Sunday, June 28, 2015

1 Michelin Starred Ho Hung Kee for the Best Congee Ever

Michelin Starred places used to be synonymous with expensive places with certified good food. But with the story of how the Michelin-rating was born, with the Michelin tire group creating demand for their tires by giving people something worth driving to (1 star means you've succeeded as a chef, 2 stars means your restaurant is excellent, but it's the 3 starred places that are worth driving to). With that in mind, it makes sense, that price doesn't really factor in that equation, and it just so happens that the most affordable Michelin Starred Places are located in Hong Kong, where good food can be had at a very affordable price.

For our last trip, one of the new places we tried was Ho Hung Kee at Hysan Place, which has 1 Michelin Star in the 2015 guide. They actually lost their star the year before, but they were able to gain it back.   

The CMD gang at my new favorite Congee place.
We arrived at the place past 8pm, and we didn't have to
wait long for a table. 
Only the office mates still carry Sof.

The thing I love most about Ho Hung Kee, aside from the food of course!, is the ambiance. It seems like the most famous restaurant for "Cheapest Michelin Starred" category is Tim Ho Wan, and if you've been to the original branch in Sham Shui Po, you can see that ambiance is not why people go there at all. You can read my post on that here.

In contrast, Ho Hung Kee, which can give Tim Ho Wan a run for it's money on affordability, pun intended, really looks nice and modern.
The place has turquoise and gold accents, which you can see behind my
favorite girls.
I love their glass wall, and turquoise booths for smaller groups.

The only catch with the place, is they only have 1 table for a big group (of 10), so you'll have to sit an separate tables if you don't want to wait for it.
Ironically though, it seems like it's their wanton soup
that they hype up.
Everyone on our table ordered the small wanton soup,
except for Sof, who ordered the bigger one, because I
was reserving the right to share it.
The wanton noodle had a nice clean taste, but I don't think it's something
I'd ever look for. The smaller bowl had 4 wanton dumplings (HK$38),
and the bigger bowl had 6 dumplings (HK$55).
But their congee is a totally different story.
While it looks plain and unassuming, this one I am already craving for!
I ordered the Century Egg with Salted Pork Flakes (HK$58) and I can say,
this is the best congee I have ever had. It was very fine and light, yet flavorful.
Boys Table with Len, you can see the open kitchen in the background.
Girls table that all ordered wanton noodle except for me.
I let Jackie taste my congee, and she liked it so much,
she ordered a bowl of Fish Congee, after the wanton noodle.
The fish serving was really generous. The one on the plate is only part of it.
However, the fish isn't boneless, so you need to be careful when you eat it.
Though I was told that it wouldn't be as tasty if it were cooked without bones.

This is a place that I am definitely looking forward to coming back to. Another good thing about this place is you really can't get that full if you only have congee (or wanton noodle) for dinner, so it means you'll definitely have enough space to go for dessert, or try another place for midnight snack. just saying.

Just as added information, the three most affordable 1- Michelin Starred places in Hong Kong also includes Yat Lok, famous for their Roast Goose Noodle, which I also plan to try next time.

Ho Hung Kee
Shop 1204-1205, 12/F, Hysan Place
500 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay

Saturday, June 27, 2015

First glimpse of Jakarta and Puncak

I'm moving roles soon and travel is back on the agenda. Hooray for the wanderer in me!

I actually already went on my first trip for my new role. It was a hectic 3 days visiting Jakarta, which I have never visited before. The only times I've visited the country was a trip to Bali around 10 years ago, and a short trip to Batam when we lived in Singapore.

Here are some of my first impressions:

1. All the horror stories you hear about the traffic is true. And this is already coming from me, who normally travels an hour and a half or two hours to get to work because of the bad traffic in Manila. Jakarta's traffic can beat ours hands down, and for that I am thankful (in a way) that I live here.
If we didn't have a Police escort, we would never get to where we're going.

2. When you're given something to eat, just eat first and ask later. Hahaha.

The best meal I had in Indonesia, was the satay from this place along the highway in Puncak.
When we arrived, the restaurant was empty, satay was on the table,
served with sides of peanut satay sauce and Bango, the thick sweet soy sauce,
with chili and tomatoes, and the freshly cooked satay kept on coming.
It was so good, I swear, I ate 11 sticks! I counted. They even served really tasty soup with clear broth and what looked like meat ribs. It was only after eating did Karl tell me I was eating goat which we call kambing in the Philippines, a lot of people- me included, don't really eat goat, but anyway it's a relative of lamb, and it was so good. In fact, when one of our Indonesian colleagues asked if I would have eaten it if I knew what it was, I wholeheartedly said yes! Hahaha.

I just find it a bit too visual to see the goat hanging
upside down and knowing that this is where the satay
came from, and I had the missing ribs in my soup.
Good thing I noticed it only on our way out.

The arrangements were so well made, that the restaurant only started accepting customers when we were done eating, because they wanted to make sure there was enough freshly cooked satay to serve our big group.

3. Puncak, which means Peak, a province in West Java is a popular getaway due to the mountain scenery and cooler climate. I think they also have Tea Plantations you can visit nearby, but we weren't able to join that activity because we had to fly back. Travel time from Jakarta is 2 hours without traffic, but because traffic is very real, we actually allotted 5 hours travel time to make sure we caught our flight back with no problem. 

We stayed at the Pesona Alam Resort and Spa, but because we were there for a workshop, we didn't really get to explore the resort that much. However, the view was still very beautiful.

The Lobby

View from my room
I needed the coffee to power me up for 7am Zumba!

View from the field where the 7am Zumba was held
All in a day's work! How come no one told me about the 7am Zumba?!?
4. In my 3 days in Indonesia, I haven't figured out yet what to shop for, so we settled for Indomie! Just give me time, I'm sure I'll figure it out.
Indomie is the popular Instant Noodles brand.
For the next trip, I wouldn't mind stocking up on some of my new discoveries. 
Lychee flavored water that's very refreshing.
Biskies, which I got for free with every minimum spend from AlfaMidi.
It's a savoury biscuit sandwich with chocolate filling, perfect for those who
enjoy eating salty and sweet things together.
That was my first 3 days in Indonesia. Well, actually just one, since we actually spent 2 days of it in transit so I'm looking forward to getting to know this place more. just saying.

Thanks Karl for the great Indonesian adventure!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Casa Brindisa if you're in the mood for Tapas in London

When I used to go to London many years ago, the only thing I remember about the food, is that they have the best Chinese food in the world! When I lived in Paris, I didn't really get home sick much for Asian food, because I got dimsum for weekend brunch every time I visited my Aunt in London, which was pretty often.

Visiting London now is a totally new experience for me when it comes to enjoying a different cuisine.

When we were there last February, my sister's friend Mia took us to Casa Brindisa, her go to place for Tapas because we just wanted something light to eat for our last night in the city.

We just ordered a few small plates, which psychologically makes you think the food is not enough, even if you're not really hungry, so you order more to over compensate, and then you end up really full. Hahaha.

We had boquerones (which I skipped) and some croquetas (which we
ordered more of, hahaha).

They have classic tapas dishes which they do well.

But they also have other things, that I really loved.
Fried Cheese
Grilled Octopus Leg

They also have heavier dishes, but also served tapas style.
Lamb Cutlets
Bacon or Ham wrapped Pork which was really good
For dessert we had Crema Catalan to share.
Thanks Mia and Matt for treating us for our last dinner in London.

Casa Brindisa has several branches in London, and their menu slightly differs. We went to the South Kensington branch, which is right beside Comptoir Libanais, another London favorite of mine you can read about here.

Overall, it's a good place to go to if you're in the mood to have Tapas in London. just saying.

Casa Brindisa
7-9 Exhibition Road, 
London SW7 2HE, 
United Kingdom

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hong Kong Weekend 2015

It's Manila Day today, and coincidentally, also San Juan Day (feast of St. John the Baptist), so there's no work for me and no school for Fi.

Coincidentally, for the past 2 years now, we've always taken advantage of this holiday to go to Hong Kong. Two years ago, I went to Hong Kong for the long weekend with office mates, you can ready about our first day here. Last year, I used my remaining BA miles to redeem flights for me and Fi, which you can read about here.

This time around, we went for the weekend before. It didn't make sense to make the most of the holiday since it fell on a Wednesday. The rest of our group stayed until Monday, but Sof and I flew in last Sunday because I didn't want to use any of my vacation leaves and I was hoping she would be able to go to school.

Travelling again with friends from work. The cast of characters is just
a bit different, but not in any way less fun.
We took the last flight out on Friday, and except for the extremely stressful traffic jam approaching the airport in Manila, our flight left and arrived in Hong Kong on time. Though due to the time of the flight, we were starving when we arrived, so the Lamb Biryani late dinner at Ebeneezer's really hit the spot. We were just tired and starving, so there are no photos from that night.

The next day, Sof and I woke up just in time for brunch at DimDimSum.
We tried DimDimSum for brunch, upon Jackie's recommendation.
A place once part of the Top 101 places to eat list (in 2012),
the experience was a bit lacking, but more on that on a separate post.

After brunch, since we were already closer to the Wan Chai side of Causeway Bay, I decided to take Sof to Tai Yuen (Toy) Street Market in Wan Chai.
This little girl hit the toy store jackpot.
She couldn't decide which shopkins set to buy! There were so many to choose
from, and she ended up spending double her budget.
After our toy errand, we caught up with the rest of the
group and headed to Mongkok in the hopes of buying
XiaoMi stuff, but we didn't really find anything.
At the Ladies Market in Mongkok
Good thing we were able to buy a Peppa Pig (& Family)
soft toy set, which we haggled down to HK$70 from $150.
My only attempt to try one of HK's coffee shop - 18 Grams, was such a fail.
The place closed down already, so Sof and I settled for Starbucks!
After such a tiring (and humid) day, Sof was happy to go
back to the hotel to play with her loot. 
Sof was so happy because Shop kins playsets are hard to find in Manila.
We even went back the next day to buy more inventory for the store!

We had dinner at Ho Hung Kee, which is one of the cheapest 1 Michelin starred restaurants in the world, famous for their wanton noodle.  
Ho Hung Kee at Hysan Place
When we arrived around past 8pm, the line was manageable. However, they only have one table for a big group, which is not an issue if you're willing to split up.
They really hype up the wanton noodle, so everyone on
our table ordered this. Sof's is bigger than Aina's because
I was planning to share. Hahaha.
The wanton noodle was good, but nothing extraordinary.
But the congee. This was to die for. I ordered salted pork and century egg,
and I am not really a congee fan, but I want to go back to HK to eat more.
The boys and Len were in the other table.
Who does the demure look better?
Mico vs Jackie

For dessert, we tried a new place nearby called He She Eat.

Desserts were a fusion of interesting combinations and were all
freshly prepared. More on this on a separate post.
We were lucky because when we arrived we were first in line. It seems
the place is quite popular, because the line got very long while we were there.
Deciding what to order (while waiting) is serious business.
While the guys only started deciding what to order once we were seated.
The girl didn't really believe that we wanted 5 straws to go with the
Avocado Yogurt smoothie that we were sharing.
The rest went on to party in LKF, while we went back to the hotel ahead so Sof could sleep.
Someone was so happy with her first day in HK, she slept in till noon.

We didn't really have anything planned for our second day in Hong Kong, except to have brunch at Delicious Kitchen.
Pork Chop and steamed vegetable rice from
Delicious Kitchen is always on my HK comfort food list.
Thanks JV for joining us!
The Ichiran Bomba sa Tiyan group with 1 order of double pork rib rice to share.
Thanks Javes for introducing us and treating us to Fresh Milk Ice Cream
from Mother's Crepe at the SOGO Food Hall.
After lunch and dessert, we were just able to do a quick toy store run, when the rain stopped, and we decided to just go back to the hotel to rest before leaving for the airport.
Thanks Clint and Der for letting us crash in your room.
At the airport, Sof had to have her usual Saboten dinner.
She actually finished the PorkChop in the Katsudon!
Unfortunately for me, Cafe de Coral ran out of Goose and Duck, so I had to
settle for the 3 BBQ Roast Order which at least had BBQ Pork (Asado)
which was surprisingly good.
Our flight was delayed, so this little veteran traveler, got a map to look for
the play area. 
I think Sof forgot that the play areas are normally for younger kids,
so she entertained herself by doing cartwheels instead.
Doing the Trick Art Installations at the Airport
Thank you HK! Except for the flight delay on our way back,
that was a good trip!

The weekend was just right for a  Hong Kong break, mainly because we really didn't have anything on our agenda except to eat and hang out with friends. It was also a good mix of old favorites and we got to try out some new places. Though next time, I want to go back for more congee, and I hope I get to shop more! just saying.

Dim Dim Sum 
7 Tin Lok Lane 
Causeway Bay 
Wan Chai

18 Grams Coffee 

Ho Hung Kee 
1204-1205 12/F, Hysan Place
500 Hennessy Road
Causeway Bay

He She Eat
201, 2/F, Causeway Place
2-10 Great George Street
Causeway Bay

Delicious Kitchen
Shop B, G/F, 9-11 Cleveland Street 
Causeway Bay

Mother's Crepe
Shop B2-15, Basement, Sogo, 
555 Hennessy Road
Causeway Bay