Tag Archives: mtr

Feeling Tai Hang(ry)? An Afternoon at Stone’s

1It was with the promise of “Hong Kong’s best burger” that I joined my friend Earl to check out one of his favourite Tai Hang haunts… Earl was the photographer for Bakker’s Bites 2nd Birthday photo shoot, so it was a foodie reunion, too!  🙂2About ten minutes walk from Tin Hau station on Lin Fa Street West, Stone’s, an American diner, was our destination. And, of course, the day we chose to go, it was pouring with rain. 3While I  can’t comment on whether or not Stone’s restaurant truly has the best burgers in HK, what I can tell you is this: the food, atmosphere and owner are all certified awesome.

First of all, Stone’s boasts some remarkable artwork. These include…

– John Wayne (signed silk screen) by Andy Warhol
– Chinese Portrait (oil on canvas) by Feng Zhengjie
– Jim Morrison with Treble Meanings No. 6 (acrylic on canvas) by Chan Yu
– 1335 (original print) by Xanti Schawinsky

…and more!4The menu at Stone’s is dominated by a hearty burger selection – and although there are other American classics on the menu, burgers are what both Earl and I opted for.5My choice was Burger #3U.S. Prime Beef Patty / Crispy Onion Rings / Crispy Bacon / Pepper Jack Cheese / Lettuce / BBQ Sauce / Pickle.

I gladly devoured this burger, which was cooked exactly as I had requested: rare. In true American style, the portion was huge and generous. Mixing up the sweet BBQ and onion rings with salty bacon and cheese was oh-so-indulgent, in all the best ways.

Happily, I was allowed to get a “bit of both” when it came to a side of either French Fries or salad. The fries were great: crispy but not too oily, which came as a relief because I already had to eat bacon, beef, deep-fried onions and cheese!6Earl went ligher with Burger #4 Grilled Chicken Breast / Grilled Pineapple / Jack Cheese / Apple Cider Dressing / Mixed Greens

Let me tell you something: that apple cider sauce is incredible! Just try not dipping every bite of your plate (from burger, to french fry and salad) into it… I dare you, I double-dare you!

Cooked perfectly tender and matching the pineapple’s sweetness, this option is good for a lighter burger – which I realise is a total oxymoron 😛7Little did we know, we were in for even more of a treat when Joel showed us his very special signed Campbells soup can and vintage 1982 edition of Playboy magazine. I was delighted to see such a relic from the golden days of journalism – before the internet changed everything!8And if you thought Playboy was a “dirty” magazine, think again! Yup, that’s right: an interview with opera legend Luciano Pavarotti was beautifully preserved inside the copy.9After sitting for at the bar for ages, eating and discussing writing, art and famous celebrities from yesteryear, owner and super nice dude Joel Bess insisted we try their version of chocolat fondant. Just as he promised, it had a whole lot of ooze…

A perfectly sweet way to end the meal, it came piping hot and was garnished with some cute fruit, including blueberries, strawberries and a ground cherry.10Before lunch was over, another regular of Stone’s showed up with an even older copy of Playboy; this time from 1973!!! This resulted in about half an hour more of looking through it in amazement – what a treat looking through all those vintage ads, and fantastic pre-PhotoShop photography.

Named after Joel’s mentor, Mr. Harlan Stone (who encouraged Joel to open his dream restaurant), the kind of clientele that this hidden gem attracts is great, and something tells me that weird and wonderful things happen there all the time… 

If it was dinner, I would have certainly indulged in one of the many exotic beers available at Stone’s11But, I guess that’s a whole other story… 😉

Bakker x

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AVA: The Making of a Meal

1Themed menus are a common feature of many restaurants. Often, they are put together for a particular holiday, like Christmas or New Year’s Eve, but for some – like AVA – every month itself deserves a celebration of food.redooo

I was recently invited for a tasting of the April Menu at AVA Restaurant Slash Bar, the resident eatery of the upper floors of aptly-named Hotel Panorama in TST.

I took the opportunity to try and learn a little bit more on how everything comes together… (in addition to stuffing my face 😛 !)
3As evidence from the irresistibly cute graphic art on the menu, April 2013’s theme for their monthly set menu is seafood.

Although à la carte items are available throughout the year, the monthly themes are a lot more fun, in my opinion. For example, last month’s theme was Spring, and featured flowers in the dishes (check it out: here on OpenRice).

4Named From The Sea, the April menu begins with a Hot & Cold Seafood Platter.

“Cold” Seafood Platter: When the platter arrived I knew that it was time to get my hands dirty! I got to work immediately on the gigantic crab legs, each filled with an absurdly wonderful amount of fresh and succulent meat. It was truly impressive – and delicious. The oysters were equally fresh and I ate them with vinegar and eschallots…5As I later learned, the crab was actually a Snow Crab, imported from Alaska – which explains the hugeness of it all: Snow Crabs are horrifically large (and tasty) crustaceans that grow in the extremely cold waters of the Atlantic Sea. 6Next, the second part of starters arrived…

“Hot” Seafood Platter: The hot version transformed the oysters into baked, cheese gratin oysters; the crab into crab cakes; and added chili for the prawns. My favourite was the Baked Oyster because I wasn’t expecting to like it, since I’m used to raw oysters… But despite my apprehensions, it was creamy and flavourful. The cheese helped balance the intense seafood flavour that oysters give off when cooked, resulting in a very pleasant bite.

Bouillabaisse Soup: Served on an extremely hot plate (as soups should always be!), the soup was more on the plain side, letting the bouillabaisse flavour do all the work. It contained some shellfish and prawn goodies, including light and bouncy scallops. Chef Massimo explained that he didn’t include the traditional rouille sauce (a kind of spiced-mayonnaise) and toast with the soup to keep things minimal and pure for the texture.

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For the menu, guests can choose between Squid Ink Risotto, Cod or Lobster Spaghetti for the main course. Since I was on a tasting mission, I was able to try the latter two in half portions. While eating, Chef Massimo joined me and I grilled his brain (pun intended :P) about his culinary background and the menu…

Chef Massimo Santovito comes from a South Eastern area in Italy that is rich in seafood all year long – and especially in Spring and Summer. His cooking style draws from this heritage, and explains the inclusion of so many classic seafood items like lobster, crab, cod and mussels in the menu.

Simplicity is sometimes the best approach, he explained, citing the example of Squid Ink: a strong yet delicate ingredient, there is a tendency to overuse it in order to achieve the dark color, even though only very little is needed to create the right balance.

This was the same method he used for the last of the main courses: the Lobster Spaghetti. As far as myself? I couldn’t stop staring at the huge claw on my plate…8
Lobster Spaghetti: Since the pasta (called “Chitarra” pasta, like the strings of a guitar) is made in-house at AVA’s kitchen, it had a real artisan texture and flavour to it. Combined with a light tomato sauce, the Marsala wine used in cooking really shone through and added strength to the flavour.

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Following AVA’s popular Rose Water and Raspberry Table-side Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream dessert (a mouthful, I know!), I was lucky enough to witness the first-ever presentation of the new kid on the block: the “Oops” dessert.

Drawing inspiration from Chicago’s Chocolate Bomb, the “Oops” begins with a plastic sheet being laid out on the table. Then, streaks of different sauces are poured before the big surprise. Check it out in the video below…

After “Oops” was finished, I could hardly move being so full, but mustered up the energy to take a peek inside the beautiful kitchen…10Although it completely makes sense, considering the hotel’s location, it was still surprising to find that the restaurant kitchen also had huge windows to give the kitchen crew views across the harbour. Talk about some lucky chefs!11Being in a real, working kitchen is such a great experience! It’s a moment where you can witness the organised chaos behind the calm.12It was good fun learning more about Chef Massimo and his creative process in constructing this themed menu. Then – of course – even more fun eating it and having the chance to be the first person to experience the new “Oops” dessert. But as far as the concept behind the menu? There’s no mistakes there… 🙂

Bakker x