Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hong Kong - Lee Gardens Dim Sum

Lee Gardens Dim Sum - lunch on August 29, 2017
On our first full day of our all-day meeting, we broke for lunch at a nearby dim sum place, near the same complex where Passion byGerard Dubois was housed. Although this time, thanks to following a Hong Kong native who knew her way around, we arrowed straight to the place without the previous day’s wandering around wondering “where is it?” The complex was Lee Garden; there’s a Lee Garden One and a Lee Garden Two. The dim sum restaurant was in Lee Garden One and I have no idea if that’s what it was called or not. We were walking into the restaurant en masse and I was busy talking so I didn’t pay attention or get enough pictures of my surroundings.

My food pictures are a bit sketchy and sparse as we sat at large tables and I wasn’t situated well enough to snag pictures of each dish as it came out. Plus, fanatic as I am about snapping foodie pics, I do try to moderate my picture-snapping behavior in large groups where it seems rude to bellow “wait, don’t eat that yet! I need to take a picture!” I can behave on occasion.
Steamed Pork Buns

Consequently, I was only able to take pictures of either the food on my own plate, the partially consumed dish by the time it got to me or extremely zoomed in shots from across the table. I also can’t tell you what each dish was unless it was super recognizable like steamed pork buns because I didn’t order. Similar to Din Tai Fung, there were no dim sum carts patrolling the room (is that a US thing??). Instead, you ordered from a menu and they brought out the plates.

Siu Mai

The food was good. I don’t think I ate anything that wasn’t delicious in Hong Kong on the entire trip. I’d have to give the nod to Din Tai Fung as being better though. Lee Garden dim sum was more typical of the dim sum I can get in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Although that’s a good bar because dim sum in the Bay Area can be really good.

Walking back to the hotel after lunch

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hong Kong - Sogo

Sogo - visited August 28, 2017
Sogo was about a block from our hotel. I’m not quite sure what to call it since it was like a department store in that it had various departments where you could buy a wide variety of things like cosmetics, probably clothes and other things. But it also had a “food hall” on the lower floor, not quite as grandiose as the one at Harrods but did Harrods one better by combining both food stalls/kiosks with a grocery store. So it was like Harrods food hall met Whole Foods met Nordstrom and decided to hang out in the same building.

The reason I can’t tell you what non-food items Sogo sells is because I was only interested in the food hall. I only noticed the cosmetics department because it was on the ground floor, by the door and on my way to the escalator to go down to the food hall. Otherwise, every time I went to Sogo, I beelined down the escalator to my favorite floor and wandered around, taking pictures and living through my visual and olfactory senses as I wandered around.

There were a variety of food stalls, from gelato and high end chocolates to custard tarts, popcorn, meat pies and patisseries. During my time in Hong Kong, I availed myself of the meat pie for 38 HKD or about $5 USD. It didn’t have much filling but it was flaky, almost like a Beef Wellington, and quite tasty. I still fondly remember the meat pies I had in Australia and New Zealand but this had the French influence of much more flaky pastry. I like both versions because, to this carnivore, it was mostly meat and didn’t clutter up the pie with chopped veggies.

There was also a bread shop in the Sogo food hall. If you’re ever in Asia or an Asian bakery, always go for the bread. It’s the best. Perhaps rivaled only by the French but bread from Asian bakeries are my favorite. Not too crusty, slightly sweet, nicely soft and chewy. I like bread more than rice so trust me, they make good bread.

Overall, Sogo was a fun place to explore. It was nearly always crowded whenever I went there and it’s an ideal place to grab a quick snack. The heat and humidity outside was still doing a nice job suppressing my appetite so the individual-size meat pie was perfect as a snack or meal during the few times we weren’t going out to eat.

The Kobe Meat Pie

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Hong Kong - Passion by Gerard Dubois

Passion by Gerard Dubois - visited August 28, 2017
If you’ve read the last few posts and noticed the dates, you’re probably thinking “wow, she covered a lot of ground and did nothing but eat that first full day in Hong Kong.” You’d be sort of right. I had a list of bakeries I had looked into before even landing in Asia and had really only hit 1 (Jenny Bakery). The ongoing downpour prevented me from being as mobile as I would like not to mention Sandra and I kept getting lost.
Case in point, after we left Din Tai Fung, I had mapped the closest bakery which was Passion by Gerard Dubois, which, as you can guess from the name, was a French patisserie. It was really close to Din Tai Fung, according to google maps. We kept walking around, circling and circling, to where we thought it would be, based on the directions but it kept eluding us. We stumbled upon Lee Garden One and Two and I snapped a couple of amusing pictures of the wall art. 

Wall art at the basement level at Lee Garden

We finally had to break down and ask someone (fortunately, Sandra speaks Cantonese so she did the asking and interpreting) only to discover we really were just right there but missed a turn here and there. Still, we finally made it. I’m not sure what I expected but Passion is akin to the high end bakeries back home like Alexander’s Patisserie, JeanPhilippe or La Panotiq. Lots of beautifully presented desserts that honestly look too good to eat. Having gone to culinary school for Baking & Pastry Arts and affirming I don’t have that artistic soul that comes out in plating beautiful desserts, nevertheless, I’ve learned to have an appreciation not only for the precision work required to plate edible gorgeousness but the artistic vision to create “the look” in the first place.
At that point, I was full of dim sum and still had the egg white coconut tart from Hei Lee Bakery awaiting me so I only went with one dessert; that was the salted caramel mille-feuille or as it’s more commonly known if you don’t want to sound snobby, a Napoleon. Layers of flaky pastry sandwiching vanilla and salted caramel pastry cream. I’ve made mille-feuilles once, also back in culinary school, when I had access to lots of butter and a sheeter. They’re much easier to buy than bake and the results are probably better since French pastries are not my strength. Not to mention, I enjoy eating them more when I don’t have to think about how much butter went into producing such flaky layers.
One thing I had discovered by that point: Hong Kong doesn’t do Diet Coke or, as it’s more commonly known in Asia and Europe: Coke Light. Earlier that day, we had searched various 7-11s and mini-marts only to find they had either fully leaded Coke or Coke Zero. I don’t do regular Coke and I only drink Coke Zero as a last resort. So I was pleased to hear the person in front of me order a Coke Light and I added a couple of cans to my mille-feuille order as well. One to consume now to stave off a caffeine withdrawal headache and one for later since I don’t know when I would find Coke Light again.

The rest of the day didn’t go quite as planned. I had thought to withstand the ongoing rain again, go explore some more and meet up with a couple of other coworkers for dinner. Instead, I ended up with a headache of near-migraine proportions (jet lag?), canceled on the dinner and slept the rest of the afternoon and evening, waking up at 11 pm, well past the dinner hour.

So my mille-feuille became a midnight snack. It was pretty tasty and the layers were perfectly flaky (butter!). The vanilla pastry cream was good but I thought the salted caramel was a bit bitter, more like dulce de leche than sweet caramel with a salty bite. For the record, salted caramel or plain caramel is not the same as dulce de leche. The mille-feuille was still pretty though and made for a tasty, if unorthodox, first “dinner” in Hong Kong.