September 30, 2014

Hong Kong - Trattoria Queen Hollywood

As you may know, Japanese and Italian are two of my favourite cuisines of all time. When you combine the two, scrumptious things happen. Trattoria Queen Hollywood serves exactly that: delicious Italian cuisine influenced by Japanese flavours and ingredients. It's a small cozy restaurant, with about 15 seats on the main floor. The kitchen is semi-open, so customers can see their food being prepared and plated. The menu is quite small, but I think that's a great way to focus on a few signature dishes and make them perfect. 

Amuse bouche: Pork pate with a sprig of dill sandwiched between two rice paper crisps

Japanese Vegetable Bagna Cauda: Bagna cauda literally means "hot bath" in Italian, and is a warm dip for vegetables typically found in Piedmont, Italy. Here, seasonal Japanese vegetables were provided. 

This dish was served similar to a fondue. You dip the vegetables into the warm homemade sauce made of anchovies, garlic, olive oil and butter. I loved the stark contrast of the cold sweet and crunchy vegetables against the warm salty anchovy.

The sauce was served in an oil burner to keep warm.

Spaghetti Vongole with clams, mussels, squid and dried mullet roe: This dish was made using Dassai, a top quality Japanese sake, instead of traditional white wine. The seafood was extremely fresh and plump. The sauce was light and briny, not like your usual sweet and creamy Japanese style pasta. The dried mullet roe added depth and umami.

Pike Eel Agnolotti in a Mushroom sauce with Summer Truffle: Agnolotti is a type of pasta from Piedmont that is similar to ravioli, but square, smaller and thinner. This homemade pasta was filled with Pike eel and tossed in a mushroom sauce and a variety of fresh mushrooms. The eel had an almost meat-y flavour and texture, which paired really well with the earthy mushrooms. The sauce was fresh and light, elevated by the fragrant truffles.

Homemade Panna Cotta and Chocolate Cheesecake with Yamazaki Whisky sauce: Possibly one of the best panna cottas I've had! The smooth texture was just spot on. The creamy panna cotta practically dissolved in my mouth. The whisky sauce was sweet and had the distinct fruity aroma and bitter aftertaste of Japanese whisky. This went well with the rich dark chocolate brownie (it said cheesecake on the menu but it was fudgy and chewy like a brownie).

Verdict: I can't wait to come back again. I'm a huge fan of Japanese Italian food and Trattoria Queen really hit the spot. They use high quality ingredients and strive to highlight those ingredients, not drown them in a lot of cream which can happen in Japanese-Italian cuisine. They also offer complex flavours and you can tell the dishes were thought through and executed well. The restaurant itself is cozy and comfortable, and the service was attentive. 

I recommend: Japanese Vegetable Bagna Cauda, Spaghetti Vongole, Panna Cotta

Trattoria Queen Hollywood
Address: G/F, 258 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan
Phone: 2559-6077

September 26, 2014

Hong Kong - Morihachi Yakiniku

Once I stepped out of the elevator, I was instantly greeted by the familiar aroma of delicious sizzling beef. I’ve been to Morihachi a few times before and I keep going back because of their good quality food and great value-for-money. The environment is super casual and you are pretty much left alone to grill your own food at your own pace which really works for me. Morihachi is known for beef and seafood, but they also offer an array of different items such as ramen, fried rice and sushi. Drinks are also cheap here. A glass of white will only set you back $38. We decided on the 4-person dinner set between the five of us, with an extra order of marinated beef short ribs.

Starters: Black Truffle Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Yogurt Salad and Deep-Fried Soft Shell Crab and Avocado Rolls (not pictured)

 Wagyu Beef Salad

 Starting from bottom left, clockwise: Selected Morihachi Style Short Ribs (汁燒和牛肋骨), Rock Oysters in Italian Herbs and Butter (意式香草牛油青殻岩蠔), Shrimps in Rock Salt (鹽燒花竹蝦), Ox Tongue in French Dijon Sauce (法式芥茉籽牛舌), Agu Black Pork (Thick Slice) with Rock Salt (厚切沖繩Agu 岩鹽燒)
Center: Hokkaido Matsuba Crab Legs (特上松葉蟹腳), Pot Marinated Chicken in Salt Lime Sauce (海鹽青檬壺漬雞腿肉)

A4 Saga Wagyu Beef Rib Eye (佐賀A4 極上和牛肉眼)

Extra order of Morihachi Style Short Ribs

 Vegetable Platter with Herbs and Butter

Japanese Wagyu Beef Fried Rice

Dessert: Strawberry Milk Pudding (not pictured)

Verdict: The bill came to around $250 each including one drink each and service. Solid meal with attractive prices, for both food and drink. Come with a date (they have booths) or book the private room for a large party to enjoy the casual grill-it-yourself environment without having to shout over your food to talk. It can get quite hectic in the main dining area. I think the quality of beef is quite decent at Morihachi, but serious beef fans can find higher quality beef and a larger variety of cuts at Futago. You can read my review here.

Extra info: Morihachi (Central location) has two seatings: 7-9 and 9-late. They also offer all-you-can-eat on more than 100 items and free-flow sake, wine and beer on weekends for $288 per person. 

I recommend: Morihachi Style Short Ribs, Hokkaido Matsuba Crab Legs, A4 Saga Wagyu Beef Rib Eye

Morihachi Yakiniku
Address: 3/F, 8 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong
Phone: 2581-1933 / 2591-1816


September 22, 2014

Sausage Pasta with Fennel and Chili

This is one of my favourite pasta dishes. It's bursting with so many different flavours. There's the anise you get from the fennel, heat from the chili flakes, sweetness from the cherry tomatoes, and the caramelization from the sausage. All these beautiful flavours are brought together into one dish with a touch of cream and then garnished with parsley. You can use pretty much any kind of pasta with this dish, but I recommend penne, fusilli, or shells so you get maximum sauce with each mouthful. I've made this many times and I think this is my yummiest version yet!

 What you'll need: fresh sausages, pasta (I ended up using mini shells instead of this one pictured here because Boyfriend said it looked like maggots...), parsley, cherry tomatoes

 What you'll need: fennel seeds, black pepper, oregano, chili flakes

Bash up the chili flakes and fennel seeds to release their flavours

Squeeze the sausages out of their skins and break them up in the pan.

Keep frying and breaking the meat up until it resembles mince.

Add the bashed-up fennel seeds and chili flakes and cook on a medium heat until the meat becomes crisp, golden brown and slightly caramelized. Take your time with this step. It is essential that the sausage is browned nicely (not burnt!) and has rendered most of its oil. That's how the deep flavours develop.

Add in cherry tomatoes, cooked pasta and a touch of cream. Mix until the sauce has thickened and coats the pasta evenly.

Garnish with chopped parsley.

Sausage Pasta with Fennel and Chili

For 2


1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 fresh Italian sausages
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup cream
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
150g pasta
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped

  1. Bash up the fennel seeds and the chili flakes in a pestle and mortar or in a seed grinder.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat. Squeeze the meat out of the sausage skins onto the pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.
  3. Fry for a few minutes until the meat starts to colour and the fat has rendered slightly. Break up the meat more until it resembles minced meat.
  4. Add the fennel seeds and chili and cook on a medium heat for around 10 minutes until the meat becomes crisp, golden brown and slightly caramelized.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package instructions until al dente. When done, drain the pasta, reserving some of the pasta water.
  6. Add in the oregano into the sausage, and pour in the white wine. Allow it to reduce a little.
  7. Add the halved tomatoes and cream and cook until the tomatoes begin to soften, around 2 minutes. Season.
  8. Add the cooked pasta and toss with the sausage mixture until the sauce has coated the pasta evenly. Add the reserved pasta water to loosened up the sauce if needed.
  9. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver's Proper Bloke's Sausage Fusilli

September 19, 2014

Hong Kong - Brew Bros Coffee

One of the (few) perks of being unemployed is being able to enjoy a late breakfast out on a weekday. Recently, I visited Brew Bros which opened recently in Sheung Wan. It's a cute small cafe on Hillier Street across from La Rotisserie. They serve breakfast food items like bagels and eggs all day, and they source their coffee beans from Melbourne.

Their latte was pretty good

Smoked Salmon Bagel with Cream Cheese: The bagel came with rosemary potatoes and a side of salad. Generous portion of smoked salmon, but the bagel was a bit too hard. The potatoes had good flavour, but were cold. The salad was dressed with a splash of balsamic.

Brew Bros Brekkie: This breakfast platter consisted of eggs on toast, smoked salmon, rosemary potatoes, a side of salad and baked beans. The scrambled eggs were very creamy and the bit of truffle on top was a delicious touch. The baked beans were not bad. Again, the potatoes were cold, but overall a hearty breakfast. 

Verdict: Not my first choice to go for breakfast, but if you are working in the Sheung Wan area, it's a decent place to get your coffee fix. Avoid the bagels.

I recommend: Eggs, Coffee

Brew Bros
Address: Shop F2, LG/F, 33 Hillier Street, Sheung Wan
Phone: 2572-0238

September 18, 2014

Hong Kong - Amuse Bouche

Black and white themed decor throughout the restaurant

 Maguro Tuna and Sea Urchin Mille Feuille with Oscietra Caviar and Wasabi: I loved this dish. Layers of tuna and creamy uni complemented by a fiery wasabi sauce. The slight bitterness from the shisho flowers cut through the richness of the dish. And hey, who can say no to caviar?

Close up of the cross section (sorry it's out-of-focus!)

 Sautéed Sea Whelk, Scallops and Abalone with Black Truffle, Lily Bulbs, Jabugo Ham Reduction: This was a warm "salad" appetizer but the portion was good for a main course. All the seafood was cooked just right and tossed in a light savoury sauce. The mushrooms provided a beautiful umami element to the dish, while the lily bulbs were sweet and slightly crunchy. The combination of all the ingredients worked well together.

 Light Boston Lobster Bisque with Morel Mushrooms: This was bursting with umami, both from the lobster essence and the mushrooms. The morels also added a slight note of earthiness. You can't see in the picture but there was a lot of perfectly cooked lobster meat hiding in the bisque. Usually restaurants give you a couple of thumb size pieces (if you're lucky), but this time I had a whole claw and half a tail. The only downside to this dish was that it was a bit too salty for my taste.

Tuscan Artisanal Pasta with Black Truffle: This was my favourite dish. What separated this from other truffle pasta dishes was the consistency of the earthy and fragrant truffle sauce. The ratio of truffle to al-dente pasta was just right. The sauce blended perfectly into the pasta. It wasn't too creamy or watery, and coated the pasta evenly. The shaved truffle on top was icing on the cake!

 Roasted Cap of Rib Eye from US Brandt Beef Family Reserve with Asparagus, Parmesan, and Baked Bone Marrow on Toast: Ribeye cap is one of the most flavourful and tender cuts of beef you can get. This steak was exactly that - robust and juicy with a melt-in-your-mouth texture. I loved the charred bits too. The marrow was rich and buttery.

Sea salt and Black Lava salt: The black salt paired really well with steak. It added a nice hint of smokiness and brought out the beefy taste even more.

Crispy Granny Smith Apple Tart: Amuse Bouche's signature dessert - sweet caramelised apple on a crispy thin pastry, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Yum!

Verdict: We came here on a Wednesday and it was quiet. It was just our table of four and another table of six. I remember thinking to myself that I should probably lower my expectations, but the food turned out to be great! They really did a good job highlighting fresh ingredients. Every dish was delicious, save for the saltiness in the lobster bisque. Service was attentive. I would definitely come again!

I recommend: Tuscan Artisanal Pasta with Black Truffle, Roasted Cap of Rib Eye, Maguro Tuna and Sea Urchin Mille Feuille

Amuse Bouche
Address: 22/F, The Hennessy, 256 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Phone: 2891-3666

September 16, 2014

Soft Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've never been a big fan of just peanut butter cookies. They seem so one-dimensional, just mouthfuls of peanut butter in cookie form. Might as well just have PB straight from the jar. However, the cookies are elevated to a different level when you add in chocolate chips. It transforms the cookie: it first tastes like an extra buttery chocolate chip cookie, and then you are left with a lingering nutty aftertaste of peanut butter. These melt-in-your-mouth cookies stick to the roof of your mouth, like when you eat peanut butter by the spoonful. The semi-sweet chocolate chips add a little bit (but not overpowering) of sweetness, which cuts through the richness of the peanut butter. I couldn't wait for them to cool before munching on one so I kind of burnt the roof of my mouth a bit. Always have a glass of cold milk handy!

Cream the butter and sugars together in a big bowl until fluffy. I recommend using an electric mixer, but you can do it by hand. 

Beat in the peanut butter, egg and vanilla. 

Time to work those arm muscles if you aren't using an electric mixer. I felt like I was churning butter thanks to the thick peanut butter!

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a separate small bowl. 

Mix the flour mixture with the peanut butter mixture and add lots of chocolate chips. Chill the dough for at least an hour.

Roll the chilled dough into small balls of similar size. Place them 2 inches apart from each other on a non-stick cookie sheet/baking tray. Alternatively, line your sheet with parchment paper.

Flatten them with the palm of your hand.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until the edges of the cookies have set. The middle will seem underdone, but that's okay because the cookies will continue to cook on the metal sheet after you remove them from the oven.

Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cook completely.

Enjoy these babies with a glass of cold milk!

Soft Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 24 small cookies


½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ cups flour
Pinch of salt
1 ¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy.
  2. Add the peanut butter, egg and vanilla and beat until well-combined.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda, flour and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture and mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined. Do not over mix.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips. Chill the dough in the fridge for 1 hour.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 175 C / 350 F. Line a cookie sheet or baking tray with parchment paper if not using non-stick.
  6. Roll the chilled dough into small balls and flatten them with the palm of your hand onto the sheet. Keep the balls at least 2 inches apart. 
  7. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the edges of the cookies have set. The middle will appear underdone. 
  8. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cook completely.
Recipe adapted from here