Tag Archives: new

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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HK’s Best Secret Drinks – Part 1: BARSMITH

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WELCOME to a special BBITES series 🙂 I’m going to be taking you through three different bars in Hong Kong featuring secret drinks that are off-menu.

Part 1 is about the place you don’t know yet: BARSMITH

Part 2 will be about a bar you do know, featuring off-menu treats

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Part 3 will be an EPIC SURPRISE

So get ready to ‘get in the know’ and sip it up, Bakker’s Bites style…

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Barsmith is located at 4/F, 60 Wellington Street, Central.

I first went to Barsmith with some friends, and while the bar is still in its soft-opening phase, I can’t help but share with all of you how AWESOME this bar is.

A little bit hidden, Barsmith is the perfect place to escape LKF while being in the heart of the action.3The concept behind Barsmith is that while there’s a menu, the emphasis is on building a relationship with the bartenders who will create drinks based on your personality and preferences.3bWhen I arrived for my tasting I was guided through two amazing cocktails prepared by mixologist Miyake Ayako from Japan.

Asking for something a bit on the fresh and sweet side, Ayako suggested a Japanese peach-based cocktail, since it was in season. I asked what would be in the drink, and she basically said, “Leave it to me.” And, boy am I glad I did!Page_3The first thing Ayako did was whip out a blender and start to purée fresh Japanese peach. Things were off to a good start.5Next came the selection of different liqueurs and ingredients, and I watched patiently while she put together a combination of peach creams, celery bitters, whiskey and sea salt.Page_4The balance was incredible. A smooth, smoothie-like texture caressed the palate while the whisky was cut by sweet peach. Meanwhile, in case things got a little too sugary, sea salt added the perfect sobering note.

Impressed, I wondered what to order next and asked Ayako to ‘surprise me’. 7As we chatted a little, I learned that the Japanese jeans brand Evisu was downstairs and had some kind of affiliation with the bar re: its owner/investors or something along those lines.

With that in mind, she declared the next drink would be called “The Evisu” and decided to finish things up with a dessert-inspired cocktail.BarsmithAs you can see from the ingredients, this drink was all decadence. The highlight for me was sampling the Benedictine liqueur which tasted like honey syrup: pretty much a nectar for the gods.9Resulting in a tiramisu-esque concoction, the rich texture and creative flavours were unlike anything I’d tried before: and that’s the point.

Creating custom, unique cocktails with their customers is why I’m so excited about Barsmith.

While other bars do this occasionally (and usually with much persuasion), Barsmith specialises in tailored drinks: my kind of heaven.10So are you ready to enjoy? I know I am…

Thanks for reading, and  stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 😉 !

Bakker x

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All About XO

1About one month ago, I tried XO Sauce for the first time (check it out on Instagram: here). For me, this is kind of like the mayonnaise of Cantonese cooking, in that it kind of goes well with everything. Delicious!

After I wiped out my first bottle of XO Sauce within a week (which was a goodie bag gift from a media lunch), I couldn’t help but noticing a new store on Queens Road West that my bus passes on the way home.
2So yesterday, I finally got round to paying the shop, named Mrs. So’s XO Sauce, a visit and restocked on my favourite new garnish.3 The interior is cute and has some kitchen facilities which allows the shop to run cooking classes during the week. All the XO products are sold in bright orange boxes, which I of course like being half Dutch :P.
4Recently, when I chatted to a friend about XO sauce, she told me that although the sauce has likely been around for a loooong time in different shapes and forms, it was only in recent decades that it was commodified, and renamed “XO” sauce to evoke the prestige of fine cognacs. And the rest, as they say, is history…5At the XO Sauce shop, they stock some interesting, novelty flavours – like Vegetarian, Porcini Mushroom, Black Olive & Tangerine – and of course the classic XO in regular, medium and high spiciness.

All were a delight to try – and I ended up buying the medium classic XO sauce. My next favourite, though, was a tie between the vegetarian and mushroom sauces.6With the free cooking classes and complementary recipe cards, it’s obvious that XO Sauce, the store, is trying to build a culture around this popular Cantonese creation. Although there’s a lot of recipes to be made with XO, I think the best combo will always be with Cantonese-style fried rice. 🙂
7Isn’t that just beautiful? I love looking at all the ingredients floating in the oil – and boy are they generous! Sometimes restaurants will rip you off a little bit with stingy XO sauce, which is why I’m really glad to have my own!

Before signing out, in case you don’t know what’s actually in XO sauce, here’s what you’ll normally find:
– Dried seafood (scallop, shrimp, fish)
– Dried meat (ham)
– Spices (red chili)
– Vegetables (garlic, onion)
– Oil (canola oil, chili oil)
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Bakker x

BBITES Mini-Post #4 x Kisses @ Wan Chai

aaaaaWhen I was walking back to the office after lunch today, I noticed that the new Kisses Cupcakes shop on Queen’s Road East (#202) has finally opened – yesterday, in fact, which explains all of the flowers still standing outside.

The overall design is quite cute – their cupcake menu is listed on the wall with plaques, and lots of decorative cupcakes are lying around, as well.

I opted for the Pandan Cupcake – pandan always reminds me of Singapore 🙂 – while my friend Kaila tried the Ferrero Rocher Cupcake (complete with a nugget of chocolate in the centre). Other interesting cupcakes on display included Smores and Baileys flavours…

Now with Sift and Kisses within about five minutes of each other, Wan Chai dwellers should be careful if they don’t want their waistlines to expand exponentially – including me 😛 !

Bakker x

Hazel & Hershey – A New SOHO Café

1 hazel hershey hkHazel & Hershey is located at 69 Peel Street, Soho, Central. +852 3106 0760

On Sunday I enjoyed lunch at Brunch Club and shared a signature salad + burger with my bestie Sami. After the epic feast, we meandered down Peel Street to head towards Central, and I couldn’t help but stop in front of a new turquoise storefront I’d never seen before.

One of the several new cafés and restaurants on Peel Street (which will require me going back for more reviews!), is Hazel & Hershey, a quirky new coffee shop with character that opened two months ago.

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The interior is fresh, playful and modern. Lamp art on the ceiling turned out to be huge wonky clocks after a closer look, making me think of Alice in Wonderland, somehow…

A coffee bean grinder is a decorative (and functional) piece near the entrance, and sacks of coffee beans lie around it. The effect is charming and curious – makes me wonder whether they’re filled with real beans!3One of the most interesting design elements to the coffee shop is the section of wall made into an attractive shelving unit made out of cardboard, for the shop’s imported coffee-making accessories. 4The items, from Japan and Italy, are for sale and include coffee brewers, espresso cup sets, books and more… A lot of eye candy here.  5I was quite surprised to find that there were absolutely no food items available on the menu (a good croissant may have come in handy, for example). But, then again, it’s nice to see a venue choosing to focus on its concept without any distractions.

Espresso-based drinks were the house specials, but an extensive list of black/long coffee varieties were available on the other side of the blackboard (sorry, not pictured!).

So, when the coffees arrived I had high expectations and – I must admit – some doubts on if they would be worth the 35$ that Sami and I spent on a Macchiato and Hazelnut Cappuccino each.6Macchiato $35 : After my first sip I broke into a smile – *relief* – it was worth it! The texture of my Macchiato was rich, creamy and with a lovely smooth foam at the top. The taste was nutty, roasted and bold. YUMMY and served at a nice, hot temperature.

Cappuccino $35 : Sami’s Cappuccino was served with a pretty Latte art design that stayed in formation until the very end of the cup. She was nice enough to let me try a (long) sip of the Cappuccino and it was delightful: smooth and light (yet not too milky), the Cappuccino reminded me of a winter treat with the sweetness of the added hazelnut flavour ($5).

The atmosphere is calm and cheerful at Hazel & Hershey, and the staff were friendly. So far, I’m definitely in favour of the new café, with both orders I tried being well made and not a rip off by any means: when you consider a Starbucks coffee costs as much, it puts things in perspective! Here, for the same price you get an ambience and high-quality coffees made with care and passion.

Bakker x

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p.s. In more COFFEE NEWS: click here to check out my latest tasting visit with Nespresso (launching a new GRAND CRU capsule) on my Facebook page. Plus, read BBITES’ previous post on Coffee Culture @ Nespresso for more coffee…

Happy Chinese New Year!!!

aaaBakker’s Bites wishes you a Happy Chinese New Year! 🙂

Bakker x