Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hong Kong Eats: Kaiten Sushi at Sen-Ryo (food, HKFall10)

Hong Kong people love seafood. Fresh seafood. So it's no surprise that sushi is extremely popular in Hong Kong. When something is popular in Hong Kong, there is no hesitation whatsoever to saturate the market, so it's also no surprise that there are a lot of sushi places in Hong Kong. One particular type of restaurant that is very popular in Hong Kong is kaiten-zushi. Instead of a sushi chef making your request to order from behind a sushi counter, everyone sits with access to a conveyor belt running through the restaurant carrying plates of sushi. See what you like, grab it. It's quick and cheap. While the quality certainly wouldn't match the sushi at an expensive restaurant, a popular kaiten-zushi place that is constantly busy should have high turnover and hence, fresh seafood, thereby providing great value.

While we were walking around Tai Koo City Plaza, we stumbled onto Sen-Ryo(千兩) and decided to give it a try. It's a chain with about 6 restaurants across Hong Kong. Their sushi seems to somehow be affiliated with Genki Sushi(元氣), a popular kaiten-zushi chain in Hong Kong favored for its quality, but otherwise it's a separate chain.

We started off with swordfish belly sashimi, ordered off the seasonal menu. The fish was fatty, but was a little too ice-cold for me, masking some of the flavor.

Uni gunkan maki was not of the highest quality, but the sea urchin had plenty of flavor and was a good value.

Crab sushi with real crab and real crab flavor. I'm so tired of the constant use of imitation crab sticks in the states.

One of the more interesting selections was this gunkan maki filled with raw sweet shrimp, crab tomalley and cucumbers. It worked really well in terms of flavors and textures, and was a great deal at HK$14 (=USD$1.8) per plate.

Also delicious was this gunkan maki filled with spicy salmon and topped with tobiko. Another great deal at HK$14 (=USD$1.8) per plate.

Cod liver gunkan maki was good and had a nice clean taste.

Another unique preparation was this flounder fin seared then topped with a black pepper sauce. The sauce was good and the fin had a good chew to it but was not tough at all.

I love foie gras sushi. I think seared foie gras and vinegared sushi rice is an amazing combination. The onion strands provided a nice crunch to round out the textures in the bite. As you can tell from the photo, there's a good amount of liver for the HK$30 (=USD$3.80) price.

There's no master sushi chef making your food, but there's a good selection of fresh tasting sushi and rolls at a good value. I'd recommend it if you happened to be in the area. Also recommended if you happen to be in the Tai Koo area is a trip around the food market section of Jusco. It's massive, with all kinds of food (ready-made, frozen, fresh produce, etc.), restaurants, and lots and lots of free samples.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hong Kong Trip: The not-in-Hong Kong part (food, entertainment, HKFall10)

The 15 hour direct flight to Hong Kong is a big deal in itself, so there's a lot to say just about getting there and back.

Let's start with the terminal at JFK where I was boarding the plane. There's a really good food selection, with a Todd English sit down restaurant, a Wolfgang Puck Express, a McDonald's, a Balducci's, and a place that had Ciao Bella gelato. So what did I choose? McDonald's, of course. The ribwich was back! It was ok, not as good as I remember from when I was a kid, but I had to try it.

My flight was on Cathay Pacific, but I booked it as an American Airlines flight and it came out cheaper. Cathay Pacific always gave me the impression that it was a superior airline than most US airlines in most areas, but I don't know that my experience reflected that. Here's a look at what one of the meals looked like. It was pretty ordinary.

The seat backs don't recline, but rather the seat slides forward for those who don't want to sit upright. It was still pretty cramped and after 15 straight hours, my tailbone was hurting.

The entertainment selection was quite good though, and I saw a total of 9(!) movies combined on the two flights, as well as a couple of local tv shows. Here are my views on those movies.

It really was as good as everyone said it was, but I don't think it was as complicated as some made it out to be. I thought they did a good job of explaining the multiple levels as well as every part of the design and the roles of each of the team members. The action sequences were good and everything fit together smoothly. A must-watch movie that we will probably still talk about in a few years.

Sherlock Holmes
On the other hand, a lot of the action sequences in this movie felt contrived and unnecessary. Rachel McAdams was horrible and had no chemistry with Robert Downey Jr. It wasn't a horrible movie, but there was nothing particularly appealing about it either for me.

500 Days of Summer
I liked the idea of this movie more than the execution. The random artsy stuff was not for me. For similar movies, I actually think Suburban Girl (with Alec Baldwin and Sarah Michelle Gellar) and the Hong Kong movie Twelve Nights (2000) are more effective.

Get Him to the Greek
Furry walls. While most of it was predictable, this was still an entertaining and fun adventure. I liked watching Rose Byrne and Elizabeth Moss on the big screen, and Russell Brand is just weird. He did a pretty funny interview on Conan last week.

The A-Team
Another movie that was entertaining as long as you didn't expect too much from it. Lots of over the top, unrealistic action, and it excelled whenever it didn't take itself too seriously with the plot or the characters.

Despicable Me
Despite the massive ad campaigns and the long list of celebrity names on the cast, I found it just ok. I mean, it's really cute and a good kids movie, but that's about it.

Toy Story 3
This movie, on the other hand, I thought was superb. I hadn't watched the previous two but I don't think it affected how much I enjoyed this movie. Characters were fully developed and there was a lot of attention to detail. It wasn't just telling a story, but rather it was a fun, entertaining, adventure that triggered every emotion.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
Again, the plot wasn't great, but this wasn't a bad movie. I liked the fighting sequences with the assassins. The female lead was hot but I found her accent quite annoying. And when was the last time Ben Kingsley was in anything good or actually had a good part?

Movies I didn't watch
I saw that people around me were watching the Ip Man prequel and sequel. The wushu choreography looked really good, but I didn't think I could stomach the plot in a whole movie, so I didn't watch either. I was also surprised that people were watching Summer Holiday (夏日的麽麽茶) considering how old that movie is.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Going to Hong Kong (life, food, entertainment)

Going to Hong Kong for about two weeks to visit family and attend wedding banquets as two of my cousins got married recently. When I come back, I will probably be working really hard trying to find a new job. But, I should find some time to post some more food reviews with pictures, including food in Hong Kong and my dinner last week at WD50. If I forget to post something by late November, happy Thanksgiving to all!

Another Great Sports Weekend (sport, horseracing, poker)

Another great sports weekend in what I think might be one of the greatest sports years ever. This weekend wasn't about the major sports though. A very entertaining baseball postseason has come and gone, this NFL season still hasn't produced any clear-cut favorites, and the NBA season has barely started.

The sporting events that really got me excited this weekend were horseracing and poker. All eyes were on Zenyatta and she almost came through with the win. It's always hard for a backmarker to win a high level race, so I was actually quite impressed. I still do not buy into the hype that she's the best female horse ever, but she's certainly in the conversation. Clearly dominant against other female horses, but I don't buy into the Breeders Cup runs as she clearly had a much easier campaign going into an end of year race.

The World Series of Poker main event final table also took place this weekend, and I was following the live blog on the ESPN website. I would have watched the ESPN3 live broadcast, except that Time Warner sucks and is still having issues with that. I don't want to put any spoilers on here, but there were some amazing hands and some real poker was played, not just a shovefest.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The New Eleven Madison Park Dinner (food)

A week after my EMP lunch, I went with two friends for dinner. Due to the fact that I was focused on having a good time, I did not take notes. I also didn't have my camera with me, and for some reason the pics I took with my friend's phone camera didn't seem to come out well. So unfortunately for those who read my blog just for food pics, this post will just be me talking about the new menu concept for dinner at EMP versus the old gourmand menu.

The dinner progression started with about 8 separate canapes, about half of which were good and half of which were very good. This was then followed by the four courses from which we chose our main ingredient. This is probably a good amount of food for most people. I've had a friend complain before that the gourmand was just too much, which is understandable. Another good thing about this arrangement of courses is that the pacing is much better. I often felt that the pacing for the eleven courses of the old gourmand menu was a bit erratic at times.

With regards to the food, the style and quality of the food has not really changed. The canapes allow diners to get more tastes, and the combinations are often a bit more creative than the main ingredient dishes. However, I've always felt that EMP's strength came from their composed dishes, so I personally prefer more full courses and less canapes. For example, I always say that it's not hard to make pork belly taste good. It's what you serve with the pork belly that balances or focuses the flavors and the textures that separates those who are truly skilled.

With regards to the new menu concept, I had read this wonderful NY Post article on the new menu prior to going. While I think the concept as shown in that article was much more representative of the experience EMP was going for, I did not feel that my dining experience headed in that direction. While the Post diners used the "dialogue" to move the direction of their dishes, I did not feel that my dialogues with my servers (both lunch and dinner) steered in that direction. Instead, both times my servers said, "If there's anything you do not want in your dish, please let us know." This felt to me like if I didn't like spinach, they would make the same dish but replace spinach with something else. Whereas the way the Post article made it sound, they would try to figure out why I wanted something out (or in) and try to shape the dish to fit what I want.

Then again, if it is indeed this "customizability" that EMP wants from their dialogue between the servers and the diners, then it is a boldly ambitious move. And as such, it is a continually improving process to get to that goal. While my meal was certainly fantastic and I look forward to going back, I feel that they are not yet at where they want to be with the new concept, but that they will continue to try to improve to get to their goal. For right now, even though the lunch menu has more than doubled in price while the dinner menu has come down by about a third, I actually prefer the lunch experience.