“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are” – Brillat-Savarin

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Brunch @ Jaspas, 1600 Pandas @ PMQ and soft serve ice cream @ Godiva (Central), Hong Kong

1600 little pandas visited Hong Kong in June and part of July. This papier mâché exhibit by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and French artist and sculptor Paulo Grangeon is on a worldwide tour to bring a message of conservation and for sustainable development. 1600 is the estimated number of pandas left in the wild, and one of the main reasons that pandas have become endangered is habitat destruction. I wonder how many people around the world who have seen the 1600 Pandas exhibit learnt this fact after seeing them, because the carefully crafted papier mâché pandas are quite the sensational attraction themselves! The exhibit was set up at many landmarks for the first two weeks in HK, including several 'flash mob'-style visits at unannounced locations. When the pandas made the final stop for a few weeks at the newly revitalised PMQ, hubby remarked that we ought to bring the 5-year-old to have a look at them. Then a couple of Sundays ago, we realised that it was the last weekend to see the 1600 pandas in HK. So although I was tired after bringing both kids to the morning church service and just wanted to go home (it is exhausting going anywhere solo with an energetic 5-year-old boy and a 7-month-old baby who refuses to nap in the stroller), I sucked it up and chugged on to meet hubby in Central for brunch before visiting the PMQ. Besides, the kid was so excited to see the pandas, I couldn't disappoint him.

Because this was an impromptu outing, we were not prepared with restaurant bookings, and nearby places to the PMQ were either fully booked or didn't take reservations. So we just decided to walk towards the PMQ and try one of the restaurants on the way. Jaspas was one of the restaurants we came upon, and we were fortunate that a family of four was just paying for their meal when we arrived, so we didn't have to wait long for a table. We had a
couple of good experiences with Jaspas in the past, so we knew it wasn't a bad pick - it certainly was a popular option for family Sunday brunch out because the restaurant was operating at full capacity the whole time we were there! Service was good, food was delicious, prices were affordable, and the environment was kid- and baby-friendly - perfect choice for our family.

Casual setting for a relaxing meal:

The boy's Soft-boiled Eggs with Wholemeal Toast (HK$45). "Bread & Egg" is one of his favourite lunch options at home or out, so he was a happy chappy:

Hubby chose Stacks of Taste (HK$115) - toasted sourdough topped with honey-cured bacon, poached eggs, tomato and spinach, and tarragon hollandaise. This was hearty but also relatively healthy; thumbs up for flavour:

I love avocado and asparagus and Turkish bread, and the Trim & Tasty (HK$115) had all three with two eggs any style (I chose poached) and roasted tomato. It was indeed tasty:

Smoked Salmon Salad (HK$130) - with baby spinach, romaine lettuce and honey mustard dressing. This was a good salad bowl:

After fueling up on delicious and nutritious food, I was more relaxed and in a better mood. We walked over to the PMQ, and it seemed like half of Hong Kong were there too. We made it a short and sweet visit - literally saw the papier mâché pandas, took a few snapshots, and left. We probably spent longer waiting for the lifts to enter and exit than the time spent at the exhibition itself.

Part of the 1600 pandas exhibit:

Amazing sculpting and painting detail. I can't imagine doing this 1600 times!:

On the way back to the MTR, we made a quick stop by Godiva in the IFC mall to grab a chocolate soft serve for the boy (but we also took a few bites of it, but only after asking him first). It was such an indulgent treat.

Godiva Chocolate Soft Serve:

We had a good family day out, but I was glad to be home afterwards!

Jaspa's (Central)
Ground level
28-30 Staunton Street
Soho, Mid-Levels
Central, Hong Kong
Tel. +85 2 2869 0733

Godiva (IFC Mall)
Shop 1029-30
Level One, IFC Mall
1 Harbour View Street
Central, Hong Kong.
Tel. +85 2 2805 0518

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Kyoto in one (and a half) day: Shinkansen, Hanami and Food!

I'm glad to finally get back to working on my backlog of photos from our trip to Japan, where we spent a couple of days in Nagoya and then we hopped onto a shinkansen to Kyoto. This was our third visit to this beautiful city (our first with kids in tow), and it was even more beautiful with the cherry blossoms. We were delighted to have our trip coincide with the gorgeous but fleeting sakura season (lasting only one or two weeks, and the timing depends largely on the climate that year). Kyoto is one of our favourite cities in Japan, and it was an easy 35-minute ride on the Nozomi bullet train from Nagoya. The train ride was probably the highlight of the trip for the 5-year-old boy who had been looking forward to riding on the shinkansen for years (though he was born in Japan and had ridden the bullet train before, we left for Hong Kong when he was only a wee 2-year-old). We took it easy since we had already done most of the touristy sightseeing stuff on previous trips, and I only put two things on our Kyoto itinerary: do the Philospher's Walk (which coincidentally is one of the best places to do hanami), and eat! Kyoto Station is a food mecca, and that's where we got most of our food from during the two days.

At Nagoya Station waiting for our Nozomi train to Kyoto:

At the bottom of the Grand Stair at Kyoto Station with a good view of the glass roof (in 2006 I took pictures of the stair itself crowded and empty):

Yatsuhashi-flavoured KitKat:

Beard Papa's at Kyoto Station:

Beard Papa's cream puffs to fuel the walk ahead of us - the original (vanilla) and cookies & cream:

Hubby said there's not enough photos of me, so here's one of the kids and I under the cherry blossoms on the Path of Philosophy:

One variety of cherry blossoms:

And another darker pink sakura:

Yes, I can see why the Philosopher's Walk is regarded as one of the best places to view the cherry blossoms:

The crowded street to Ginkaku-ji from the Path of Philosophy (we did not go that way):

The Philospher's Walk is aptly named - good for quiet contemplation:

One of the traditional houses we encountered on the way to lunch:

After lunch, we visited the grounds of Nanzen-ji. This was the huge Sanmon (Mountain Gate):

The big threshold of the Mountain Gate, with a goofy 5-year-old for size comparison (click here for a similar photo I took of hubby and the Sanmon seven years ago):

The main purpose of the visit to Nanzen-ji grounds was to show the kid the huge aqueducts:

The visit to Nanzen-ji grounds ended shortly after this shot was taken. The boy and I walked down the steps to meet hubby who was with the baby in the stroller, and I'm still not sure what happened exactly, but the boy must have been goofing off too close to the open drain (pictured to the right of the shot) and he fell in. Hubby pulled him right out almost immediately, and thankfully the boy did not hit his head on the embankment, nor was he hurt anywhere else (though hubby and I were both very surprised he was not hurt considering it was at least a 1m drop). He was wet, it was cold, so we headed back to the hotel:

From the bus back to the hotel, we saw a pedestrain footpath full of cherry blossoms. I'm surprised I managed to get a straight shot from inside the vehicle:

One of the foodie things I wanted was a bento dinner, and hubby grudgingly obliged (he preferred a nice restaurant meal, but cranky kids after a tiring day out do not allow us such luxury). Purchases from several shops in Kyoto Station - two bento boxes from a bento shop, yomogi mochi from a supermarket, and a couple of baked goodies from a bakery:

This was one of the more expensive bento boxes on offer, at around 2500yen. Such neat presentation, and I loved how Japanese this tasted:

The smaller bento was slightly cheaper, just under 1500yen:

We also ate a delicious sushi lunch and a yudofu meal while in Kyoto, so stay tuned for upcoming reviews!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

A lovely brunch @ Café Causette, Hong Kong

I love the options we have for brunch in Hong Kong. We met up again with hubby's aunt and her husband recently for brunch, not long after they'd generously treated us to a magnificent Robuchon dinner in Macau. This brunch was mostly so that they could see the kids, which they didn't get to while we were in Macau. Scheduling to meet this lovely couple are sometimes made months in advance, due to the fact that aunt-in-law is always travelling and hardly in HK. Since it was our turn to invite them out for a meal (at our insistence, we have an agreement to take turns paying, but that doesn't stop L from trying to pay whenever it is our turn!), I wanted somewhere not-too-shabby but also child-friendly, and Café Causette at the luxurious Mandarin Oriental seemed to fit the bill nicely. The entrance to Café Causette is right next to the Mandarin Cake Shop, with window tables for solo or small-group dining in the corridor leading to the main dining room. The service was excellent but friendly, which suited the relaxed and casual atmosphere. The all-day dining from 6:30am to 11:45pm makes this a good choice for jet-lagged travellers, those with early or late meetings, or for parents with young kids who are wide-awake in the wee hours of the morning. The breakfast menu offers a nice variety ranging from the light and healthy (like fruit, bircher muesli and egg white omelette) to full breakfast sets like the continental breakfast (juice, fruit, 3 breads and coffee/tea), the Mandarin breakfast (juice, fruit, two eggs, 3 breads and coffee/tea) or the Chinese breakfast (steamed dim sum basket, congee, noodles, soya bean milk and Chinese tea). There are also in-between options like toasties, pancakes, sausage burger and a range of two-eggs dishes in the form of omelette, fried, scrambled, poached or boiled. The Children's Menu also caters well to kids' tastebuds with items like spag bol, macaroni cheese and pizza.

The Mandarin Cake Shop and to the right of it is the window corridor leading to the main dining area of Café Causette. In the Cake Shop were beautifully decorated cakes on display that changes regularly - in the center was a wedding-dress cake, and in front of it was a World Cup trophy cake (for the 2014 games) and a Rubik's Cube cake. The Mandarin Cake Shop was where we ordered the delicious turkey and trimmings from for last Christmas:

The main dining room of Café Causette:

Ham & Pineapple Pizza from the Children's Menu (HK$88) - perfect size for the 5-year-old who polished it off:

Hubby chose the Mandarin Breakfast (HK$308), and a lovely assortment of fresh cut fruit was included - dragon fruit, orange, honeydew, watermelon, rockmelon and strawberries.:

Also part of the Mandarin Breakfast was a choice of three breads from the bakery, and the boy chose two - a pain au chocolat...:

... and a doughnut (which was jam-filled and covered in sugar granules - not the healthiest!). Hubby selected a buttery soft brioche for us to share:

For his two-eggs that was included in the breakfast set, hubby went healthy and ordered an Egg White Omelette. It was so delicious that it was hard to believe it was healthy:

For my brekkie, I chose the Egg Royale (HK$148) - poached eggs and smoked salmon on English muffin with hollandaise on the side. I was glad when the hollandaise was served on the side because I'd forgotten to request it. I think that hollandaise should be served on the side by default, as I like to enjoy the eggs au naturel whereas hubby loves hollandaise all over it (we share everything we order), and this way we can both have our preferences:

Oozing egg yolk from a perfectly poached egg:

The food was good, and the prices were reasonably affordable for a 5-star hotel restaurant. Café Causette is a good family dining choice at the Mandarin Oriental.

[Prices quoted above do not include the 10% service charge.]

Café Causette
Mezzanine Level
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
5 Connaught Road Central
Central, Hong Kong
Tel. +85 2 2825 4005

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Revisit: Korean @ Han Woo Ri Korean BBQ Restaurant [USJ Taipan], Subang Jaya (Malaysia)

A trip to Malaysia involves a lot of catching up with relatives, and good food is always involved. We were in Kuala Lumpur for my cousin's wedding in May, and though we got to catch up with most of our uncles, aunties and cousins at the wedding and at lunch the next day, we didn't get much time to talk to the newlyweds and the mother-of-the-bride (my mum's sister). So although it seemed like we had been eating non-stop for the previous 24 hours, we loosened our belts once again for another family dinner to catch up with the wedding relatives. We ate at Han Woo Ri Korean BBQ Restaurant a few years ago, and the service and food were as good as I remembered. There were more of us this time, and we ordered a lot of red meat for the barbecue. I am not much of red meat eater, so I am pretty clueless regarding the different types and cuts of meat that we could order, but there were quite a few of them on the menu! Hubby and I ordered our favourite Korean dishes to share, and left the meat ordering to the others. We were well taken care of by the staff, and were pleasantly surprised when we were served a complimentary dish on the house.

Spacious and comfortable. We were actually given a more private dining table in a nicer area cordoned off by beaded curtains, but we'd have had to take off our shoes and there were one or two steps involved which was awkward with a baby stroller, so we requested a change:

Some of the banchan (side dishes) that we enjoyed:

Condiments for the barbecued meat, and complimentary barley tea (cool or warm tea on request):

One of the cuts we ordered:

Staff cooked our meat at a nearby table, presumably because there was a baby and a small kid at our table (I'm also grateful that my clothes weren't left with barbecued meat 'perfume'):

Haemul Pajeon, a delicious seafood pancake. We ordered two for the table, and the 5-year-old boy polished an entire plate on his own:

The Japchae was seasoned nicely, and was a good balance of sweet and savoury with the fragrance of sesame oil:

One of the barbecued meats we enjoyed:

I believe this was the Galbitang (beef short ribs soup). Good choice if you like soups and red meats, as the bovine flavour was pretty strong in the broth:

Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup), as requested by me because I wanted something nutritious after indulging in all the rich wedding food and greasy (but oh-so-delicious) Malaysian hawker food. Tasty for a chicken soup:

Ddeokbokki (soft rice cake) cooked with ramyeon (i.e. ramen in a spicy red sauce. Ddeokbokki is usually one of hubby's favourite Korean food, but he wasn't keen on this version with the noodles:

This Gyeran Jjim (steamed egg) was served on the house. The light and fluffy texture of gyeran jjim was quite different to the silky smooth chawanmushi (Japanese steamed egg) or the tender-textured Chinese steamed egg. Delicious:

Han Woo Ri is a solid choice for Korean in the USJ Taipan area.

Han Woo Ri Korean BBQ Restaurant [USJ Taipan]
3rd Floor, 1D & 2D
Jalan USJ 10/1J
47620, Subang Jaya
Selangor, Malaysia
Tel: +60 3 80233357