Category Archives: Resto Rampage

Tearing through Hong Kong’s restaurants, unique or franchised, with a vengeance. Although being slightly broke most of the time calls for some moderation in this department.

SUPAFOOD – Soft Opening!

1Remember when I got a sneak peek into organic Chinese oasis, Sohofama? Well, the team behind Sohofama is back with something new – but this time it’s fast food. Organic fast food – a.k.a. SUPAFOOD2Yesterday I dragged along Molly, a foodie friend who’s been on a BBITES adventure with me before, to check out the first day of their soft-opening. Although the décor inside is still taking shape, the food was in full form – and we had lots of fun eating our way through their lunch menu.4Basically, there are salad box options – including pork, chicken and more – as well as rice box options, where you can substitute the rice with quinoa if you’re feeling extra healthy. Molly and I said “stuff that,” quite literally, and went for the rice instead.

The service was friendly and fast, leaving us ample time over Molly’s one-hour lunch break from the office to dig into the pretty huge serving sizes. Everything tasted fresh and refined. YUM!3Although we knew that we’d get pretty full from the two boxes (yes, we split them 50-50), we couldn’t resist trying one of the desserts on option: organic POWER BALLS (love that name!)supafood1They’re made out of coconut powder, flaxseed, oats and peanut butter. Texture: rich and sable-like; flavour: explosive! Haha!!

Hope you’ve enjoyed my preview of Supafood! BBITE you later 🙂

Bakker x

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The Naked Finn

1For today’s post, I’m going to take you a three and a half hour flight away from Hong Kong… to Singapore!

There are times when one stumbles across a wonderful restaurant unexpectedly. That was the case when I was visiting art galleries at Singapore’s Gillman Barracks recently.

I was supposed to meet my brother for lunch, since he lives nearby, so I asked one of the gallery managers to recommend a restaurant in the Barracks. That restaurant was The Naked Finn.

2We shared everything – since we’re both foodies and always like to try more things. It was halfway through our DELICIOUS Lobster Roll that I borrowed his phone to take last-minute snaps for a blog post.

Please forgive the lack of photos for this dish; you’ll just have to trust me that:
(1) The brioche bread = PERFECT, fluffy and sweet
(2) Succulent lobster cooked with rich creamy butter
(3) Homemade mayonnaise slather in the roll…..soooo divine

I’ve always maintained that mayonnaise goes great with seafood (check out my post on mayonnaise here: For the Love of Mayo!), so just a perfect combination…

3Next, we dove into a kind of ramen-inspired noodle. I say ramen-inspired because it comes with a slice of pork. You can also choose between vermicelli (aka bee hoon) or Japanese sōmen noodles. We went with the latter. Those scrumptious looking prawns are giant prawns.

On a blurb on the menu, Naked Finn will tell you that their prawn-based soup stock is cooked for hours, and made without MSG or added sugar. Instead, they offer seasoning on the side (top right pic) – although the broth was so potent and fragrant that it wasn’t really necessary. In fact, we only used the dips out of curiosity. A perfect bowl of noodles.

4To finish: a dessert so heavenly we spent the whole time talking about how good it was in between bites. It’s called the Naked Chendol, and is an updated take on a classic Singaporean dessert: chendol. The original, which has its origins in Indonesia, normally uses coconut milk + green rice jelly + red beans + gula melaka (palm sugar syrup) over shaved ice.

Naked Finn’s version was sublime – a simplified and refined interpretation. Instead of using ice, they served their own incredibly smooth and fragrant homemade coconut sorbet. The gula melaka was clearly handcrafted as well, since the texture and flavour was much richer than we were used to. Each bite was pure ecstasy.

This restaurant alone is worth making a visit to Gillman Barracks, but don’t stop there! Make a day out of it, since it’s great fun to check out all the latest art exhibitions on display to build up an appetite.

ENJOY, see you in the next post, and Happy Holidays in the meantime.

Bakker x

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Welcome to the Circus!

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Burger Circus is located at 22 Hollywood Rd.

If you’re a Central dweller or LKF crawler, you’re sure to have already walked past – and peeked into – Burger Circus.
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Isn’t it cute?!?! In the style of a classic American diner, Burger Circus serves exactly what you’d expect: burgers, milkshakes and fries.
3There’s fun details everywhere, from the menu holders to the staff’s old-school aprons and hats. Guests can choose between booth seating, or a spot at the bar.
4My friend and I ended up at the bar, and started with two shakes while waiting for our burgers.

The service is friendly and quick, so we didn’t wait for long. But long enough to both agree that the shakes were really good. There’s also some alcoholic milkshakes on the menu, but I’ll have to try that next time…

Topped with whipped cream and maraschino cherries, they were scrumptious and creamy 🙂
5The burgers, as you can see, are served in little paper boxes. I would advise to eat the burger using the box as a holder, because they are dripping with fabulous grease. Also, the bread is very fluffy and the whole thing is huge and quite difficult to eat by biting into it (without displacing your jaw, I mean).6Of course, to get the right photos, I took mine out of the box. Conclusion? –> Burger Circus is probably not the best place for a first date, unless you’re prepared to get really messy and have bits of food dangling out of your mouth 😀

7The menu has quite a few options, including chicken, and tuna burgers. I went for the Whole Show burger: beef patty, fried egg, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickled beetroot and spicy mayonnaise.

It took a few bites to get into the spicy mayo in the middle, but boy was it worth the wait! A great combination in my opinion and, as a huge fan of beetroot, it was refreshing to see the underrated veggie make an appearance.

Overall the burger was really satisfying and hit the spot. Definitely a fan of the generous amounts of melted cheese oozing out of the bun. YUM.

Compared to a burger (similar price) I tried at Wan Chai’s Butcher Club a couple months ago, I felt like this one was better. And the awesome décor is just the cherry on the top!8On the other hand, while the sauce on the Circus Fries was very tasty (onion, cheese, and “circus sauce” reminiscent of “animal style” sauce from In-N-Out), I thought the fries weren’t thin or crispy enough to really blow us away.

After dinner, someone told me I should have tried the onion rings, which are great apparently – so now I’m living in regret.
9The whole experience was fun and fast – just like a simple burger joint should be. The convenience of the location, the irresistible design and feel-good burgers will have me back. Oh yeah, and it’s open till midnight EVERY DAY.

Bakker x

p.s. UPDATE (19/02/15) remember my post on the HK Beer Company? Well, Burger Circus stocks 4 of their drafts – so if you’re in Central and want to kill two birds with one stone, check them out! 🙂

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SOHOFAMA – The Bakker’s Bites Preview

1If you haven’t heard of PMQ yet, you’ve been living under a rock! Located on Aberdeen Street (a.k.a. the steep hill between Hollywood Road and Soho), the former Police Married Quarters has been transformed into a creative hub for Hong Kong entrepreneurs. And this includes an exciting new restaurant concept from local lifestyle brand G.O.D. and LocofamaSOHOFAMA. Bakker’s Bites was there last week for a preview, and interview with founder Larry Tang –  so get ready for a sneak preview of Hong Kong’s most exciting new Chinese restaurant, which will be officially opening its doors soon…2SOHOFAMA is next door (and connected inside) to the G.O.D. store in PMQ. Warmly-lit and decorated with Hong Kong design accents, as well as fresh modern touches, there’s nowhere you can turn in SOHOFAMA without seeing green: there are plants everywhere.Page_04The greenery is an important part of the restaurant’s concept: farming. But more on that later… Page_02 copy 2After sitting down in the cha chaan teng-style booth seats, it’s time to get tasting. Like LOCOFAMA in Sai Ying Pun, SOHOFAMA serves organic food – but here it’s Chinese cuisine. With no MSG, chicken powder or other nasties, it was particularly nice knowing I wasn’t going to be thirsty to the point of no return after eating…Page_06 copyAmong the starters were several “drunken” appetisers. There’s 24-hour drunken chicken as well, but we stuck to egg and prawn. You can tell the prawns are local-caught, because they were damn fresh – and the heady Chinese wine marinade made both of these dishes a real treat. Page_06The plateware is so cute, too! Next on the seafood appetiser front was one of my favourite local dishes: fried egg-yolk prawns. Page_07 copyCreamy with that signature crisp sand texture on the outside, and tender on the inside, SOHOFAMA’s take on this classic was spot-on.Page_10 copyNext, some classy xiao long baos. These were more refined than what I’m used to: with a thin yet flexible skin (i.e. doesn’t break when you lift it up, even if you don’t eat it straight away), the soup filling and meat aren’t overly oily or heavy.Page_08 copyThis is something a lot of the dishes at SOHOFAMA have in common: achieving the same recipes but in a leaner, cleaner way – and with premium ingredients.Page_10Such was the case with the D.I.Y. duck buns, as well. The skin was crispy and meat succulent, but it wasn’t dripping in oil as you’d expect from a Peking Duck, for example.Page_08The last main dish of my evening was a fantastic mud crab, served with sticky fried-rice. As good as it looks! Get ready to get your hands dirty, though – you won’t be able to leave anything behind…Page_09 copyWhat’s a sneak peek without a peek into the kitchen? Well, take a step inside with me 🙂 !Page_13 copySOHOFAMA’s kitchen has all the standard equipment you’d find in a commercial Chinese kitchen: super hot fires for wok-frying, dim sum baskets, all manner of sauces, giant chopping knives of different sizes and more…Page_12 copyPage_13We even managed a snap of SOHOFAMA’s three musketeers: Larry Tang (founder), Head Chef Shing, and mixologist Kit.Page_12And now, time for my interview with Larry Tang, founder of Locofama Group… Page_15 copy Bakker’s Bites (BBITES): Tell us about how you approached the concept and design, especially considering PMQ is a heritage building?

Larry Tang (LT): Well, PMQ in Chinese is Yuen Chong Fong (元創方)

Yuen Chong (元創) means ‘original creation’, and Fong (方) means ‘place’. So for everything we do, we want it to be original: from the interior; to the food and drinks…

PMQ is the first space where we have Hong Kong entrepreneurs doing something; it’s the first of its kind. We want to create something that hasn’t been done anywhere, including Hong Kong.

That’s where our farming concept comes into the picture. A lot of people talk about “farm to table,” but we will have our own farm at the restaurant. So it will be more like, “table to farm,” instead.

It being a heritage site, we have a lot of design restrictions.

BBITES: Can you give us an example?

LT: Everything that you do to the exterior has to be pre-approved. And there a lot of walls inside that we can’t break down, or even drill holes. We just have to work around it.

BBITES: How involved was G.O.D. (Goods of Desire) in the development phase?

LT: It was a pretty close collaboration [with G.O.D.], they were involved in every stage of the project from the beginning. From the interior and overall concept; the food concept. We also went back and forth with the name.

BBITES: Could you give us an insider scoop on one of the name choices before you decided on ‘SOHOFAMA’?

LT: We were playing around with G.O.D.’s slogan in English, “Delay No More.” At the end we are using the Chinese version of that for Sohofama’s Chinese name, which you can see on our logo.

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BBITES: What do the Chinese characters mean?

LT: The first character means ‘ingredient’, and the second means ‘preparation’. The third and the fourth mean ‘farming’. But pronounced in Cantonese, it’s a play on words… a bit cheeky, actually.

BBITES: Did your Chef and Mixologist work together in creating the dishes and original cocktails?

LT: They both followed the philosophy of the overall concept with the restaurant, but they worked quite independently.

BBITES: How would you sum up that philosophy?

LT: First of all, everything we do needs to be delicious and healthy. It needs to be food and drinks that are suitable for Hong Kong people, as well as expats and tourists.Page_15 copy 3BBITES: Please tell us more about the two murals in SOHOFAMA?

LT: The first one in the small dining room is basically a timeline of the PMQ site. It used to be the Central College here in the late 1800s, but it was destroyed by the Japanese in WWII. They quickly rebuilt a police married quarter. It’s thanks to the heritage status that this building wasn’t turned into a typical commercial space, but something more for the community, by the community.

For the second mural, we wanted to do something that was related to the police history of PMQ. My dad was a policeman, so we found a photo of him and we put a warning sign next to it with a message saying, “no pesticides, no junk food”.

The artist behind both murals is a graffiti artist. She’s someone who’s from Hong Kong – born and raised – but she lives in Germany at the moment. We flew her back to HK just for this project.

BBITES: What was the biggest challenge on the SOHOFAMA journey?

LT: Definitely to successfully create healthy Chinese cuisine – without MSG, or chicken powder. I don’t think it’s ever been done. In the beginning none of our chefs thought it was possible; coming from a commercial kitchen background in Chinese cooking, the idea of not using MSG and chicken powder was like not letting the chefs use their left and right hands.

It’s hard to deliver on what you claim, but we’re very proud with what we’ve achieved.

BBITES: You also sourced local and imported ingredients to deliver on your promise of healthy, organic food. Did that change any elements of the food you serve?

LT: It was very challenging to find all the ingredients that we needed: grass-fed beef, organic pork, organic vegetables, and even sauces. For the sauces you use in Chinese cooking, we managed to find a local supplier for that. I don’t think any commercial kitchen used that supplier before.

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Once you have the freshest premium ingredients, you don’t need to use the MSG and other bad stuff anymore.

In the past, when Hong Kongers fell on hard times, chefs didn’t have access to good, fresh ingredients so they had to deep-fry and come up with all kinds of sauces to mask the bad ingredients.

At SOHOFAMA, we could use the best organic pork to do a Sweet & Sour Pork, but we want to show people how pork really tastes instead of deep-frying and pouring sauce all over it. With the organic pork, we decided to strip it down, with a ‘less is more’ approach.

BBITES: What plans do you have for the outdoor farm concept?

LT: We have very ambitious plans for the outdoor farm. There’s already a lot of planters and [soil] bedding in our outdoor space. We have a landscape plan, but we need to get the approval before we can convert it into a farm.Page_15 copy 2We already have an in-house farmer working for us who’s ready to do it, but before we get approval we came up with the solution to build “trolley farms”. We can push them around if they need more sunlight, or when it’s raining we can move them as well.Page_02At the bar we have two hydroponic systems which are growing herbs for our bartenders, who use them for our cocktails. Hydroponic means you don’t use soil but just water – infused with minerals and nutrients – to grow vegetables and herbs.

BBITES: It seems like you’re keen on showing your guests the possibilities of healthy living and sustainability…

LT: Yeah, definitely. That’s why farming was such a big component to our concept. We want to educate, as well. We’ll have a lot of workshops, and teach people how to make their own farms at home if they like.

It’ll be impossible for us to supply all the vegetables we need for the restaurant with our outdoor farm – the main reason it’s there is to teach people when they visit us. I will also learn more, too.

BBITES: Last and not least, are there any more surprises on the menu I haven’t seen yet?

LT: We’ll be introducing some very special soups. Our chef worked with a Chinese doctor to come up with the herbal soup recipes. We’ll have things like The Hangover Cure, The Detoxifier, so stay tuned!

-END OF INTERVIEW-Page_11 copy

On my way out, I couldn’t help noticing the wacky chandelier of water guns. Definitely appropriate for a zombie apocalypse – wouldn’t expect anything less from quirky G.O.D. design…

I look forward to going back for an interview with Kit, to learn more about the original cocktails at SOHOFAMA. He’s waiting on the final glassware, so I resisted posting on the cocktails I already tried out of respect 🙂 After all, details are everything!

Thanks for reading, and hope you’re as excited as I am for this awesome new organic oasis…

Bakker x

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That Dutch Place: The Orange Tree

1Last month I went on a homecoming to Holland. It’s been many years since I was last in my birthplace and it was a blast!

Back in Hong Kong, it inspired me to finally visit The Orange Tree restaurant in mid-levels, and you’ll the review a bit further down.UntitledAmsterdam and the Hague are lined with beautiful classical buildings. Most are hundreds of years old, yet they are still lived and worked in, and have been for generations. It’s incredibly beautiful, and history is pouring out from every corner!
Untitled 2Here are some of the Dutch foods I had on my hit list for the week…

Stroopwafel: This was a fresh stroopwafel I ate at the market in Hilversum. This delicious Dutch snack is filled with a distinctive tasting caramel, and you can get them fresh (like mine in the photo) or prepackaged at a store. Recipes for the sauce vary from bakery to bakery, but cinnamon and brown sugar are commonly used.

Bitterballen: The quintessential Dutch bar snack. These are deep-fried croquettes with shredded beef and butter/flour filling. Added to that are spices and vegetables – depending on the recipe. Always served with mustard.

Herring: Raw herring with chopped onion. Warning: lots of very thin, short bones. Without less bones, I would have enjoyed it more; the flavour was quite good!

Fries: In my opinion, “Belgian” Fries (thin, long and crispy) are the only way to eat fries. Served in Amsterdam to us with delicious Dutch mayonnaise (sweeter, eggier and richer than US or UK mayonnaises). Mayo is always served with fries in Holland. To say, “patatjes met” (potatoes with) means you want it with mayonnaise. Except you don’t have to finish the sentence because it’s expected.

Poffertjes: Tiny, cute pancakes are basically what these little sweet pieces of heaven are. The place I went to below has been in business since 1837, and they had a beautiful antique oven to prepare with, too. These were incredibly soft, spongy and melty at the same time. Topped with obscene amounts of melting butter and mountains of powdered sugar – I ate the whole plate like there was no tomorrow.3

*THE ORANGE TREE REVIEW*

4Orange Tree has been around forever, it seems, I’ve walked past it many times but never felt motivated to try. After all, Dutch food isn’t what jumps to mind when you think of dinner out – right?5To begin, we ordered the two most Dutch starters we could find. The menu is mostly Continental with a sprinkling of Dutchness around…

The first starter, garnaaltjes, is cocktail sauce baby shrimp. There wasn’t enough crisp and life in the shrimp, perhaps they were frozen before (?!), and it really let this dish down.

The second, bitterballenwere quite nice and enjoyable. However, having tasted phenomenal bitterballen in Holland less than three weeks ago, my standards have been raised and Orange Tree’s weren’t as good. The best ones I tried, had a sumptuous creamy filling speckled with small tears of salty beef.

The main courses, though were great – a perfect lamb shank, and an original beef tartare…7The lamb shank was excellent! Nothing innovative here, it’s all about tradition. Classic reduced wine and thyme sauce with a traditional Dutch hutspot (mashed potato+carrot+onion). Each bite of the ultra-tender, flavourful lamb was a treat!8After asking what exactly “Orange Tree Style” meant on the menu for its beef tartare, I was intrigued. Instead of the regular fries combo, this tartare was served with salad, pickles, diced onion to add to taste – as well as crispy toasties.

For flavouring, the tartare had tabasco, capers, salt/pepper, and sambal. Sambal is a spicy sauce commonly used in South East Asia, including Indonesia. Holland formerly colonised Indonesia, and the country’s delicious spices and foods eventually made their way back to the Netherlands. The resulting flavour was exciting: spicy,and with a hint of dried seafood (thanks to the sambal). This played into the capers quite nicely.9Then, couldn’t resist the poffertjes for dessert, served here with a raspberry sorbet and chocolate mousse. These were a bit “healthier” than the ones I ate in Holland (think less butter / less sugar) – but there’s always butter you add on the side, am I right???!! 😀10And now for some gratuitous close-ups.11Just above the entrance to the kitchen are some Dutch products for sale…

The overall atmosphere at The Orange Tree is like a neighbourhood restaurant in Europe: cosy and conservative. On our visit, it was fully-booked – and I’m sure the other main dishes on the menu (beef, chicken, duck, pork) are worth trying too. 6

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THE END!

Bakker x
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“Upstairs” at Aberdeen Street Social

1Central is getting a lot more social. Why? Because phase one of Central’s heritage building makeover is complete: and PMQ, the revamped Police Married Quarters, is the gleaming result. Next is the Central Police Station (still a work in progress) on Wyndham Street, but first things first.

Restaurants and creative businesses are quickly filling out PMQ, and one of them is already up and running: Aberdeen Street Social.

2The latest resto from British chef Jason Atherton (yup, the guy behind 22 Ships in Wan Chai), Aberdeen Street Social has two different vibes: a downstairs bar and café, and an upstairs restaurant (named “Downstairs” and “Upstairs” respectively). Our meal takes place at the (pricier) restaurant above.3While its press proclaims the food as “modern British cuisine”, our experience at Upstairs is more of an international mish-mash with a dash of French style (be prepared for a few French accents from the staff, too).

In between sips of my Bloody English cocktail (great, except for the stale toast :-/ ), I’m taking in the smooth, retro touches Upstairs’ design has to offer, with an open kitchen to the left, and a leafy canopy on view to the right.4Taking a surf-and-turf approach to starters and mains, my date and I opt for the beautiful Hokkaido scallops, and pork ravioli to begin the meal.5Suffolk Pork Ravioli
Laying on a bed of spinach, this flavour-packed jumbo ravioli is topped with super-thin shavings of Berkswell, a classic English cheese made with sheep milk. There’s deep fried basil leaves and a powerful tomato sauce garnishing the minced meat within, although when all’s said and done, just a tad too salty for my tastes.

Raw Hokkaido Scallops
The winner of the starters course, was the delicately plated Hokkaido scallops. A delight to look at, the combination of flavours and textures brought together in this successful concoction was a playful Japanese gesture.

The formula?

Luscious raw scallops + crisp apple slices + velvety shiso leaf + dashi (like miso) jelly + wasabi/avocado sauce = NOM6Next – after a respectable wait – came mains with ox cheek on the turf front, and snapper on the surf front. It’s nice to enjoy a meal in Hong Kong when main course isn’t rushed out in an effort to clear your table as soon as possible.

Snapper and Clams
The rich, buttery nature of Meunière Sauce often kills itself by being paired with the wrong fish. But, the lean snapper lent itself very well to the medley of vegetables and sprinkling of clams. Like the braised ox cheek, there’s no culinary innovation happening with this dish – but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t done well.

Braised Ox Cheek
So, so tender. What else can I say? The meat melted away at the gentlest touch of a fork. Finished off with a reduced red wine sauce, this classic dish was done justice at Aberdeen Street Social. On the side, a crispy breaded column of bone marrow to top off the decadence.
8Where the main courses are more conservative, the starters are playful at “Upstairs”, and regrettably we were too full for dessert.

Last, but not least, some petits fours to end the meal.
The orange one: Apricot flavoured jelly (YUM)
The circular one: Salted nut praline (YUMMM)
The cube one: Chocolate mousse (MEH, this should have been a truffle!)9While the price point is higher ($1,300 for two) than nearby Soho haunts, the culinary standard, chic setting, good service and little extras (amuses-bouches at the start; petits fours at the end) makes it worth the splurge.

PMQ still has a lot more foodie discoveries waiting – so let’s take it one bite at a time!10Thanks for reading!

Bakker x

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FU LU SHOU

1Living in Hong Kong is never short of surprises. Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to a media preview for FU LU SHOU, a new bar-slash-resto perched on a hidden Hollywood Road balcony.2After locating 31 Hollywood Road (opposite the Soho escalator), and one old-school lift, we arrived to Fu Lu Shou – which despite being in soft-opening phase – got more than respectably busy during the evening.3Apart from its local-inspired drinks (like the rum-based Typhoon No.8 cocktail) and fairly traditional Cantonese fare, Fu Lu Shou‘s main pulls are its cosy balcony and fantastic street-art mural.4Canto touches are everywhere, and we dig it! So, get ready as we dig into my favourites of the evening…5JOH SUN: What better name for this spicy punch of a cocktail, than Joh Sun, which means ‘good morning’. With tropical notes of ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime, lemon and chilli, this vodka-based concoction is the stuff of dreams.6Next was a series of entrees, all of which charmed us bloggers and writers. In particular, the giant siu mai – which is exactly what it sounds like. The texture and flavours were more intense and delicate than a regular sized dumpling, and we were glad – because this nuclear-looking monstrosity had the potential of falling flat. It didn’t 🙂

Next, we lept into their honey-covered deep fried shrimp. Great combination: simple, sweet and succulent. And a nice change from the stereotypical sweet-and-sour sauce combo.7We’ll skip over the main dishes that were sampled, because in our opinion they still need some fine-tuning with intensity of flavouring (fair enough, for a soft-opening phase!), but we will share the awesome deep fried tofu with you.

Every tofu-lover’s fantasy, this perfect bar snack combines the soft and bland, with crispy bursts of garlic, chili and herbs. Encased in a deep fried shell? Bring it on!!!!!!

Bakker x

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