Review: HanTing

26 January 2018

I had a pretty productive day in Den Haag, despite the limp. It’s better, but still a bit trying. But still fuelled on by last night’s nice dinner at Calla’s, and definitely not by the bad lunch I had…

I chilled out in my room a little, doing some late travel logistical stuff before I headed out to dinner. Now I usually avoid non-indigenous ethnic cuisine when I travel, but for some reason I decided to make a booking at HanTing. Reading all the descriptions online I figured it was more fusion than Chinese, so went with it.

I was wondering why the restaurant lost its Michelin star from the time I booked it, but that’s never a good sign. Possibly because of a format change announced on the website? In any case, I arrived a bit early on a cool evening and was promptly seated at a table with two rather voluminous ladies that reeked of tobacco…great…

Then before I could do anything, including take a sip of water, the amuse tray was brought — and placed right on the fork so the handle popped right up. No care at all…hmmm… Anyway…

AB1a-tray

The wee pumpkin soup was not bad, the cherry macaron too sweet for before dinner (would be good later), the beet was mushy, and the weird cream again best saved for dessert. A bit inconsistent, things are all over the place so far… And of course they brought me my menu as I was working on this, in mid bite. What is the rush? Sigh…

I put the menu away and finished the amuse. Then looked over it and placed the order. And also got a half bottle of white to go along with it. I have a weird feeling about this place that’s preventing me from ordering more… Then after quite a long time a second amuse arrived — pork belly.

AB2-belly

Well, this must have sat around for awhile… It was chewy, mushy and awful frankly. Seriously this should have been brought out maybe 10 minutes earlier. This is just rubbish… And of course the first dish came out in about 2 minutes…wtf…

01-hamachi morel

This was supposed to be hamachi and morels, but was a very weak dish. The horseradish saved it a little, but the dish was pretty boring. Fish was okay, but the morels were pretty poor as were some of the other elements. Beautiful plating is not an excuse for mediocrity in taste…

Of course the wine came AFTER the dish…a half bottle of pinot gris. The sommelier kept trying to upsell stuff but I went with this one. The whole things had a weird odour…then I realised, it’s chlorine. After the first glass I asked to switch glasses, and it was exactly the same. It must be how they wash the glasses…this is AWFUL! Destroys nearly anything you want to taste in wine!

My goodness now I can see how they lost their Michelin star! How did they get one in the first place? Ugh… Then dish two arrived…

02a-urchin marrow

Not bad, so that’s a good change. The langostine worked in this also, but there seems to be contrasting flavours here and there, and a rather tasteless chawanmushi… Why do people try to make it without learning that it’s NOT THAT SIMPLE when you have it in Japan? Like the boring one at Konstantin Filippou the other night… And this wasn’t helped by the chrorinated wine…

I was pretty much deflated by now, but at least the odour of heavy tobacco from next to me have departed. I’m sorry, but fancy clothes does not make you classy… Then the third dish, the duck…

03a-duck

Again, lots of odd, clashing flavours here. The duck was not very good, but the offal on the side was a pleasant surprise; the heart not bad, the tongue was the best. The jellyfish thing on the side was hacked into bits and hard to eat, which kind of defeats the purpose of it.

And by now I’ve finished the white and had ordered a glass of grenache, which came in YET ANOTHER CHLORINATED GLASS. Ugh…I felt ill… Why did they clean their wine glasses like this? It DESTROYS THE WINE! I was totally deflated and wasn’t even looking forward to the final dish, the lamb, when it appeared…

04a-lamb

Meh, meh, meh… The lamb was just boring, which ever way they chose to cook it. I really had lost all hope in this meal I barely ate this. I just needed a strong drink to fuel my way home after this disaster…and of course I forgot until after I ordered about the horrible chlorinated glass problem…and of course that wrecked the tipple…

And just to make things worse, it took me EIGHT tries to get my bill. After rushing me at the start now this? This is a total shitshow. One of the worst dining experiences in many years. Avoid at all cost. No doubt how they lost their Michelin star, but how did they get one in the first place?

Just awful…a total shitshow…

HanTing
Prinsestraat 33
Den Haag, Nederland

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Microcosm of Brussels Miserableté — Review: Sea Grill

15 December 2017

I left Kraków frustrated by not just some mediocre food, but just infrastructure issues. The annoying thing about discount airlines, of which Brussels Airlines is basically a glorified version of one, is that they keep costs low by not using jetbridges. This makes airports feel like bus stations…so bloody annoying… Kraków Airport has all the modern facilities, but it’s got a fleet of buses because airlines like Ryanair are so damn hcheap…

An annoying flight to Brussels, and more chaos there. There we were connected to a jetway, but — Sod’s Law strike again — it was broken. So we had to go down some hazardous stairs to a waiting bus. The bus sped through the airport, nearly colliding with other vehicles several times…absolutely NO caution being used here. The bus took us to an area that required another 10 minutes of walking to get to the baggage area…WTF… And of course, it took another half hours for the bags to come out.

Brussels is just such a fucking mess…and you wonder why people find it symbolic with the EU’s own disfunctionality… As much as I hate the concept of Brexit, you deal with this and you start to think about it…

Eventually I hopped onto the train and had to help a few foreign tourists lost. We rolled into Noordstation and I headed for the short walk to my hotel, constantly being reminded how shitty the area around the station is… Checked in and had a nice room, but had to get ready for dinner already due to the idiotic airport delay…

I walked into the centre and got to my dinner destination, the 2-Michelin Sea Grill. I got there and was led to a nice table. They tried to push some champagne on me but I declined, and they left the menu there. Within a short time, just as I was planning to order a cocktail, the amuse started arriving already. First up some mackerel, which was a bit meh…

AB1-mackerel

Looked good, but really tasteless — which is sad, because it’s one of my favourite fish in the world. This was just…no other words to describe it…but that onomatopoeic utterance of mediocrity… The second was salmon…

a

Even blander, if you can believe it…not boding well for this night’s dinner. And I felt so rushed as they quickly asked if I was ready to order…I had barely looked at the menu, but was a little puzzled why both tasting menus had so many similarities — including a main course that I really wasn’t interested in. So I decided to order ala carte…and my eyes nearly popped out at the prices. Oh well… I ordered and asked for them to pair the wines.

I relaxed, and thank goodness they brought out the first wine early on, so I had something to sip on. But the service seems a mess here. This seems as messed up as the service in France as I had a flashback to that ridiculous night at Le Chantecler in Nice… But soon the starter arrived…

01a-burning prawn

The prawn was set ablaze in Auchentochan apparently, and that goes with a plate that contains foie and mushrooms. Not bad, though the flavour of the whisky did not really go into the prawn; the left pix you can see wee bit of the flame, the right is it “done” a bit… One thing that annoyed me is that one of the slices of mushroom is glazed in edible gold. WHY?!?! Sigh…

The paired wine worked and it was pretty tasty, but frankly really cannot justify the price for this dish. It all went into the stupid golden mushroom… They brought out a different wine for the main course and that was a nice one too. Then the dish appeared…

02a-crab with rice

Mmmm, a simple tasting of crab, which was excellent. A bit of rice along the side, and it worked out well. Stupid expensive for what little was done to it, but it was delicious. I slowly worked on it and when my wine finished it took ages to get my server’s attention — which he proceeded to pour the WRONG wine into the glass…and did it so quickly he didn’t see me starting to protest. Ugh…what shitty service is this?

The wine was from the first course, so it wasn’t bad, but this is unprofessional. I finished the nice dish, just as I polished off the rice. This was good enough. I relaxed a little before the pre-dessert arrived…

PreD-marshmallow

Hmmm…this marshmallow tasted like when you have a mushroom cap that you left in the fridge for too long, and it’s partly dehydrated and crusty. This was awful…just awful. I told them I didn’t want a dessert wine as I’ve had about enough of this place. Once my dessert hits I’m out of here. And here it is, and I screamed in my head again…

03-mango

The mango is mango, but WHY ALL THIS FUCKING EDIBLE GOLD? IS THIS WHAT I AM PAYING FOR?!?!?! I removed all the edible gold and nicked bits of it that I could eat, and just asked for the bill. The number was ridiculous, one of the most expensive meals of this trip…ridiculous.

I headed out unhappy and the service head greeted me as I left. If I wasn’t so annoyed with everything today I may have just thanked him and went, but I decided to stop and give him my two cents on what went wrong this evening. From the wrong wine to the ridiculous edible gold, I just went all out. He seemed ashen when I was done…

I’m sorry, this is not what I consider fine dining. Poor service, crazily overpriced, mediocre cooking, and just a ridiculous overuse of edible gold. This is EXACTLY why I’m this close to being done with Michelin-starred places, especially in this part of Europe.

What a shitty day and night…just glad it’s fucking over…

Sea Grill
Wolvengracht-Rue du Fossé aux Loups 47
Brussel-Bruxelles, België-Belgique

* And OF COURSE, it wouldn’t end there. Went for a nitecap at my hotel bar and the bartender had such a ridiculous attitude I nearly abandoned my glass of wine… This damn disfunctional town, especially during the weekends…

To Lose in Toulouse…

20-21 October 2017

As I wrote in the previous review, I got to Toulouse limping quite badly and I had to alternate my plans a little. My original idea for lunch upon arrival was too difficult to reach with my foot, and timing issues since the place closes for lunch by 1400, so I ended up limping through the centre of town to get to my other lunch target, Mare aux Canards.

This old-school place specialise in, as you guessed, duck. Unfortunately the dish I really wanted to try was not available, so I went with some old school stuff, starting with a salad with goat cheese. Filling.

1

The duck was done very well, as you can imagine they do quite a few every day for years and years. So it filled me up nicely, a cheap and good lunch. But limping back to the hotel was far less fun…

That evening was the extremely poor dinner at Py-r, and it’s all but turned me off Michelin-starred restaurants. Just sick of wasting my money and time at places that can barely even be called competent…

The next day the pain was still intense, but mobility was far better. I limped out to lunch to a place I found online that actually was open for lunch on a Saturday — and little did I know this issue became a defining problem.

I got to Le Genty Magre as it opened and asked for a table. I was seated by a friendly server but another server came by and gave me a pissy “1 hour only” and told me I could not order more than 1 dish because of lack of time. Huh? So I ordered a clam dish and then it seems the first server, who seated me, gave her a talking to…and she came back and said I can order whatever I wanted. But by then I was turned off so I didn’t bother.

2

Of course when the clams came it was lacklustre. The razors were nowhere as good as I’ve had just over the mountains in Catalunya, not even close. The clams? They were terrible, flavourless, and worse — there was quite a large number of unopened ones. Tells me how good their source is.

Perhaps it was lucky I didn’t stay for another dish, and walked out after thanking my first server who actually apologised…oh well. I limped back towards my hotel and was still hungry, so ended up across the street at a club-bar place called Cosmopolitain.

At first I thought oh no, another shitshow, when the bartender tried to scam me on a glass of wine. But then I think he got the picture I’m not some dumb tourist. And soon my dish came.

3

Again, I love cuttlefish, so no one should be surprised by this. Not bad, but nothing too special. Filling enough, with a side of parsley rice, so that did its job.

I limped back to my hotel, counting the hours before I leave France. It’s been a disaster most of it, and sitting around doing nothing just makes it all that much worse. One meal left before my bus out of this place…

Mare aux Canards
14 Rue des Gestes

Le Genty Magre
3 Rue Genty Magre

Cosmopolitain
1 Rue des 3 Journées
Toulouse, France

Review: Py-r

20 October 2017

I had made my way to Toulouse despite an overnight turn for the worse for my right foot. Now it was extremely painful to put any weight on it, so my limping speed had slowed even more. Got to Toulouse and hopped onto a cab, not wanting to damage the foot more. Stupid me, I nevertheless walked from my hotel to lunch, what was usually a 10-minute walk turned into a 20-minute trial.

In any case, a stop to pick up some ibuprofène was much needed as my Advil supply ran out. The afternoon was basically wasted sitting in my hotel room, albeit a very nice one — thanks to an unexpected upgrade. So rested until dinner time when I descended into the Metro — where it was extremely painful to walk down flights of stairs thanks to some knackered escalators…

I made it to my dinner destination, Py-r. It seems to have good write-ups, and it does hold 1 Michelin star. I have decided after that Chantecler debacle to avoid anywhere in France with more than 1 star, but even that may be too much. But I went into dinner tonight with an open mind…

And of course, a long flight of stairs down for me to limp…sigh…

Was seated, and I ordered a martini and looked over the menu. They had all sorts of substitutions for the printed tasting menu, which made me think they had supply issues… In any case, I ordered and then two nibbles appeared…

ab1

Not bad, but the beet gelato was nice and crisp. Then when the martini (yes, I emphasised the cocktail, with gin and lemon twist) showed up…

martini

Oh dear, that told me plenty… And the several staffers that handled my table went from friendly-but-clueless to careless-standoffish. One even told me she spoke no English, despite the restaurant obviously catering to many foreigners. This is Airbus central, after all… The service was all over the place, and that’s being generous…

ab2

The next set of amuse was poorly done, hard to eat. The crisp with bean paste fell into pieces. The crudo was very meh. The gnocchi was huh, and the mussel was drowned in cream… What a mess… At this point my notes are already pretty bad, with comments like “amateurish” and “long night coming”…

At this point the dinner has been for almost an hour already when the first dish appeared, and they claimed it was John Dory…

01-dory

One of my favourite fish and it’s just awful. One side utterly overcooked, one side undercooked. Who was watching this? Really poor stuff. And the wine service was a mess, as they tend to pour the not-very-generous wines way after the dishes are presented. Just poor FoH co-ordination all around.

02a-monkfish

The second dish was monkfish, which was underwhelming. It seems it had sat, as it was cold at parts — like it wasn’t even left directly under a heat lamp. A wilted cep crisp on the side was so sad I’m not gonna post the photo. This is piss poor…at least Chantecler was trying. This is just awful, and by now in my notes I’m writing about abandoning this dinner.

I asked them to hurry things along a little too as we’re already over 90 minutes into the dinner when the 3rd course came out, the pollack.

03-pollack

Flavourless. There was nothing here. Could have been any ol’ whitefish the way it was cooked. My notes now read, “why am I here?” That’s saying a lot. I’m already pondering abandoning this even before the savouries end.

Then we get our first substituted dish. They said the mushrooms were sub-standard today, so they are offering foie instead…

04-foie

Foie is foie. There was also no pairing for this item. Just a cluster this place. I’ve made my decision to bolt already. Then the last savoury…

05

Alright, I’m done. I polished it off very quickly and asked for the bill. They didn’t seem surprised, nor did they offer much in response. I just wasted 2 hours of my life here. At least it wasn’t too expensive.

Took ages for a taxi to arrive due to my busted foot. Got back to my hotel and just sat there asking myself why…in pain, and wasted my evening with a place that has no business boasting a Michelin star. Just poor.

Again, Michelin discredits itself…

Py-r
19 Descente de la Halle aux Poissons
Toulouse, France

Review: Bayview

17 October 2017

When I was researching the Geneva part of my trip one restaurant kept popping up on my radar — Bayview. This Michelin-starred restaurant seems to have quite good write-ups, and the menu looked interesting enough. I had a nice lunch but was hoping the last dinner would be something memorable — much more than last night’s good food but challenged service.

I got to the Hotel President Wilson after walking through some less-than-nice areas…Geneva is a contrast sometimes. Got there and already service seems a bit messy at the start. I was seated and immediately they seemed flustered when I rejected the idea of a champagne. I’m sorry, I am not a champagne fan, I don’t like anything bubbly except Alka Seltzer. After that Chantecler disaster I’m staying away from these schemes.

Of course they brought me the wine list instead of the apertif list, which I had to ask. And I looked over the menu and frankly I had a bad feeling about this place already, so I decided to not do a tasting menu tonight. Plus, it featured boar, and I had boar for lunch. And more, the ala carte menu items looked far better than the tasting menu selections, which rarely happens. Hmmm…

Of course I ordered after they pestered me, and I pestered them for the apertif list yet again…and of course they brought the amuse out already…

That turned me off having any apertifs…what a timing cock-up here… In any case, the nibbles were pretty lame, nothing to write home about. I didn’t even bother to take a photo… This is turning into yet another Michelin clusterfuck I’m afraid…

After a little while the horribly overpriced ala carte menu started. First up bass crudo…

01-bass crudo

Honestly very boring, there’s little going for the fish nor with the unhelpful items strewn all over. This fish is supposed to be full of flavour — I know, I cook it at home. But somehow they made a rich, flavourful fish into something bland and boring. That takes some work…

Sigh…this is not gonna be a good night. So glad I didn’t do the tasting. Then the main course, the rib of pork.

02-pata negra_edited

Now this was excellent, a pata negra treat. Lovely meat, cooked perfectly. Now this is what a Michelin kitchen should produce! Being not a fan of truffles the potato may have been lost on me, but it’s generally a good dish.

It took awhile to get the staff’s attention, and I mentioned I wanted to do a cheese course. Of course took them 15 minutes to produce the cheese cart, and they buggered off, leaving the rather odourous cart sitting there unattended next to me for another 5 minutes… This is really not the way to do it… Several other tables were staring as the cheese fumes were overwhelming their spaces…

03-cheese

Eventually a good selection, very voluminous, although some of it (esp the blue) was on the salty side. But a nice set of local and French cheeses. At this point, for some inexplicable reason, the service turned 180-degrees and became quite smooth…just when I’m finishing. Great, eh?

They brought a small citrusy closer as I opted for no dessert. I’m not gonna press my luck. I paid the overpriced bill and headed out. Geneva certainly didn’t do much in my book, unlike Zürich and the excellent EquiTable. These 2 days were just overpriced drab items with really sad service.

Oh well, back to my overheated hotel room. Off to somewhere cooler than the room tomorrow — Corsica.

Bayview
Hotel President Wilson
47 Quai Wilson
Genève, Suisse

Review: Crow’s Nest

18 September 2017

A bit of a hangover and my body is starting to rebel a bit on this birthday morning… I shook it off and headed off for a long walk along the coast on the Coastal Trail looking at the water — albeit the tide was out this morning. A misty day on and off, but that’s just good for me. Unfortunately by the time I got near the Westchester Lagoon my aforementioned knee started to act up again…

So with a hilly walk back to downtown, I reluctantly turned east and hiked back through the city. Found this odd signage at Delaney Park tho… I walked back to where I started near my hotel and saw that the Snow City Cafe was still full…was full when I came by this morning. Oh well. I ended up across the street for lunch, which was pretty awful (will write about this later). But then took some hot dogs from a stand across the street and that was one of the best things I ate all trip (will also write about this later).

The afternoon I didn’t do much, just wandered around and actually had to do some packing, as I am heading out for Juneau tomorrow on this short stop. And for my birthday dinner I headed across the street back to the Captain Cook Hotel and went to the top of the tower to Crow’s Nest, their fine-dining restaurant.

Supposedly the best restaurant in Anchorage, I arrived and sadly witnessed a service shitshow in full bloom… When my server finally got to my table, I had already heard her tell other diners that most of the staff called in sick today and she was the only server for nearly the entire restaurant… Sigh, I felt bad for her, but I sense tonight is gonna be a mess…

But it started out well with an okay martini, the spirits selection here seems pretty good — as evidenced by my drinking last night. When my server came back I placed my order…but was told they had no salmon. Yeah, I’m in Alaska and there’s no salmon… I ordered something else and let’s see what happens…

I enjoyed the view as I finished my drink and by then the sommelier had come by with my bottle of Furmint. I asked for it to be in reaching distance due to their service woes, and they were happy to oblige. I rather pour my own wine anyway… So ahh…45 is an odd age…you’re too old for so many things, but too young to be considered for other things… Perhaps it also marks the end of the Midlife Crisis mode into the steady decline mode too

Anyway, before too much introspection my first dish arrived…

01-bisque

Well, this bisque was sadly quite meh… Nothing special, frankly… Oh well, more wine… The wine was excellent. I love the fact I can drink a fine white from Hungary sitting in the middle of Alaska… Then after awhile the main arrived, the course I had to choose after they told me they were out of salmon…

02-black cod

Hmmm… This black cod was really bland and had little of the natural goodness that this fish is known for, to be honest. Not sure if it was overcooked or just a poor piece of fish. Plus the mess on this plate really didn’t do the fish any good. This was so utterly disappointing… I barely finished it, just dreaming about the extra hot dog from this afternoon I left in my room…

I finished it and reluctantly ordered a dessert, the lemon tart.

03-lemon tart

Again, nothing special, very ordinary. And then I was told they ran out of a rather common bourbon that I had ordered…so I gave up and asked for the bill. It wasn’t the server’s fault that the place is so mismanaged…I feel bad for her (and tipped her well) and all she had to deal with tonight. This little thing with my parting chocolate was something I would have traded for a glass of proper brown spirit, but oh well…

bday

I swallowed it and headed out, sad how poor this birthday dinner turned out. I didn’t even have the heart to go drinking anywhere. I just headed back to my room and devoured that sausage I had dreamed about all through dinner…happy birthday to me…

Crow’s Nest
Captain Cook Hotel
939 West 5th Avenue
Anchorage, Alaska

A Total Cluster**** in Oregon…

15 September 2017

I woke up early the next day knowing I need to beat the terrible traffic through Portland, since I was heading south and my hotel was north of the city. Luckily I got out in time, just as it was starting to get thick. I got through and my rental jalopy was giving me issues.

I spent the morning in Salem, the state capital. Then I pushed south. By the time I got to Eugene the signs of the ugly wildfires were all over the place. The haze was terrible — and heartbreaking. But I was shocked to see farmers burning fields despite the already horrible air quality…

I got all the way down to Roseburg for the early afternoon before heading back north back to Eugene — just to be stuck in traffic in the middle of the day in the middle of nowhere…you gotta be kidding, Oregon… But I got to Eugene and I was a bit taken aback. I thought I was entering a busy college town, but I didn’t realise the students aren’t back yet! Wow, how late do they start out here? Students were already headed back when I was in Ithaca a month ago!

So I guess booking my dinner at Belly was not really necessary. I got there and it was empty…and the staff seems to treat it as so. Very relaxed, almost too relaxed…

I chilled out with a cocktail and looked over the menu. Couldn’t decide, so I just started with an order of gougères

gougères

I usually wouldn’t go with these, but the stuff I was interested in was not available… These were on the boring side to be honest, lacking in any flavour. Could have been a normal bread order really… Oh well. After one of them I needed something substantial, so I ordered the pork chop.

I had another drink and the clock just kept ticking. What’s going on, this restaurant is nearly empty, are they not prepared? Then after about 40 minutes I see the bartender having an animated discussion in the kitchen and when he came out I asked if there was a problem with my order…

Well, it seems he didn’t put the order in right and it never went through…

Oh, goody…

I did not want to reward incompetence at this point, so I cancelled the order that was never put in, took the bill, and headed out pretty pissed off. This is a joke…

Okay, Eugene, you just did yourself a huge disfavour in my book…what a disastrous Friday night…

Belly
30 East Broadway
Eugene, Oregon

*PS Of course I ended up back at my hotel and drank myself stupid, no thanks to my empty stomach… Took some food upstairs and just ate it and collapsed…a shitty way to start the weekend leading into the b’day…