out, Food on January 16, 2014 at 18:17

Doof Out

Back to reality from all the traveling and good food never ends!

Very grateful to catch the last meal from Le Petite Terroir, a tiny farm to table restaurant in Woodinville, WA — in our wine country.

Unfortunately the owner of the restaurant decided that they were going to operate only as a catering company.

The restaurant was only around for less than a year.

Chef Jason Custer have not decided what he is going to do yet — and I believe we will keep an eye on him as I do enjoy his cooking.

We did the tasting menu that night.

Lighting was not the greatest, colors of the pictures were suffering a bit.

Started off with a delicious bacon jam on toasts with goat cheese.

WP_20140110_19_18_28_Pro

Prior to this, I really loved the bacon jam from Skillet; however, after tasting this, I had a new winner!

It was chunky, meaty with lots of texture and chew.

The bacon was flavored with something sweet and spicy, perhaps cinnamon.

The addition of goat cheese gave a creamy and tart dimension to the otherwise crunchy toasts.

Then, we had Charcuterie that were house-made.

WP_20140110_19_25_22_Pro

My favorite of all was the Copa – very nice flavor and melted in the mouth.

There was the delicious duck liver which was nice, smooth, sweet with raisin and cherry, and most definitely screaming “liver”.

A surprising piece was lamb bacon.

It was a little overly salted, gamey as lamb ought to be, and very delicious.

A cured beef round had great chewy texture and flavor; and a Mortadella that was peppery and had incredible texture which was almost crunchy and with a floral hint.

Our 3 starters were butternut squash soup, a play on Caesar salad, and a beet salad.

WP_20140110_19_40_05_Pro

The best one of all was the “Caesar salad” made with chilled asparagus and roasted brussels sprouts, topped with lemon, manchego cheese and croutons of fried pork belly!

Nothing can beat fried fat!

The pork belly was flavorful and once again, melted in the mouth.

The dish was fun and tasty.

For Mains, we had a squash gnocchi, pork shank and lamb burger.

WP_20140110_19_55_30_Pro

The lamb burger was perfectly cooked, rare inside with a lovely tzatziki yogurt sauce.

The gnocchi had a hint of sweet squash flavor, pan-fried crisp with brown butter, with a little sage and cheese crumble.

They were light in texture, fluffy and enjoyable.

WP_20140110_19_55_43_Pro

The pork shank was very tender and soft.

Pickled cabbage was perfect done, and mix with sweet apple and a creamy mash potato base, each ingredients complimented each other really well without losing their own character.

For dessert, we had a fried brioche donut.

WP_20140110_20_20_51_Pro

Hot, crispy and dusted generously with cinnamon and sugar, it was delicious.

Hoping our young chef will open his own restaurant soon so we can have his food again!

Doof Home

Weather had been pretty cold and I had been drinking hot liquids non-stop.

I started getting bored with the varieties of teas I was drinking.

Coffees and chocolates were not sippable all day for me due to my sensitivities to caffeine and large amount of sugar.

As a result, I was on a mission to find non-dairy hot drinks alternatives that I could have all day long — and I found 2 delicious candidates.

WP_20140116_15_29_05_Pro[1]

First one was a very tasty unsweetened almond drinking powder (on the right).

The minute the lid was opened, almond flavor came bursting out of the can.

The drink was smooth and the powder were fairly easily mixed with hot water.

It was made with real almond, and there were ground almond bits floating in the cup.

It was completely soothing for a cold night, and I could add healthy sweetener to it with as little or as much as I wished.

The second was a black sesame drink.

This product was sweetened with brown sugar and crystal sugar, and definitely at “Chinese sweet” level, meaning not very sweet at all.

It was marketed as a cereal drink and was made with black sesame, soy, brown rice, barley and wheat germ.

The powder was easily dissolved in hot water and with all the starches, turned thick quickly.

The black sesame flavor was wonderful.

It tasted just like the black sesame filling in a Chinese sticky rice dumpling (tang yuan) — melty form in a cup!

Joy!

Both products were made in Taiwan.

With food scandals plaguing China the last several years, I avoided purchasing food products from China as much as possible.

The almond powder came in a can, and the black sesame powder came in individual packets inside the big bag.

They were available in Chinese stores in my area.

Gorgeous Sushi from Hong Kong

In Asia, Eating Out, Food, Travel Food on January 14, 2014 at 15:16
Left top: Kinki - Left middle: Tamasu - Left bottom: Seared Toro - MIddle: Kawahagi with liver Right top: Hokkigai - Right middle: Sutsuki - Right bottom: Shimaji

Left top: Kinki – Left middle: Tamasu – Left bottom: Seared Toro – MIddle: Kawahagi with liver
Right top: Hokkigai – Right middle: Sutsuki – Right bottom: Shimaji

My cousin recommended me to visit this tiny little sushi place in Causeway Bay area called Sushi Mori 鮨森日本料理.

Everyone in my party were in for a treat!

We went for lunch, and it was price-fix.: HK$300 (roughly US$37) for 9 pieces, HK$400  (~US$50) for 12 pieces and HK$500 (~US$62) for 15 pieces.

It was an adventure as the chef would serve the day’s specials and fresh-catch, and we had no clue what we were about to eat.

They only asked whether there was any food allergies or anything we did not like.

One thing we noticed as we sat down was that there was no soy sauce or wasabi.

Their philosophy was that each sushi was prepared and served to the customers just right in flavors and texture, and no additional soy sauce or wasabi was needed.

Upon closer look at the sushi porn attached, one would notice that the sushi rice were a little brown.

I believe soy sauce was already added to the rice for flavor.

Left: Akodai - Middle Top: menu - Middle Bottom: Chef prepping the Uni and Ikura rice bowl - Left top: Filleting fish - Left Bottom: Delicious miso

Left: Akodai – Middle Top: menu – Middle Bottom: Chef prepping the Uni and Ikura rice bowl – Left top: Filleting fish – Left Bottom: Delicious miso

I had all kinds of fish that I had never heard of before.

I believe most were flown in fresh from Japan.

The very first piece was the Akodai, served with seaweed, with the surprising flavors of yuzu (Japanese grapefruit).

The fish was light in flavor, snapper-like, and with chewy tendon.

Flavor combination was wonderful and bursting in my mouth.

Other highlights were:

Peppery flavored Tachiro, firm texture, seared just right and it tasted sassy with the added peppery flavor;

Kawahagi, a firm texture fish, which was served with its liver on top that was super creamy and smooth; the green chives gave brightness to the sushi;

Sutsuki, a flavorful, tendony fish with sliver of shiso – mild flavor and a nice chew.

Many pieces were served “no-frill”, just the seafood’s raw taste from the sea: the delicious Toro – fatty, melted in the mouth; Buri – a Hamachi-like fish which was only available during winter time, was fatty and a clean flavor.

Quite a few pieces were seared to highlight the flavor of the crispy skin or imparted seared fat flavor.

My favorite piece in this category was the Gindara, in the same family as black cod — this piece of sushi was superb with soft meat, fatty and sweet, and the flavor lingered in the mouth for a very long time after the piece was well in my stomach.

Left: Ikura and Uni - Right top: Gindara - Middle: Scallop - Right Middle: Shiori and Tobiko - Middle Bottom: Tachiro - Right Bottom: Unknown!  Ate and Forgot to take notes!

Left: Ikura and Uni – Right top: Gindara – Middle: Scallop – Right Middle: Shiori and Tobiko – Middle Bottom: Tachiro – Right Bottom: Unknown! Ate and Forgot to take notes!

The best part, every set course came with a generous bowl of Uni and Ikura with rice.

The rice was once again flavored with soy sauce, then packed with mounds of marinated Ikura and fresh Uni.

Finished off the meal with miso soup, which was exceptionally sweet and delicious as it was cooked with left over fish parts.

It was a wonderful meal full of surprises, and I just wish there is a place like this in the Seattle area!

Creative Chinese Food feat. Pearl Ribs, Fried Squid Mouths and Snake Soup

In Asia, Eating Out, Travel Food on January 11, 2014 at 11:14

Doof Out

We had 2 wonderful dinners in Hong Kong.

One meal was at “Happy Dot” 囍點.

WP_20131130_21_26_05_Pro

The restaurant is located in Quarry Bay in Hong Kong in an industrial/factory building.

In the past years, rents on the ground floors’ of buildings were getting way too expensive for many businesses to be in.

Many restaurants started moving “upstairs” of residential buildings.

Apparently, the upstairs of residential buildings were also getting too expensive, so restaurants were moving upstairs of industrial/factory building.

This place served some fun, unique and excellent dishes; a place that I would definitely go back again!

We had a rib dish with plum sauce.

WP_20131130_20_09_30_Pro

Looking at it, it looked like a regular meat/rib dish.

The restaurant called it “pearl rib”.

Turned out, it was the small cartilage meat part that was attached to end the baby back ribs.

As a result, all the pieces were bite-size, with the perfect balance of meat and cartilage to chew on.

Coupled with the sweet and tangy sauce, it was wonderful!

Then, we had a vegetable cooked in fish soup with mushrooms.

WP_20131130_20_12_28_Pro

Although this dish’s preparation was not as special, the fish soup base was one of the best I had!

Creamy, delicious and not fishy;  I drank the soup after we finished the vegetables.

I wish they had an option of just ordering a pot of the fish soup!

We also had a noodle dish cooked in the steamer, which I had not seen before.

WP_20131130_20_31_55_Pro

It was extremely spicy (we ordered the Szechuan style eggplant with Japanese black pork).

The noodle was cooked just right in texture, and flavors were through and through.

We had to wait 45 mins for this dish to arrive and it was well worth the wait!

Lastly, we had a clay pot rice with tofu and Angus beef.

WP_20131130_20_34_20_Pro

Flavor was awesome, but it did not have as much burnt rice at the bottom as I thought.

The restaurant only has 2 seatings at 6pm and 7:30pm, and does not open on Sundays.

The place was so crowded — we had a reservation and still had to wait when we arrived.

Another place we went to was Tung Po.

My family had been going to this restaurant for many years because they cooked creatively and food were utterly tasty.

My Mom admitted that it had gotten more expensive so they had fewer visits in the past years.

I really wanted to eat there since I did not go back to Hong Kong often, and I got my wish!

Tung Po was not a fancy place.

It is located on the top floor of the North Point food market, along with many cooked food vendors.

First, we had the best Chinese Borscht.

WP_20131116_02_35_22_Pro

Thick and rich, they made the soup tasted more like a stew and it was unstoppable for me!

Then, we had a salt and pepper fried squid mouth.

WP_20131116_03_00_54_Pro

Literally, they harvested just the chewy mouth part of the cuttlefish.

The resulting texture was extra crunchiness in these little fried pieces.

We also had a mushroom tomato fish e-mein.

WP_20131116_02_35_11_Pro

The fish was tender with the lovely flavors from the tomato sauce and mushrooms.

The sauce ate like a Western dish, but was accompanied by Chinese e-mein.

Lastly, we had an egg omelette with bitter melon and oysters.

I never had this combination before, and generally I was not a fan of the bitter melon.

This was delicious though and the oysters were still tender in the thin egg omelette.

WP_20131116_02_36_30_Pro

Finally, since I was back in the Fall season, it was the best time for snake soup.

WP_20131117_02_58_33_Pro

I was hoping to snap some pictures of cages full of snakes in the shop, but unfortunately, new law did not allow restaurant to display their snakes anymore.

Snake soup was cooked with snack meat, chicken meat, mushrooms and bamboo shoots, topped with crispy wonton and shredded lemon leaves.

My last recollection was that it was also topped with chrysanthemum flower petals; the shop owner said nowadays, people usually gave out the flower petals or lemon leaves, but not both.

Bummer.

The combination of the lemon leaves and chrysanthemum flower petals gave the soup very unique flavors.

The soup itself tasted mushroomy and soy sauce flavored; in fact, imagine hot and sour soup without the hot and sour!

The snake meat really did not impart any flavors.

I joked that I could not even tell the snake meat apart from the chicken meat.

The addition of leaves and flowers gave a lift to the overall flavor with citrus, mint and floral scents ; they also imparted texture, as the petals and leaves were both a little chewy but soft.

I am glad I went back to Hong Kong in the right time to have snake soup since I had not had it for eons!

Hong Kong Food Market

In Asia, Food, Travel Food on January 8, 2014 at 17:28
L: temporary store for hairy crabs -- R top: tofu stall -- L middle: frogs in the cage for purchase R middle: all kinds of eggs -- L bottom: all manners of balls -- R bottom: fish monger

L: temporary store for hairy crabs — R top: tofu stall — L middle: frogs in the cage for purchase
R middle: all kinds of eggs — L bottom: all manners of balls — R bottom: fish monger

A part of life in Hong Kong that I missed the most was the vibrant food market.

Grocery stores here in North America, which are very clean by many countries’ standard, could appear sterile compared to this kind of “live” market.

Market opened early, 5am or 6am, already brimming with freshest products of the day.

Due to the very liberal import regulations, plenty of fruits, vegetables, meat and fish were available in the market from many parts of the world.

Farmland was a rare commodity in Hong Kong nowadays, and most food imports were from Mainland China, Southeast Asia, Australia or other exotic locations.

Stalls were typically fairly small in size, nothing compare to the capacity of a North American grocery store; as a result, storage was minimal.

Coupled with people demanding fresh and quality products, fresh produce flowed through these markets at a high rate.

It was hairy crab season when I was in Hong Kong; hairy crabs were one of the touted Chinese delicacy.

Temporary stalls similar to the above in the picture popped up everywhere in Hong Kong just to sell hairy crabs for perhaps a month to maximum 2 months.

Hairy crabs started appearing in the market around Fall, and they were referred as “hairy crab” because they were much hairier than regular crabs.

In Chinese though, direct translation of the crab’s name would be “big gate crab”.

Usually they were just steamed, and the delicate sweet crab meat were consumed with a ginger vinegar.

The inert were used in multiple ways including topping steamed buns, steamed egg or fried eggs.

Tofu stalls sold all manners of fresh pressed or fried tofu, tofu puffs and etc.; along with the stalls with all manners of “balls” — fish balls, cuttlefish balls, beef or pork balls to name a few.

The egg stalls had thousand-year old eggs, salted eggs, and my favorite, quail eggs as well.

Frogs were consumed as well in application of congee or with my family, they were cooked Shanghainese style with sweet soy sauce and green onion (“hung sui”).

I still vividly remembered (perhaps traumatized) walking pass stalls that sold frogs when I was a kid.

The frog was already de-skinned, naked, and splayed open on top of the cage.

My dad told me that health law had prohibited selling pre-killed frogs;  they were kept in the cage and slaughtered only when someone ordered them.

L: fruit stall -- L top: stall selling candies and dried fruit by the lb. -- R top: another fish monger L bottom:  stall selling noodles -- R bottom: meat stall

L: fruit stall — L top: stall selling candies and dried fruit by the lb. — R top: another fish monger
L bottom: stall selling noodles — R bottom: meat stall

I particularly missed the old-style market candy store.

The stall in the picture was not fully opened yet, otherwise, all the empty spaces in the pictures would be full of snacks.

I used to go to these stalls with my grandma, especially before Chinese New Year.

We bought all the sweets and savory snacks to fill up this compartmentalized box to offer to guests when they came to our house for Chinese New Year greetings.

The stall carried treats from western candies and chocolates, to Chinese dried picked fruits such as sour plums, to snacks such as dried squid, wasabi peas etc.

Candies and snacks were sold by the pound and one could get as little or as much as they wanted.

With Hong Kong occupying such a small geographical area and its super convenient transportation, it was customary for people to go to the market and buy food for the day every day to guarantee freshness of their food.

It also helped that a lot of people had maids, so the shopping and cooking were done by the maids anyway.

Alas, both super fresh food and maids were luxury for life in North America.