Tag Archives: restaurant

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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Dessert Wars: Mott 32

1It’s time for round 2 of Dessert Wars! This time we feature Mott 32, the new stylish Chinese culinary complex in the basement of the Standard Chartered bank building.

Mott 32’s grand opening was a madhouse with about two thousand guests in attendance. And, the couple of times I’ve been back to eat, it’s been well patronised.

Before skipping right to the dessert, below is a little sample of what I tried… including their signature Peking Duck, and pork shaomai with a lovely quail egg in the middle!2So who are the contenders for this edition’s dessert war?3First, a nod to classical Chinese with an osmanthus and goji berry (or wolfberry) jelly called Mott’s Amber, and…

4Second, a bit of international departure, with a green tea chocolate-coated disc of soft chocolate mousse.5Our winner is: the green tea chocolate mousse! This dessert, served cool, is also topped with sesame nuts – a nice addition to its smooth chocolate and macha flavours.

While jelly-lovers will appreciate the delicate flavours and texture of the amber jelly, it’s a more subdued – and perhaps acquired taste…

For a sure winner, go with the green tea treat.

Bakker x

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Beef & Liberty : Guilty Pleasures

1It’s a rainy, comfort-food kind of Saturday in Hong Kong, and it’s the perfect time to write up my recent visit to Beef & Liberty, a Wan Chai burger restaurant that is all about guilty pleasures.2Beef & Liberty serves grassfed beef raised the old fashioned way – but there’s a lot more decadence on the menu than just the good burgers.3There’s only three appetisers to choose from (corn cobbler; fried chicken; and ribs) and it’s a wise move. Instead of offering more appetisers just for variety’s sake, the focus on just three means improved quality. And when we opted for the two meat options, this was certainly the case.4The chicken wings packed a punch of crisp and flavour – with a killer batter. My entree favourite, though, was the barbecued pork ribs which had the kind of tenderness and sticky sweet glaze that makes pigging out a pure delight.5When it came to burger time, I was attracted to the burgers on the novelty side of things.

First, a green chili cheese burger with jalapeno relish; and second, a vegetarian felafel burger.6Between pan fried burger brioches that boast a slightly sweet taste, the beef and felafel were very nicely done in their own right.

The beef was perfectly cooked at medium-rare, and a healthy splash of spice coming through the green chili and jalapeno was a fiery yet refreshing complement.

Meanwhile, boasting a rich and creamy textured filling, the felafel patty was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. And to tie up the heady middle eastern taste? A side of cooling harissa yoghurt.7Last and definitely not least, came our ultra decadent dessert: a REAL-life cookie and cream.8While I’ve ‘tried’ this flavour countless times in ice-creams and chocolates, to experience the homemade cream poured over a molten, pan-baked cookie was on another (incredibly sweet-toothed) level.

Think: soft cookie dough with large chunks of melted chocolate chips, topped blended with rich and smooth cream, melting into one another in an explosion of sweetness…9If that doesn’t tempt you, I don’t know what will…

Bakker x

 

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Nagasaki’s Fascinating Food History

1It’s nearly the end of the year and boy have things been hectic! I’m so sorry for my lack of posts lately – but I’m recently back from abroad (you guessed it – Japan) and have a really interesting post for you today!2I’ve covered Japan on BBITES in the past (for my Crave Magazine Nakasendo feature), but this time I want to share a slice of the fascinating multicultural cuisine of Nagasaki with you, that I discovered while on my family vacation there this month.

Nagasaki has a really unique culture due to its history as a trading port and as Japan’s window to the outside world from the 16th Century onwards.
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Nations that made their way into Japan through Nagasaki were:

Portugal in the 16th Century. The Portuguese brought Christian missionaries with them and gained quite a foothold in Southern Japan. They were expelled from Japan by the Shogun, who disliked their growing power, in the mid-17th Century.

China in the 16th Century. The first Chinese ships arrived around the same time as the first Portuguese.

Holland in the 17th Century. The first Dutch ship, led by an English captain, arrived in 1600. After the Portuguese were expelled, only Dutch and Chinese ships were allowed to trade in Japan for almost two centuries.3With that (very condensed) bit of history out of the way, here comes the food photos!

One of our memorable meals was at a historic restaurant called Ichiriki (which means “one force”). Our dinner was called a ‘tafel’ meal – which means ‘table’ in Dutch – and indeed we ate sitting at a table and not on our knees, as is regular Japanese custom.

What followed was a culinary personification of the various fusions that have made their way into Nagasaki culture and food…4Meatballs are very Dutch. This amazing pie was served in a blue-and-white delft casserole.4bIn the photo above, the green candies reflect Nagasaki’s preference for sweetness (sugar was introduced to Japan through Nagasaki, and sweet treats there tend to be much more sugary than other parts of Japan).

An unagi-filled pastry is another fusion that I particularly enjoyed… note the sliced gherkins.5Chinese influences also found their way onto our plates, and nearby to Ichiriki (which is located on Temple Street), you can visit beautiful red temples built in the Chinese style, dating back hundreds of years.6The way in which these foods were presented is not typically Japanese, but more Chinese. Usually, Japanese meals are served on trays and each guest has their individual food laid out in front of them, instead of having to reach out and take from a communal plate.7During our stay in Nagasaki, we also paid a visit to the legendary Fukusaya Castella shop, which has been open since 1624, and is reputed to be the city’s best.

Castella evolved from Portuguese cakes brought to Japan in the 1500s, and is made with egg yolk. The natural rich yellow colour of Fukusaya‘s cakes is said to be thanks to their high-quality free range eggs.

The bat logo used on its store front and packaging is borrowed from a nearby Chinese temple; bats are an auspicious symbol in Chinese culture.

Another fascinating fact is that the quintissential Japanese food tempura was derived from a fried food batter introduced by the Portuguese!! Incredible…
8Thanks for reading, and enjoy your parties tonight for New Year’s!!!! If you still have some time to kill before heading out, here’s a link to my BBITES hangover cures that I posted this time last year: CLICK HERE.

May they come in handy, and see you next year!

Bakker x

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Behind the Review: Seasalt

1Sometimes a review can only explore certain areas of a dining experience due to something Hong Kongers know a thing or two about: competitive real estate.

Yup, when you’re limited to – say – 250 words, it can be harder to write than a 700 word main review!

Anyway, with all of this is mind, I thought it would be fun to blog about a place I recently reviewed to show a bit more behind the scenes, and also because the photos looked so cool I couldn’t resist!

To read the review for Time Out HK click here: Seasalt Review

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Seasalt is a new place on Mosque street serving gourmet fish and chips.

As you can see, the decor in Seasalt is functional and cute at the same time. There’s a cool surfboard hanging on the right side just in case you weren’t sure if you were at a fish and chips restaurant. 3This guy totally matched the vibe! 4Here’s “The Lot” which I talk about in the review. Highlights here included spot on calamari and the prawns which were near to perfection!

The salad is a success with a lot of goodies like Japanese dressing and bean sprouts for that Asian feel. Salty haloumi cheese on the top was a great touch, too.5I only started my photo-taking AFTER all the food had arrived. This is my way of making sure it doesn’t look like I’m there for a review 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Bakker x6

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