Tag Archives: seafood

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

Sig bbites


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


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

Sig bbites

Secrets of Food Photography

1Hi readers!

I recently had to the opportunity to work with Tasting Kitchen Magazine, and conduct four chef interviews across Hong Kong’s fine dining scene for this Perfect Pairings feature.

In the article, the chefs talked through their culinary interpretations to the brief: pairing a classic seafood seafood dish from their restaurant with this year’s Sauvignon Blanc from Cloudy Bay (a New Zealand producer).

2As always, each project I take on brings its own eye-opening revelations, and this one was no different. This time, I had the pleasure of observing and learning from a successful photographer, whose portfolio includes fashion, architecture – and food – who was on the job with me.3

After four days of hanging out, I convinced him to give me an interview where he (who prefers to go incognito, like a spy!) shared some of the secrets of food photography he has gathered over a long career as a professional photographer.4What are some of the challenges in shooting food versus people, or buildings?
Food has this whole element of making it look appetising. There’s a science to that, really. There are a lot of things that you have to take into consideration because food has many textures; it could be saucy, it could be dry, reflective, or have oil on it.

So, lighting is very crucial. Plus food – especially hot food – if it sits for a while it starts to wilt. There’s techniques of not cooking food to the fullest to make sure the colors are still there, or to not cook it at all, even. Also, treating food with chemicals so that you have a longer period to photograph the food.

Without treating it or planning ahead, you have about a five minute window to shoot it. In photography that’s really short.

11111111 2What are the wackiest techniques you’ve seen applied to food?I’ve seen everything, from hair spray to glue; anything that kind of sets it in place for a little bit longer. That stuff is not out of the ordinary, actually, it’s just a trade secret in food photography.

Which is the most difficult cuisine to shoot?
Chinese food. A lot of it is wok-fried and saucy. And flat. It doesn’t have height. Photography-wise, when a plate comes out saucy and flat, you can’t light it to look dimensional. Western pastas are pretty bad too.

Easy stuff to photograph would be… sushi. Sushi looks like art, it’s colourful and its got a shape to it, so you can light it.

Being in Hong Kong, however, there are a lot of chefs who take care to present Chinese food in an artistic manner. Those are usually OK to shoot.

11111111 3But, if you are stuck with a flat dish, what can you do to counter that?
You use distractions to distract from the main visual. If the plate is somewhat non-photographable, then you start to throw in elements for lighting, angles, backdrops and texture to present it as a dining experience. Like a wine, or utensils. If it’s really bad then you can use shadows and textures behind to make it visually decent and just layer.

Tell us an anecdote from your days as a food photographer…
My first and probably last experience of a working for a major franchise campaign… It was for a burger franchise and it was so monotonous. Basically we had to cook three to four hundred burger patties in a span of four days trying to get the right ‘look’ which is this consistency where it’s not too grey or dull. It has to be juicy enough and cooked to their presentation standard.

They shipped us a truckload of patties, literally, and the assistant in the back was cooking patties non-stop. In the end we had to bring in an actual employee to cook it and moved the shoot to a franchise location instead of a studio.

The second problem was finding really green lettuce and fresh tomatoes. The lettuce had to have the right waviness to hold up the bun a little bit – and the tomatoes had to be an exact width… it was crazy.

11111111With these kinds of shoots, you’ll always see the water droplets on the lettuce right? Those are actually tiny drops of glue.

Yeah, it was an educational shoot. I probably learned everything from that one shoot. I got that job earlier on in my career when I thought, ‘Oh yeah, food photography can’t be that difficult”.


And how wrong that proved to be! 🙂

Thanks for reading, and keep coming back for more bites…

Bakker x

Sig bbites

BBITES in Kota Kinabalu

1HI EVERYONE! I’m finally back with my Malaysia holiday update. If you’re new to the site, yes this is a Hong Kong food blog (most of the time) – but I also love to blog about my travels and exotic overseas food every now and then, as well! 🙂

So, without further ado… let’s get ready to makan! (that means eat in Malaysian.)2Kota Kinabalu, affectionately referred to as “KK” is the capital city of Sabah, a geographically diverse area of Eastern Borneo. And when I say geographically diverse, I’m not kidding: in the space of one day, you can go from the beach all the way to freezing cold at over 4000m altitude!3After arriving at the ghostly quiet KK Intl. Airport, we picked up some much-needed tourist info and set out to buy supplies for our upcoming climb up Mount Kinabalu.4After this strenuous exercise, my companions and I left the supermarket/shopping mall in dire need of some exciting local sights and flavours…5Located on the main coastal strip, KK’s fish market is bustling with locals, tourists, vendors and flanked all the while by restaurants that serve up the fresh catch in a variety of styles, very much like Sai Kung in Hong Kong.6To accompany our megalodon – I mean snapper – we naturally ordered classic Malaysian sides: nasi goreng (fried rice) and kang kung belacan (water spinach). 7PRO TIP: eat everything with generous amouts of Malaysian chili sauce: sambal.8In Malaysia, it is custom to eat with your right hand (left hand is rude) so each table has some form of wash basin so that patrons can clean up before digging in.

And now, presenting the massive snapper that had so much meat we couldn’t even finish the leftovers for breakfast…AAKKGrilled with a spicy marinade, this snapper (and all the fresh seafood caught off of Borneo) was full of flavour with an almost chicken-like robust texture.1011The following day we woke early to begin the climb to Mount Kinabalu peak – the non-culinary highlight of our trip to Malaysia.12While the markets, hotels and city centre of KK are on the coast, it takes a few hours drive to reach the start of Mount Kinabalu’s trail head.1314

This was by far the longest and most challenging hike I’ve ever done, but porters and local guides (who must accompany climbers by law) can sprint up and down like it’s a piece of cake – sometimes carrying over 40kg!!!!!!!15As you go and up down the mountain, porters pass you all the time – since the inn sitting on the mountainside before the final summit has no access roads, and everything must be carried up manually. Truly impressive.16Although Laban Rata has no running hot water or heating system, I was the happiest camper imaginable to snuggle into my creaking bunk bed to restore my energy before the 3AM final ascent!17Breakfast ^ before climbing to the summit in time for sunrise 🙂 1819What an amazing feeling being at the top (apart from freezing my butt off!). The climb down after the sun meant that we could now see the gorgeous yet desolate rock formations at the summit – which earlier were covered in darkness.20After returning to Laban Rata to celebrate with some bubbly apple juice (bringing up real champagne didn’t strike me as a good idea), we began the long journey back to KK and our final market/food experience.21For our last night in KK, we browsed the central market (separate from fish market) and decided on more grilled seafood after trying snacks like satay ayam and kerupuk.22Among the highlights were mud crab and squid. Warning: delicious photos ahead.2323bFatty, tender yet crisp with a melty explosion of flavour, the grilled squid rocked my world with a lightly sweet tomato/chili sauce.

After dinner, a “quick” stop to the local bar, and the rest is history!24Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my next post, which will be a 100% certified Hong Kong food story 🙂


Bakker x

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.

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.

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

The Missing Scallops!

As promised, a video of the missing scallops from my seafood experience in Sai Kung.

Bakker x

Waterfalls and Mouth-watering Food

On Saturday I had the good fortune of going hiking with a group of friends who had organized everything: a trail passing three mini-waterfalls from the same source (the Ng Tung Chai waterfalls.)

We discovered some very exotic animals on the way… can’t help thinking all animals are technically food after watching Bear Grylls on Discovery Channel.

Even though there was a landslide block part of the hike’s circular trail, we managed to traverse the fallen rocks quite easily (it was exciting, to say the least!-but too intense to stop and take photos).

By the time the hike was over, we were all very hungry and had a short brainstorm on where to go next for lunch.  One taxi ride later and we were in Sai Kung, walking the pierside avenue bustling with local Hong Kongers and their dogs.  Apparently this is where owners congregate to show off their well-groomed pooches.

We finally settled on one of the many seafood restaurants facing the water, each boasting huge impressive tanks in a majestic Chinese display of competition.  All the animals were alive and fascinating to observe.

What was even more fascinating, at least for Bakker’s Bites, however, was when they weren’t alive anymore.  Our lunch was phenomenal with some killer deep-fried calamari, Chinese soyfish and a garlic-glass noodle scallop delight.

Served with sweet chili sauce to boot!

The calamari werefried in a thin, crispy batter.  It made me sad to think how many calamari vendors in the world put on huge, soggy and tasteless batters to mask thin strips of calamari.  At this restaurant, the meat was the main attraction, and the fried encasing the cherry on the top.

Luckily we had a talented fish disassembler in our group who separated the meat from the bone for the rest of us.  The rest of that fish was spent eating in silence: a nice, traditional chives and garlic fish.

I was too excited to snap a photo for the delicious scallop, but there is some video footage I need to review of me eating it up.  Then I’ll decide whether or not I will embarrass myself by sharing that hilarious lack of table of manners with you.


If you can, I totally recommend spending a day like we did before it gets too hot… bring your dog if you have one!

Bakker x