Hong Kong: Chachawan and The Cupping Room

Hong Kong's Chachawan

Hong Kong’s Chachawan

I actually first heard of Chachawan (206 Hollywood Rd., Sheung Wan) because there was a buzz in Shanghai when “Chachawan” opened. Lo and behold, Shanghai’s Chachawan was a complete fraud and copycat of the Hong Kong establishment. They literally even copied the logo. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), they couldn’t copy the food and since then, the fake Chachawan has been renamed StreeThai.

I guess the positive side to all of this drama was that Chachawan came on my radar. While I was in Hong Kong, I happened to be staying close by and absolutely fell in love with the place. Chachawan doesn’t serve your “typical” Thai food and you won’t be finding your normal curry dishes or pad thai on the menu. Instead, they serve dishes from the northeastern region of Thailand, Isaan. Having never visited Thailand, I can’t vouch for the authenticity, but I can certainly vouch for its deliciousness!

My friend and I started our meal with the highly recommended Gai Yung, grilled chicken thigh. This chicken has been marinated for 24 hours in garlic, pepper and coriander and then grilled inside wooden chopsticks. The outside skin is crispy and the chicken is moist and tender. I really loved the side sauce and recommend keeping it to douse your other dishes in it. We also ordered the Yum Makuar Yaw, which was an eggplant salad topped by a giant prawn and a soft-boiled egg. The eggplant had a wonderfully smoky flavor, but still had a level of freshness with the mint and coriander. The prawn was HUGE and grilled to perfection with the meat having that hint of natural sweetness.

We were both obsessed with Khao Pad, crab fried rice with egg and spring onions. Even though it’s a simple dish, it was chockfull of crab meat and reminded me of comfort food. My favorite combination was actually taking the sauce from the Gai Yung and pouring it over the rice. I didn’t really like the sauce that comes with the fried rice. Make sure you save room in your stomach for Roti Gluay aka Thai banana pancake. This crispy roti has a beautiful glaze of condensed milk on the outside and is filled with thinly sliced bananas. I’m not even the biggest fan of bananas, but I will happily order this roti every time I go to Chachawan.

Chachawan does not take reservations and also does not let you order food for takeout. So expect a wait. On the plus side, you can grab a drink at the restaurant/bar next door (same owners) and can chill out while you wait for your table. Honestly, I really enjoyed the food and would happily wait again for a table.

Cupping Room

Hong Kong’s: The Cupping Room

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Hong Kong: Dim Sum at The Boss and the Social Place

The Boss Dim Sum

The Boss Dim Sum

I love dim sum and when my friend recommended The Boss (58-62 Queen’s Road, Central) for their truffle noodles, I knew that I had to try it for myself. Located in the basement in a building across the street from Topshop, The Boss is actually a 1-Michelin star restaurant. Based on the photos online and their website, dinner looks to be spectacular, albeit at bit expensive. Dim sum, which is only offered at lunch on the weekends, seems like a good compromise.

Not knowing what to expect, The Boss’s decor was fancier than I anticipated and also smaller. I definitely recommend making reservations because the entire place did end up filling up. The dim sum was quite good. I really liked the har gau (shrimp dumplings), the outside skin was delicate and thin, but the inside was bursting with fresh pieces of shrimp. The siu mai was also nicely executed and I like their crispy spring rolls. The real star was the truffle noodles. I know it may sound weird to have truffle in Asian food, but this dish was so simple and so tasty. It’s just noodles, bean sprouts and truffles that have been stir-fried, but there is so much flavor in each bite. The Boss’s liu sha bao (salted egg yolk custard bun) was also amazing. My only mistake was eating it last when it had cooled down and so the filling wasn’t runny like it should have been.

Hong Kong: The Social Place

Hong Kong: Social Place

Another restaurant that is more well-known for their contemporary dim sum is the Social Place (139 Queen’s Road Central, Central). The Social Place’s decor was quite modern and their big center table was actually a bright blue ping pong table. They served some really creative and pretty dim sum, including mushroom buns and rose buns. It’s amazing how realistic they make the mushroom buns look like a shitake mushroom and the filling has truffle oil inside.

The Social Place- Food

Social Place Chinese Fusion Dishes

Another signature dish is the quail, which has crispy skin on the inside and succulent meat on the inside. We ordered a few more dishes like the scallops with tea leaves and stir-fried Chinese broccoli, which was cut to look like beautiful vines. One dish that I didn’t like was the diced beef with wasabi peas and cucumbers. I didn’t really think wasabi and beef made a good combination and having uncooked cucumbers mixed in was just strange.

The Social Place is a good option if you want to take guests to have a non-traditional Chinese meal. I also like the fact that you can order dim sum at dinner too, not just lunch. Perhaps the best part is that the restaurant is in the same building at Ten Feet Tall, a great place to get foot or full body massage. So you can treat yourself to a massage and then head down a few floors to enjoy dim sum at the Social Place.

Hong Kong: Via Tokyo and BAKE CHEESE TART

Via Tokyo: Green Tea Froyo and Green Tea Latte

Via Tokyo: Matcha Green Tea Soft Serve and Green Tea Latte

One trend that I’ve noticed about desserts in Hong Kong is the recent surge of places offering Hokkaido milk. Lately, any produce coming from Hokkaido, Japan seems to be of the highest quality (like the equivalent of eating Kobe beef). Apparently the cows in Hokkaido produce a richer and smoother tasting milk thanks to the local climate and bountiful grass zones.

Via Tokyo (106-126 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay) offers matcha green tea desserts and soft serve. This tiny shop only has a few seats inside so definitely expect a short wait if you want to eat on the premises. What makes Via Tokyo so special? Their matcha green tea powder comes from Kyoto and the milk comes from Hokkaido. I had read that they offer Royal Milk Tea flavored soft serve, but unfortunately, it wasn’t available when I went. On our visit, I ordered the green tea matcha soft serve with mochi pieces and my friend ordered a green tea latte. My soft serve was creamy without being too sweet and had a distinct tea aftertaste. I really loved the latte. It was easier to appreciate the Hokkaido milk in the latte because it was smooth, creamy and rich. We were too full to order any of the other additional pastries, but the éclair and mille-feuille looked delicious.

Bake Hokkaido Cheese Tarts

Bake Hokkaido Cheese Tarts

If you don’t believe that Hokkaido dairy is taking Hong Kong by storm, then you have to check out the line for BAKE CHEESE TART in the basement of the Sogo mall (B2/F, Sogo, 555 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay). My friend and I just happened to come across BAKE CHEESE TART because we were wandering the food supermarket in the basement of Sogo. We saw a huge queue for cheese tarts and were told that the line should only take 20-30 minutes. As it turns out, our wait was 45 minutes. But, it was totally worth it.

These cheese tarts are made with three types of cheeses (2 from Hokkaido and 1 from France) and the consistency is a mix between a mousse and cheesecake. The crust was also amazing and reminded me of a cross between shortbread and a fortune cookie. It was crispy, but not flaky, with a nice crunch when you bite into it. When my friend and I ate ours, it was still slightly warm from being so freshly baked. The filling actually started to ooze out a bit. We still had a couple left and refrigerated it overnight. The next morning, we had them for breakfast and the consistency was quite different. I think that I prefer them warm, and would highly recommend reheating them in a toaster oven. So if you’re in Causeway Bay, I do recommend making a pit stop at Sogo and getting yourself from cheese tarts.

Hong Kong: Sublime Japanese Food at Hanabi

Hanabi's Angel Bomb: Three Kinds of Fatty Tuna and Sea Urchin over Rice

Hanabi’s Angel Bomb: Three Kinds of Fatty Tuna and Sea Urchin over Rice

Sushi is my all-time favorite food, but I don’t eat it often in China. When my mother suggested dinner at Hanabi (4/F, 6 Knutsford Terrace, Tsim Sha Tsui), I happily agreed. Hanabi serves fresh fish straight from Japan, which is flown in every morning, cut from the careful hands of executive chef, Michael Chan. Chef Chan used to work at Nobu in Hong Kong. Hanabi only offers omakase menus and you can’t order a la carte. However, they’ll always ask if you have any allergies or food aversions before serving you.

Hanabi Appetizers, Sliced White Fish and Sake

Hanabi Appetizers, Sliced White Fish and Sake

My mother and I decide to go all out and order the Mankai omakase menu (1,200 HKD). It starts with delicate dish of five cold appetizers and then is followed by thinly sliced white fish sashimi. The white fish is smooth and so crisp and clean tasting.

Hanabi Creative Sushi

Hanabi Creative Sushi

Next course was Hanabi’s creative sushi. The top layer was a beautiful Hokkaido oyster that is so meaty and creamy. I could have eaten a dozen of them. The chef carefully smokes the bottom layer of seared fatty tuna topped with caviar. The top dish with the oyster keeps the smoke trapped inside so when you open it, the smoke clears aways to reveal the fatty tuna jewel.

Hanabi Sushi

Hanabi Sushi

What followed next was three varieties of daily sashimi, which included the largest amaebi that I’ve ever seen, and eight pieces of nigiri sushi. Watching Chef Michael at work is almost like dinner and a show. I was completely enamored but his ritual of cutting the sushi, rolling the sushi rice and shaving salt rocks hailing from the Himalayas and Iran. I really loved the tempura, which was unique. One piece was deep-fried king crab and the other piece was deep-fried uni wrapped in shiso leaf. I had never had uni deep-fried before and it was a heartier texture, while still maintaining its creaminess. The real highlight of the meal was the angel bomb sushi, a magnificent tower of three kinds of fatty tuna and uni. It felt like one of the most decadent bites of my life. We finished the meal with a soothing bowl of miso soup and a scoop of yuzu ice cream.

Hong Kong: Lab Made Ice Cream

Hong Kong: Lab Made Ice Cream

Obviously, Hanabi is a restaurant reserved for special occasions. The restaurant only holds 12 counter seats and two small tables so reservations are a must. If you happen to be hungry afterward, you can always top by Lab Made (Shop 42, 132 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui), Asia’s first liquid nitrogen ice cream laboratory. My mother and I tried to mango ice cream topped with mango sauce, mango pieces and sago. The consistency of the ice cream was really smooth and it also tasted creamier. It was my first time trying liquid nitrogen ice cream and I liked it!

Hong Kong: Burgeroom and Farm House

Hong Kong: Foie Gras Burger at the Burgeroom

Foie Gras Burger at the Burgeroom

I love a good burger and when my co-workers recommended going to Burgeroom (50-56 Paterson Street, Causeway Bay) in Hong Kong, I only happily agreed. I became giddy when I saw photos of a nice big piece of foie gras on top of a juicy patty. Talk about combining two of my favorite foods!

Burgers, onion rings, melted cheese twister fries and fried mozzarella cheese balls

Burgers, onion rings, melted cheese twister fries and fried mozzarella cheese balls

This popular burger joint doesn’t take any reservations so expect a slight wait at peak dinner time. What I loved most about ordering my foie gras burger was that the guy asked if I wanted a double or a single! It took a lot of self-restraint not to get a double. These burgers are HUGE and messy. The patties are so thick and juicy that it is literally impossible to take an entire bite of the whole burger. The foie on top of the burger was absolutely incredible, just adding to the overall richness of the meat patty. I also really liked the twister fries and the fried mozzarella cheese balls. I would happily go back the next time I’m in Hong Kong.

Dim Sum at Farm House

Dim Sum at Farm House

A trip to Hong Kong wouldn’t be complete without getting dim sum! My mother took me to Farm House (1/F, Phase1, China Taiping Tower, 8 Sunning Road, Causeway Bay), a Chinese restaurant that actually specializes in seafood. Farm House’s dim sum menu is limited, but there are definitely some solid dishes. The har gau (shrimp dumplings) were filled with huge, crisp shrimps and a paper thin wrapper. I was even more pleased with the siu mai (pork and shrimp dumplings), which were also juicy and tasty. One of the Farm House’s signature dishes are the chicken wings stuffed with glutinous rice. That bad boy was delicious. The skin was super crispy and lightly fried and the sticky glutinous rice was flavorful. I’d definitely recommend ordering it.

Farm House Shi Dan 是但

Farm House Shi Dan 是但

One dish that I also really enjoyed was the shi dan 是但. It’s a steamed savory egg custard topped with seafood, duck, mushrooms, vegetables and salty egg yolk. While this is a simple dish, it’s almost like having an “egg custard soup,” which is perfect with white rice. It was also the perfect dish for my grandmother because it was soft and easy to eat.

If you travel to Hong Kong, I hope you have a chance to stop by Burgeroom or Farm House. It’ll definitely help satisfy any cravings!

Shanghai: Tapas at Malabar and Tomatito

Malabar in Shanghai

Malabar in Shanghai

Tapas restaurants are definitely popular destinations in Shanghai and I found two places that I really like. My friend Cher took me to Malabar (1081 Wuding Lu; 武定路1081号), which is on the popular and lively restaurant street, Wuding Road. We ordered croquetas, olives and grilled baby squid to start. The croquetas were a little too oily and I probably wouldn’t order them again. I did love the olives, which were meaty in texture, and the grilled baby squid. The calamaritos a la plancha “con su tinta” were cooked perfectly and the chimichurri sauce complemented it really well.

Malabar: Ribeye and Manchego Cheese

Malabar: Ribeye and Manchego Cheese

I was so excited to see ribeye steak from Uruguay on the menu and we happily ordered the 300g portion. This steak was served medium rare with an onion compote and roasted potatoes. For only 175 RMB, this dish is a total steal! The meat was tender and flavorful and I loved the onion compote. I saw that this one of my the most popular dishes in the restaurant with practically every table ordering one. Finally, Cher and I ended our meal with manchego cheese, which was a healthy portion of cheese and a tomato jam. Malabar is definitely a popular restaurant because the place filled up and people were waiting in line to get in. For the pricing and quality of food, I think it’s definitely a solid spot for tapas.

Tomatito Tapas

Tomatito Tapas: Albondigas and “Broken Egg”

Tomatito (2/F, 99 Taixing Lu; 泰兴路99号2楼) is part of the famous El Willy Group and is the more casual restaurant compared to sister restaurants, El Elefante and El Willy. I’ve been to Tomatito twice and the place is always popping.

Meat and Cheese Board and Nachos

Meat and Cheese Board and Nachos

While Tomatito serves classic Spanish dishes, there are also a lot of unconventional items. In terms of dishes that I would recommend, I liked the albondigas. These meatballs are served in a casserole dish with potatoes and tomato sauce with some sliced bread. The “broken egg” dish is a fried egg served ripped up on top of potatoes, BBQ pork belly and chilis. It was an interesting combination and felt very hearty with the potatoes. However, I felt the nachos were less successful. These nachos were also topped with multiple fried eggs, but I felt it made it too difficult to eat. Nachos are meant to be eaten with my hands and not my knife and fork. My favorite dish of the night was definitely the calamari (non-fried), which was tender pieces of squid served with a garlic aioli and lemon juice.  My second favorite dish were the steak “air baguettes,” which were crispy crackers topped with cheese spread and a slice of beef.

Pom Pom Cookies Cake

Pom Pom Cookies Cake

The second time I went to Tomatito, it was for Cher’s birthday and I brought a special ordered cookie cake from Pom Pom Cookies. I’ve written about my love of Pom Pom Cookies on my blog before, but this was my first time ordering one of her cookie cakes. I ordered a triple chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. I cannot rave enough about how AMAZING this cake is. Each layer is a thick, chewy cookie, which makes this cake incredibly dense. Since the “cake layers” were heavier, I actually liked that the cream cheese frosting was on the lighter side. While it may look small, the cake can literally feed 20 people. There were 10 of us and we could only eat half. It is deceptively filling. If you’re interested in one of Pom Pom Cookies’ cakes, you can email her directly for flavors and pricing (info@pompomcookies.com).