The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Great chowder and seafood @ Crabby Jim's Seafood Restaurant, Monterey (California, USA)

Things are really busy for me, so it's been a bit quiet here on my blog. We celebrated baby girl's 2nd birthday last weekend (not a baby anymore!), and now preparing for my parents' arrival in Hong Kong. I have a lot of blogging material piling up, and I honestly cannot believe that I am still writing up about our California trip we did earlier in the year. We had lunch at Crabby Jim's in Monterey's Old Fisherman's Wharf after our scenic drive through the 17-Mile Drive. We tried several sample chowder being offered outside the seafood restaurants, and we liked Crabby Jim's the best, so that made it an easy decision for lunch. The food was fantastic, but the most memorable part of our meal was the great service we received from our lovely waitress. In fact, service on the whole was really good at this restaurant.

Coconut Crusted Tilapia
coconut crusted fresh tilapia topped with lemon butter and tropical mango citrus sauce, served with rice and vegetables.

The dining room had a central fireplace feature:

Table with a view:

Delicious basket of crusty bread:

Fish & Chips for the kids (breaded California cod, deep-fried and served with french fries with tartar sauce):

Hubby's Coconut Crusted Tilapia, topped with lemon butter and tropical mango citrus sauce, served with potatoes and vegetables. The Asian-inspired sauce was delicious with the fish, and the potato gratin was yummy:

I got the Chowder Sourdough Bowl, which was lip-smackingly good. Better than the one we had the day before near the Aquarium:

I believe this was called the Mexican Fried Ice Cream, which hubby ordered out of curiosity. Very rich, and lots of cream on the side. We had a lot of trouble finishing it:

Crabby Jim's is a good family-friendly option in the Old Fisherman's Wharf. Very good service, delicious food, and all at a good price. Thumbs up from us!

Crabby Jim's
25 Fishermans Wharf
Monterey, CA 93940
United States
Tel. +1 831-372-2064

Crabby Jim's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 20 November 2015

Revisit: Birthday lunch @ L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Hong Kong

I recently celebrated my birthday, and hubby took the day off work to celebrate and spoil me. The morning started off with a blissful massage at a nice day spa, followed by lunch at my favourite restaurant, then watching the latest Bond movie at the big screen, before going home to my beautiful children. The big boy was at school, and baby girl was in the capable hands of her childminder, so I could relax and fully enjoy everything. The highlight of the day was bumping into French chef genius Joël Robuchon when we arrived at L'Atelier for lunch. He was in Hong Kong for his annual Gala Dinner in the region, which happened to take place on the night after my birthday (in fact, hubby wanted to take me to the Gala Dinner for my birthday, but I could not justify such lavish expenditure on myself)! This wasn't our first time meeting the world's most decorated chef, but I could barely contain my excitement when we bumped into him as we were being shown to our seats and he was leaving the kitchen. Robuchon did not speak English, but we managed a short conversation with my rudimentary French. He was a genial host, and later on during lunch, he reappeared in the dining room to chat and take photos with all the diners present. We were presented with an autographed copy of our photo with the chef, as a memorable keepsake of the moment. Having been to L'Atelier several times before, I will waste no time introducing the restaurant, and will go straight to the food. The lunch sets and a-la-carte menu were available, as were the Menu Degustation (special tasting menu) and Menu Découverte (discovery menu). The lunch sets were more affordable, and were priced in a tiered system depending on the number of courses ordered: HK$498 for 3 courses, HK$598 for 4 courses and HK$758 for 5 courses. Hubby was feeling up for the 5-course option, but I opted for the more modest 4 course set. Food was, as always, beautifully presented and excellently executed with amazing flavours and textures.

Hubby's favourite rum, Rhum JM 2001, and my Lychee Blade mocktail:

I love L'Atelier's bread baskets!

Amuse Bouche - chilled basil jelly with a creamy cepes mushroom mousse, and a potato croquette-like ball of yummy goodness with Paimpol white beans:

Hubby's entree, Le Haricot Paimpol - Paimpol white beans salad with celery, foie gras rolls and "Iberico" ham. I loved the creamy texture of the white beans, the beautiful flavours of the foie gras rolls, enhanced by the the chewy smoky ham:

My entree was L'Oursin - Scottish salmon tartare with sea urchin and homemade crispy waffles (supplement HK$30). Such gorgeous fresh umami flavours from the sea, contrasted by the crispy waffle layers:

For our soup course, we both chose Le Homard - Lobster "tsukune" and assorted vegetables in fine spiced bouillon. The chicken meatballs were juicy with crunchy little balls of what I thought were tobiko (flying fish roe). The bouillon had a strong ginger kick, and there were a couple of large lobster meat in it too. Very Asian flavours:

Hubby's first main course, Le Saint Jacques - Pan-seared scallops with Malabar black pepper sauce, baby spinach with wasabi and coconut emulsion. Perfectly cooked scallops, and the sauce and foam were both mildly flavoured so they did not overwhelm the scallops:

For his second main course dish, hubby ordered Le Fletan - Pan-fried Halibut, eggplant caviar, virgin olive oil with herbs. The fish was perfectly seasoned and delicious:

My choice of main course was Les Spaghettis - Maine lobster spaghetti and coral emulsion (supplement $30). Wow. This was superbly flavoured with generous hunks of juicy lobster meat:

Coffee time!

Hubby selected Les Fromages for his final course, a selection of fine French cheese:

And I chose Le Chocolat - Coffee trilogy, delicate chocolate mousse with orange confit. Very good, but at this point I was so full that I let hubby eat most of it:

We forewent our petit fours because we were running late for our movie! Though this was our fourth or fifth visit to L'Atelier, this particular one was a really memorable meal, made more special by the presence of Robuchon himself!

L'ATELIER de Joël Robuchon
Shop 315 & 401
The Landmark
15 Queen's Road Central
Hong Kong
Tel. +85 2 2166 9000
Online reservations available at Robuchon's website

Monday, 9 November 2015

The Beauty of Monterey Bay Part II: 17-Mile Drive, Fisherman's Wharf, and a beach wedding

My second installment of the beautiful Monterey Bay brings you more photos of gorgeous scenery, brilliant blue skies and the amazing Californian coastline. Travelling to California made me miss our hometown of Perth, which has similar clear weather, great surf and the best sandy beaches (and I've been to a few beaches around the world). We began our second day in Monterey with a scenic drive through the 17-Mile Drive. We stopped often along the way for photos of the breathtaking scenery, and the kids were delighted to encounter ground squirrels at one of the stops towards the end of the drive.

The view from the car at the start of the 17-Mile Drive:

Click on the following three images for larger panoramic view:

Ground squirrels! They were quite tame, coming up quite close to us humans (no doubt hoping for food):

The aptly named Seal Rock, dotted with hundreds of seals sunning themselves:

The Lone Cypress:

After the 17-Mile Drive, we headed to Fisherman's Wharf for lunch, and we encountered the Old Fisherman's Grotto's controversial child policy sign outside the restaurant - made it easy for us to tick that restaurant off our list for our lunch options!

Hubby and the kids posing for the photo somewhere in there:

The Old Fisherman's Grotto is not somewhere to dine with kids:

The following day was our final day in the Monterey Bay area, and we attended our first beach wedding! Lovely weather to match the wonderful wedding service.

Beautiful beach wedding at Carmel-by-the-Sea:

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Best discovery of Hanoi: Egg Coffee!

I first read about Hanoi's ca phe trung (egg coffee) on EatingAsia a few years ago, and I marvelled at the idea of combining egg and coffee. When we decided to visit Hanoi a few months ago, egg coffee was naturally on our list of things to try during our trip. When I told hubby we were going to try egg coffee in Hanoi, he thought it was just something different to try from a different country - though he was willing to try anything new and different, he told me later that he did not think much of egg coffee. When hubby actually tasted egg coffee for the first time, he was blown away by the flavours and textures of the drink. I'd already read Robyn's description of egg coffee on her EatingAsia blog - "warm eggnog, sans the booze and nutmeg and shot through with notes of caramel and chocolate. It's part dessert (though it's not cloyingly sweet), part restorative caffeinated beverage" - so I was more prepared for it, and I too fell in love with egg coffee. Egg coffee became our daily indulgence (in addition to consuming other Vietnamese yummies) during our five days in Hanoi, and it is our best discovery of Hanoi! We tried egg coffee (the kids had egg chocolate) at two places recommended by our hotel's concierge (who was excellent in his street food recommendations), Cafe Pho Co (also recommended by Robyn), and Giang Cafe. Both were not so easy to find, located at back entrances down a narrow corridor with seating areas up flights of stairs, but it was well worth the effort. Giang Cafe is purportedly where egg coffee was created by Mr. Nguyen Giang, back in the days when milk was scarce in Vietnam and yolks were used to replace milk. To compare the egg coffee at these two coffee shops, I preferred the friendly service and the cosy and warm atmosphere at Giang Cafe, and the drinks were also cheaper; however the egg flavour of the egg coffee was more pronounced at Cafe Pho Co, which we preferred.

Giang Cafe is hidden in a small lane, but it is well worth the effort to get there. Even the rain did not keep this crowd away:

Giang Cafe's Egg Coffee has the richness and thickness of eggnog, but not overwhelmed by the eggy flavour. The Egg Chocolate (pictured in the background) tasted like it was made with Milo, and topped with a heaped teaspoon of Milo powder:

We also tried Yogurt Coffee, served with a cup of crushed ice to add to preference. We weren't as keen on the Yogurt Coffee as we were on the Egg Coffee:

Giang Cafe
39 Nguyen Huu Huan Street
Hoan Kiem, Old Quarter
Tel. +84 62940495

The entry to Cafe Pho Co is through a silk clothing shop and down a narrow corridor to an atrium at the rear of the building where you order and pay before heading up the stairs to the seating areas:

There were something like five flights of windy stairs to climb in this really old building to get to the rooftop seating area (there was also an indoor seating area midway up), but the lake view once up there is lovely:

The ca phe trung has two distinct layers of black coffee topped with a rich whipped egg foam. It was like drinking warm coffee custard:

The Egg Chocolate was delicious too, and could be improved with a topping of the Milo-like granules like at Giang Cafe:

On a second visit to Cafe Pho Co, we also ordered an Iced Egg Coffee to compare with the warm version (plus two orders of warm egg chocolates for the kids). We prefer our Egg Coffee warm:

Cafe Pho Co
11 Hang Gai Street
Hoan Kiem, Old Quarter
Tel. +84 3928 8153

Egg coffee is definitely a must-try in Hanoi for anyone who likes coffee and eggs, especially at less than US$2 per drink!