Saturday, July 4, 2015

Hong Kong Eat List

Where to eat the next time you are in Hong Kong

Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, July 2, 2015

In my iPhone notes I keep a catalog of my favorite restaurants in the cities I frequent. My Hong Kong list has remained the same over the last year (Mott 32, Ronin, Liberty Private Works, Lung King Heen, Tate, Carbone…) until the past weekend when I flew to the gastronomic capital of Asia for a quick trip with the parents. I happily added three new restaurants to the precious list.

You see, my folks are not huge fans of western food, especially those that look like miniature artworks on a plate. Their idea of a good meal consists of roasted meats (plenty of them and preferably served with innards), braised abalone, sea cucumber, shad fish, and a thick almond cream with egg white for dessert. So when I announced that we will be celebrating Father’s Day at Serge et le Phoque, disappointment was written all over their faces.

Serge et le Phoque

The French restaurant was located right beside the Wanchai Market. We walked past it a couple of times before we finally found the entrance (tip: look for the row of colorful chairs). Mom kind of freaked out when she was told the restroom was outside at the parking lot next door, but as soon as we were seated and served the first dish of crispy white bait with seaweed flakes, I knew I made the right decision. Chef Frédéric Peneau, formerly of Le Chateaubriand, and Chef Christophe Pelé, formerly of La Bigarrade in Paris, served a fun and unpretentious 7-course menu starting with a frozen ceviche of oyster with coconut milk and fresh raspberry, followed by tasty frog legs in tamarind sauce. It was my first time to have yellowtail sashimi with peanuts and fresh peach, and what a revelation! 

Yellowtail sashimi, peach, peanuts, sea grape, black garlic, squid ink

Grilled scallop was served on a velvety cauliflower puree and sprinkled with matcha powder, the almost-raw-the-way-I-like-it mackerel was complemented with smoked eggplant topped with seaweed and sesame seeds, and my favorite course, the pigeon, was cooked so masterfully with its skin all crisped up yet its meat remained red, moist and tender. The gamey bird was served with blackberries and in a pool of sauce made with its own liver. Killer. 

French pigeon, beetroot, blackberry, pigeon liver sauce

Serge et le Phoque surprised us dish after dish after dish, but nothing could have prepared me for the desserts. The unassuming pot of lemon cream blew me away. It was the lightest in texture, like clouds, but packed a punch of tangy, citrusy, milky flavors. The painfully plain-looking chocolate tart was the smoothest, deepest dark chocolate dessert, and it was playfully sprinkled with you’d never guess - kiamoy crumbles!!! It was a perfect meal from start to finish, and my only complaint was the kitchen forgot my request to write a Happy Father’s Day greeting on the dessert, although I could see from my dad’s face and bulging stomach that he had a fantastic one.

Dark chocolate tart 

The next day I brought the parents to have something they both love – Cantonese cuisine. Seventh Son Restaurant is the successful attempt by the seventh son (surprise, surprise!) of the famous Fook Lam Moon family to branch out on his own.

Seventh Son Restaurant

It was comforting to be back in a traditional chinese restaurant setting with tasteful, no-frills interiors and good old charsiu – no iberico pork or ultra chic bathrooms, which I both adore, by the way. We enjoyed barbecued pork and a plate of honey glazed chicken liver before we moved on to two of the most exquisite dimsum dishes I’ve had in a while - steamed fish tripe and steamed tofu skin roll stuffed with roast duck and vegetables.

Steamed tofu skin roll stuffed with roast duck and vegetables

The goose web was cooked expertly with Japanese tofu and crisp vegetables in a rich and tasty thick brown sauce. The signature stuffed crab was pregnant with generous chunks of crab meat sautéed with sweet onions. 

Stuffed crab

I drooled over other tables’ orders of whole suckling pigs and made a mental note to come back with a bigger group, there was only so much three people with huge appetites could eat. Our desserts of malay sponge cake, almond cream with egg white, and walnut soup were among the best we’ve had. Every dish at Seventh Son was carefully prepared, the ingredients fresh, and the service exemplary. The parents were delighted. So was I.

Suckling pig

Yat Lok’s roast goose proved to be the biggest surprise of the trip. I wasn’t expecting much from the tiny Hong Kong style eatery. We arrived before noon and were seated immediately.

Colorful chopsticks at Yat Lok and my HK style milk tea

Sexy roast geese hung from the open kitchen, and beside it were buckets of used plastic spoons and chopsticks ready for dishwashing. If you do not mind this view, hurried service, cramped and communal seating, a meal at Yat Lok is a must.

Sexy geese

 My roast goose and charsiu rice combo

I don’t care if you order it with rice or noodles, just order the drumstick, not the breast part, not the chasiu nor roast pork, just the roast goose leg with skin that glistens, and meat that is flavorful and succulent and almost falls off the bone. Go early to avoid the queue that was forming when we left with happy bellies at half past noon.

Yat Lok at 12:30pm

Serge et le Phoque is located at 3 Wanchai Road, Hong Kong. Tel: +852 5465 2000.

Seventh Son is at the 5th and 6th floors of Kwan Chart Tower, 6 Tonnochy Road, Wanchai. Tel: +852 2892 2888.

Yat Lok is at 34-36 Stanley Street, Hong Kong. Tel: +852 2524 3882.

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