Review: Tim’s Kitchen

25 December 2016

After that horrible dimsum at Maxim’s Palace I went for a wee rest back at my room, a far shorter rest than planned as what a 45-minute meal turned into a 2+ hour trial. Packed up and headed out early afternoon. I needed to kill time so I went to check my bag at Central Station and then walked to the Four Seasons Hotel nearby — where I had my first dinner 2 weeks ago at Lung King Heen — and parked myself at the bar.

Had a few drinks and killed some time. I then ended up walking back towards my hotel and stopped at another bar for more drinks, to kill more time. Then I walked to my dinner destination nearby, the 1-Michelin eatery Tim’s Kitchen. This is the main location, the one that has the Michelin star. I had dined at its Macau location years ago and had a great meal with excellent service. Let’s see how this goes.

Started out badly as I was seated, and asked to move upstairs *after* I was seated. Fine. Went up and I noticed why — the restaurant was empty and they wanted to have the few diners sit together…ugh… I ordered and they cocked up the wine…why do I bother when I am here in Hong Kong?

I tried to chill out but it wasn’t easy as the service is just chaotic. Eventually my food came, starting with a seasonal special — the snake bisque.

snake-bisque

Not bad, a little better than the one I had at the Snake Village in Vietnam about 2 weeks earlier. Strong flavours in a thick soup, nice. Then after a bit the dishes came.

shark-fin-egg

First up was shark fin and fish maw with scrambled eggs. A classic dish but done rather mediocre, nothing special. In fact, skimmed on the shark fin here… Annoying.

sea-cucumber

Then next up was some sea cucumber that was underflavoured and also undercooked. Hmmm. I couldn’t get any server’s attention for several minutes so I gave up and just ate it. Big mistake. I finished this meal and couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there. What a shitty experience, just awful service. Miles away from its location in Macau!

Took another 10 minutes to get someone to bring me the bill. I paid and left as soon as I could and walked out to Central to take the train to the airport. I just want to go to the lounge and hide…lucky it was very quiet at the Virgin Atlantic lounge and I just nursed a few cocktails for the many hours, listening to my MP3, before we boarded.

Oh, again, I am never stepping foot into Hong Kong again. Now for this 13-hour flight to Heathrow…

Tim’s Kitchen
84-90 Bonham Strand
Sheung Wan
Hong Kong

PS: Of course after 2 weeks of eating street food and all sorts in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia my stomach gets killed by a Michelin-starred place in Hong Kong. Had to run to the toilet about a dozen times during the flight to Heathrow, which landed at 0430…and my next 8.5-hour flight wasn’t leaving until midday 1200… U. G. H.

PPS: I survived. No thanks to fucking Hong Kong.

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Review: Maxim’s Palace

25 December 2016

I get to Hong Kong late Christmas Eve and after my improvised dinner, of course I suddenly couldn’t sleep… A poor sleep and I got up thinking what I am gonna do today as my flight doesn’t leave until midnight…what horrible scheduling of flights by Virgin Atlantic! I managed to get a late check-out to 1400 so that’s not too bad. So I decided to go get an early dimsum…

Maxim’s Palace is an institution of Hong Kong — old school dimsum, gruff and rude service, and all the crap you get from Hong Kong dining of the 1970s… I went anyway. The service was worse than imagined. Took way too long for the food to come out, I estimated nearly half hour of waiting for my stuff to come out…

shumai

And that was just the humble shumai, which was pretty ordinary. Had to wait another 10 minutes for the other items, starting with a fish maw and goose dish.

maw-and-goose

Not bad, but incongruent. The maw was huge but obviously cooked separately so the flavours did not mesh. Cheating here.

tripe-and-beef

The some steamed beef with tripe. Not bad, but again a bit incongruous. And finally, another tripe dish — this time in curry with maw.

tripe-and-maw

Not bad, but it was mostly maw, and too little tripe. Not bad, but again the maw was cooked separately and just added at the last minute… Took another 10 minutes for my last item to come out, the shumai with abalone.

shumai-with-abalone

Not bad, but very ordinary. I wasn’t gonna eat until dinner and it’s still morning, so I ordered 2 more items. And of course it took another 20 minutes…

dumpling-with-egg

The dumplings with egg yolk was pretty boring. And another 15 minutes later my tofu rolls have not appeared so I just abandoned it. I yelled at the check-out clerk and he just shrugged like that was normal. This is exactly what I hate about Hong Kong, every damn stereotype played out.

What a bloody awful experience. This is exactly why you cannot pay me to step foot into this hellhole again… Oh, I so with I could be in Hanoi, Vientiane or Phnom Penh still…

Maxim’s Palace
Shun Tak Centre, b/f
Connaught Road
Central
Hong Kong

Lunchin’ in Phnom Penh…

22-24 December 2016

As I wrote in the previous review, I had a long day that culminated in that fine meal at Malis. But for lunch that afternoon I stopped at a place near the Independence Monument called Khmer Surin. Needed to fuel up after that tiring trek around the Royal Palace.

Most importantly I needed hydration, so I began with a big ol’ coconut…one of the things I love about here. Makes me miss Hawai’i too… I ordered and it took awhile for the food to arrive, but it soon did. One dish was good, one was less good.

1egg-with-salted-fish

The good one was this omelette, which contained salted fish and minced pork. Totally delicious, I could eat this stuff all day! Lovely, with a hint of sweetness too.

1fish

The less good was the fried fish. It was utterly unseasoned, so there was very little flavour. Fried excessively, the only taste was really oil. But it wasn’t fried quite enough to eat all of it (bone and head), so… But I cleaned it off and left full — which is what I wanted. Plus, I had to save room for Malis that evening.

The next day I trekked to Udong with the same tuk-tuk driver, and that was challenging — especially for the driver. At times the “road” — I really hesitate to use this word — was barely there, and we were going slower than a pedestrian. But once we got to the highway-like road outside of Phnom Penh it was a joy as the breeze was just wonderful. This is why I didn’t take a taxi.

We got to Udong and I stupidly hiked up the steep side, and was a sweaty mess by the time I got to the top. But spent the next few hours exploring the former capital’s stupas on this small mountain that you can see from many miles away, as well as a big new temple complex just down at the base. I found my driver watching TV on his mobile phone (progress…) and we headed back. I felt bad for him and how much of a physical strain it was to ride this tuk-tuk over the deteriorating path as we got back to Phnom Penh. I thanked him profusely as we got back to the hotel.

I ducked out and headed to a late lunch at a nearby place called Orchidee. Horrible service and totally confused staff that wanted to gossip instead of serving people. The food was okay tho. First up a nice big plate of blood cockles.

2blood-cockles

I love these things, tasty in a very interesting way — if the “blood” doesn’t annoy you. The lack of napkins annoyed me tho as my hands were ridiculously sticky after this. My second dish was a nice stuffed squid.

sq

Tasty, they brought this out thank goodness after I finished the cockles, but clearly it was under a heat lamp (or well just left out as it’s hot enough…). Sigh… It took probably 15 minutes for them to deal with the bill, at first rejected a perfectly good bill due to a tiny tear… Sick of this BS. Headed out unhappy.

That evening I went on an interesting wee food tour with Urban Forage‘s Ducky. A mixed group of Australians and Americans, I think most of them were less experienced especially with odder foods. But they grew in confidence in eating stuff from exotic fruits to insects. We went around to various places from an amazing rooftop bar skying over Phnom Penh to the local street market, ending up in a restaurant near my hotel for a nice feast of goodies that included frog and various insects in addition to the usual beef, pork and chicken. Nice, recommended if you have a free evening in Phnom Penh.

I had a few drinks at the hotel bar afterwards and went to get some rest. The next day I packed up and dealt with various trip logistics as it was Christmas Eve, and from that day to Boxing Day, these 3 days will see me on 3 flights with a flying time of nearly 24 cumulative hours. Crazy stuff… So had to sort out logistics before I checked out and headed for a last lunch in town.

I walked to a nearby place called Ambau Khmer and chilled out with a coconut and ordered my food. As I waited for my food, there was a middle-aged American making a scene demanding change for his large denomination bills. I almost went over and slapped him. This is exactly why we Americans get a bad reputation abroad…what a total asshole…

In any case, after he finally left (turns out he was lying and he *had* small bills and finally paid with them) and I joked with the staff about this. Tho it was interesting to see a local get angry, something I’ve never seen. But the food came and I focused on it.

3beef-tripe

A place to veggies and beef tripe. Not bad, but not enough tripe. Lots of veggies, so I enjoyed that. Also arrived was some lok lak.

3crocodile-lok-lak

This was a little different as it featured crocodile. Not bad, not as strong tasting as usual tho. Nice stuff, but I had more time and I won’t be eating a full meal again today (I get into Hong Kong too late), so I ordered another item. Oh, I’m gonna miss these when I leave the region…

3tempura-frog

These tempura frogs were excellent. Full of flavour, and the batter was quite good too. I love frogs, even these smaller, milder ones than the ones you get in the US. I enjoy eating the rest of the animal, not just the legs. The body is tasty too.

Alas, time to go. As I was paying I asked if they had change, and everyone burst out in laughter. What a nice way to end my trip to the region. I headed back to the hotel and got to the airport and dealt with the trials of crazy tourists. From Chinese tourists trying to cut in line to me cutting into a conversation that some Estonians were having (they almost had a heart attack), I was just hoping to get on the plane without drama.

It was a little sad to fly out as this has been a fantastic trip. Tiring, and I’m very tanned, but a fantastic trip. I ate pretty much everything under the sun as my stomach became Noah’s Ark, so it was exactly what I wanted. Now back to the chaos of Hong Kong before the long, two-leg trek home…

Khmer Surin [ខ្មែរសូរិន]
#9, Street 57

Orchidee [អ័រគីដេ]
#106 Pasteur Street (51)

Ambau Khmer [អំបូរខ្មែរ]
#30, Street 184
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

PS: My flight was early so I just beat the closing of my Hong Kong hotel’s Thai restaurant and had a late Christmas Eve dinner

Review: Malis

22 December 2016

I had a very long day in Phnom Penh, the heat and humidity really testing me. I spent most of the morning exploring the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda complex, and then several other temples in the area and down to the Independence Monument. I had lunch near there and headed back towards to the hotel afterwards. A nice iced coffee en route helped.

The afternoon was not too eventful as for some reason I was runnig out of energy. The humidity is draining me, and the constant insistance on walking is perhaps taking a toll. I don’t mind walking, but day after day of heat and humidity is killing me. For someone who likes walking long distances when it’s -5c, +30c is tortuous…

So for dinner I relented and took a tuk-tuk down past the Independence Monument to what is considered the very best restaurant in Phnom Penh, Malis. It’s supposed to be one of the top places to eat in the entire region, and the menu looks fantastic.

I was seated in the section with AC, thank goodness. I ordered and enjoyed some wine and chilled out. Nice place, not too noisy as most people were sitting in the outside section. Then my dinner items all appeared, and I was drooling… First item was the beautiful pork chop.

pork-01

This beauty was from Takéo province, and it was done very well. Full of flavour, not overcooked, and the Kampot pepper sauce was just delicious. I also had a side of baby corn, which was a seasonal special.

corn

Nice, very tasty, with a selection of herbs and vegetables that really made this a full dish. And finally, I also had the crab fried rice.

crab-rice

I don’t think he’s happy I’m eating him! But beautiful presentation, delicious dish, this is one of their signature dishes. There were so many other items I wanted to try, but alas my stomach only had room for this much. Excellent dinner, good service for local standards.

I finished my wine and decided on a dessert and some coffee. And of course I order what I can’t get at home…

durian-pudding

This was the durian special — from a coconut-based cake that reminded me of a Hawai’ian haupia to a durian gelato. Nice stuff, I miss durian. It’s been probably 20 years since I’ve had some. My hotel isn’t one of the places to have one of those infamous NO DURIAN signs (btw if you want to laugh, go on Instagram and search the hashtag #nodurian), but I didn’t want to stink up my room by buying one… So this will have to do.

I enjoyed this meal. Very high quality, a place I would highly recommend to show off haute Khmer cuisine. My driver seemed to have sensed my presence as he literally rolled up the minute I stepped out of the restaurant. We headed back and I thanked him and told him I’ll see him tomorrow as he agreed to take me on a rather long trip in the morning to Udong, so…

Dropped into the bar for a cocktail and headed up to get some rest. Long trip in the morning heat again, with a lot more hiking involved, so…

But this is one of the top restaurants in the region for sure food-wise, very highly recommended.

Malis [ម្លិះ]
#136 Street 41
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Review: Romdeng

21 December 2016

I made my way to Phnom Penh on the same plane that took me to Vientiane (that’s how Vietnam Airlines does that route), so in some ways you can say I had a 3-day layover. But the flight was busy, full of bloody backpackers…just what I need… At least they were going *TO* Cambodia, so they aren’t rancidly odourous yet…

Anyway, we got to Phnom Penh and I managed to get through all the immigration mess because I had the foresight to get a visa beforehand — instead of applying for one at the border. But it took awhile for the bags to come out. Nevertheless, I found my car and we were en route to town — held up thanks to the all-powerful Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cavalcade heading out of the VIP terminal…

A long drive into town and I saw the different parts of the city, from highly developed to starting to become developed. We got to the older part of town and to my hotel, a cute little boutique place near the Royal Palace called VMansion. Nice rooms, very unique design. I just chilled in the room for a bit and the hotel had a working computer, so I managed to get some stuff done that I couldn’t thanks to that heavy HP brick I’m carrying around…

I ended up going out for an early dinner as I had not eaten all day. I walked a few blocks from my hotel to one of the best-known places to eat in town, Romdeng. It’s the sister restaurant to Makphet in Vientiane, where I had a rather lacklustre lunch…but let’s see how this place is.

For one, service was already better. I ordered and chilled with a nice cocktail. If I drank mostly beer in Hanoi and wine in Vientiane, I was doing cocktails here in Phnom Penh. Enjoyed it and my appetiser came — and I smiled.

tarantulas

It’s been probably 2 decades since I’ve had spiders, and these tarantulas were very nice. Meaty, much nicer than the ones I had before. Nice little glaze, with a delicious pepper sauce. Nice start!

As I was hungry I ordered 2 main courses. As they brought the dishes out, they told me I had one more rice if I needed it. I did. First was the five-spice pork belly…

pork-belly

Not bad, the Kampot peppercorns were a nice addition. The second dish features beef, basil and red ant…

beef-and-ant

Pretty good, but there were too few ants. Nice sauce here, and helped me put down more rice. An okay meal overall, I settled up and headed out. Expensive for local standards, but the raison d’etre of this restaurant is to help disadvantaged youth to learn a trade, so I’m all for helping out while filling my tummy.

I wandered back to my cute hotel and despite it being still rather humid and uncomfortable, I chilled at the bar and had a cocktail or two before I retired up the stairs and crashed out early. Another early morning tomorrow, and the heat and humidity will really challenge me…

Romdeng [រំដេង]
#74, Street 174
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Last Day in Vientiane: Bad Food, Great Everything Else…

20 December 2016

My last day in Vientiane… Woke up early again, pretty rested. I headed out early again to beat the heat, to cover the sights I missed yesterday. Yesterday was about trekking to the north to That Luang; today is about the south.

After a few hours I was soaked in sweat, but it was a good walk. Enjoyed most of the sights, even tried to do some shopping. I then stopped off for some juice en route at the House of Fruit Shakes, and had some excellent concoctions — pineapple/banana/mango, and papaya/lime. This is what I will miss about this region, especially Vientiane!

Then I walked around a bit and felt compelled to go into this place called Sweet Moo. Had to do it. Had a nice, if not pricey ice cream — chocolate, macadamia, and lychee. A nice break in the heat! I wandered around more and covered most of the temples near my hotel, and then headed to lunch at a place called Makphet.

It’s well-known as a charity restaurant that trains underprivleged young people for this trade. Excellent idea, but the restaurant seems a bit slow today for lunch. And it was slow… I eventually got my lunch.

whisky-beef

Beef in local booze sauce. Tasty in general, but the sticky rice was really awful tho… Oh well, this is a training, charity restaurant. I headed back to my hotel to chill a little. I also took up on the services of the spa and got a much-needed back masssage…

I chilled out and actually did some packing before heading out for dinner. I went to one of the better known places in town called Khop Chai Deu, which is popular also with locals as they have cusines from all over the world alongside Lao. I ordered some food and chilled out with some wine.

Weird place, lots of people outside on the deck but I’m happy inside in the AC. Then the food arrived. First up, some black eggs.

black-egg

I love these things, I can eat them all day if they weren’t so bad for you in excess… Then some chicken cartilage.

chicken-cartilage

Not bad, fried up with herbs. Then some pretty bad pork and bacon…

sour-pork-and-bacon

Tasteless these sour pork bits. I wish they had more flavour, like they really cut corners here. Oh well. But being still hungry I ordered a few more items…which turned out to be a total mistake.

ribs

These ribs were pretty tasteless, and worse were these mushrooms…

mushrooms

So bad. They could have been good, but done so badly. I just settled up and left being so disappointed. I ended up dropping into a few different wine bars in town, just to chill out this last night. Sad leaving, as this was a town I can see myself hang out for a long time.

Eventually I wandered back to my hotel to get a bit of rest before my morning flight to Phnom Penh. Too bad, as I really, really like Vientiane. Such a cute and chill town… I would again highly recommend Kualao (despite it being overrun by tour groups), and especially Do Kai Noi for lunch — the latter is totally worth the trek!

Makphet [ຫມາກເຜັດ]
78 Ban Inpeng Vat Chanh Tha

Khop Chai Deu [ຂອບໃຈເດີ]
54 Rue Sethathirat
Vientiane, Lao

Review: Lao Kitchen

19 December 2016

After that fabulous lunch at Do Kai Noi, I hiked back towards the centre and made a few stops at some of the more fabulous temples en route. By the time I got back to my hotel I was spent, and dehydrated. I chilled out and revived far in time for dinner.

Tonight I ended up at a place called Lao Kitchen. Already somewhat busy, I chilled out with a drink and ordered. Was a joy — not — to listen in on convos by various ex-pats, so I tried to zonk out. Some locals there, so that made it better. Anyway, the food began arriving despite the chaotic service.

fish-cake

First up was some fishcakes as a starter. Not bad, tasty, rather ubiquitous for this region. Then my main items began arriving. First up some sausages.

sausage

Pakse-style, pretty solid stuff. Great as a drinking snack. Then the main course, a rather delicious frog stir-fry.

frog

Nice, with some sticky rice of course. Nice flavours, lovely frog. However I saw my server bring my starter again and I told him it already came…a bit chaotic to say the least…

An enjoyable enough of a dinner, nowhere as good as that fabulous lunch tho. But nice. Made a stop for some wine and headed back into the hotel for a much-needed kip. Another busy day tomorrow in this lovely town…

Lao Kitchen [ລາວ ເຮືອນຄົວ]
140/01 Rue Hengboun
Vientiane, Lao