Christmas Eve.

Spent Christmas eve and part of Christmas day in Hong Kong. I shall just let the pictures do the talking, most of it anyway, because I am lazy to write. 🙂

Met the cousin early for local breakfast near his apartment. This is the Hong Kong milk tea, which I find is so much nicer than what we have locally, i.e. teh-c.

The standard breakfast fare, to me at least – soupy instant noodles topped with some ingredients like pork / chicken chop, sausages, eggs, or the likes. Or maybe everything! Order a noodle and add-on the other stuff you fancy, sunny-side up, sausages…
Yummy.
Problem with Hong Kong’s local cafes is that they don’t usually do bread the way I like it. Mostly, when I order a sandwich or toast, it is just 2 slices of plain white bread that is of the soft variety, totally not how I like my bread to be. Even when this is toasted, at an additional charge (!), it still doesn’t cut anywhere close. The smooth, creamy scrambled eggs help to make it a bit better though, but then the processed meat in the form of ham probably isn’t too great an idea.
After we had the milk tea and the breakfast, we still went for the next round of caffeine at a hole-in-the-wall cafe near Jaffe Street.  After parting with my cousin, I went to meet my friend and we decided to check out this soft-serve that was highly-recommended by the cousin. I really love this, because the matcha flavour was very distinctive and strong! And best of all is that it doesn’t feel like it’s too sweet. They have a few outlets, but we went to the one at Fashion Walk. There’s one in the basement food hall of SOGO at Causeway Bay too and if I’m not wrong, near City Super in Harbour City in TST.
Went to meet another friend thereafter, who halted her gym-time to accompany me for the Christmas eve afternoon. We popped into a random cafe where she decided to have lunch, and I ordered a salad which was a total disappointment. Where’s the ‘salad’? This looks more like dessert than salad.  It’s actually a few slices of apple cooked in some sauce I presume, topped with egg mayo and a sprinkling of some powder (don’t ask me what because I forgot), plus 2 sticks of buttered toast, very lightly-toasted might I add. I was then busy scraping away the egg yolk and mayo obviously, and left it in a mess.
After the decidedly-unsatisfying meal (for me at least), we proceeded to Lee Gardens’ Starbucks, which was also very crowded despite that the mall was almost devoid of other customers. Either everyone is out and about in their last minute rush for Christmas gifts, or this mall is just too high-classed to see many patrons. We dropped by the supermarket at Hysan Place first though, to get ourselves a pot of yogurt each to go with our coffee (my third caffeine for the day). Love the variety that is available overseas but again, I’d think this is from the vantage point of being a foreigner and seeing things with a fresh pair of eyes.  Last year, when I met my friend in Hong Kong, we ordered the Christmas orange cranberry loaf cake/bread and since they have it this year again, we ordered it again! We enjoyed this because it’s more bread than cake, meaning it’s a bit drier and crumblier,and not so oily to boot. Wished they had this on our local menu too but so far, it has only made an appearance in 2014.
Headed back for a short run at the gym thereafter, before heading out for Christmas eve dinner. We settled in at an Italian eatery in SOHO, which somehow felt like we were obligated to dine at, because the host-cum-owner was rather pushy and we felt bad walking away after reading the menu. It was probably a wrong choice, because we ended up not ordering the huge Christmas meal that came with 6 courses per person (at quite a reasonable price actually). We didn’t think we could have finished all that food so we opted for a-la-carte, which to them meant ‘budget menu’, and we were being treated as ‘budget customers’. They changed the table setting, removing the napkin and replacing it with a paper serviette!? It wasn’t even like the eatery was some fine-dining place because each table was within an elbow’s width away, even if you are paying for the so-called Christmas set menu. Bleah. What a big downer.

The food was pretty decent though, to be fair to them. It’s just that service sucks, or rather it’s dependent on how much you pay for your food.
  After dinner, we took a short walk to PMQ, where most shops were already packing up. But they had pretty interesting Christmas decor, including a holographic Christmas tree instead of a real physical tree.
  And finished off the evening with dessert near our hotel, sweet soup with lotus seeds! 🙂

cafés… western-styled, local-styled 

Generally, businesses in Hong Kong seem to enjoy a slightly longer lifespan as compared to Singapore. Or maybe it just boils down to them having a better head for business? Cafes and F&B establishments here open and close fairly quickly, but somehow I noticed that in Hong Kong, cafes seem to be enjoying business brisk enough to open more outlets. Perhaps these are only the rare ones that we see, and that there could be much more that are closing which we are not aware of. Anyhow, it was only on this trip when I realised that the Cupping Room, a cafe that I had visited in the Sheung Wan area a couple of times before, had opened new outlets; there is one that is conveniently located along Wellington Street near to the mid-level escalators, and another which is nearer to the Wan Chai area.

I popped into the double-leveled Central outlet one morning for a cuppa while my friend was still sleeping. It was a nice, cool morning, and what’s a cup of Joe without something sweet to balance out the acidity that caffeine brings? So I ordered a banana bread, something I had always wanted to try, instead of going for their breakfast mains, though I was really tempted. The banana bread, more like a loaf cake, wasn’t too bad but again most of them taste generally the same. However, I did enjoy the sojourn, sitting there slowly sipping coffee and taking bites of the bread, while catching up on some reading.

When that was done, I made use of the connecting overhead walkways to IFC Mall, to do a spot of sale shopping at Zara, while waiting for my friend to contact me.

We finally met up at Lan Fong Yuen, which I had read about online and wanted to try their milk tea/coffee and bread. It’s really a non-descript hole-in-the-wall shop that was so cramped on seating that you are literally sitting elbow-to-elbow with other patrons, while trying to keep your butt on the mini stool. I can’t imagine how it must feel like in the summer heat, squeezed in that little space amidst so many patrons. So anyway, we decided to order the 鸳鸯, as my friend didn’t really enjoy the one we had at Tsui Wah, though I felt it was fairly OK, but then again I seldom drink that so I don’t know how it’s supposed to taste like.

For food, we opted for a stir-fried instant noodles with chicken and spring onion oil, as well as the toasted bun with condensed milk.
I think the yuan-yang here was a little disappointing for me because it felt just like a milk tea, without a single hint of coffee. Is that how it’s supposed to taste like, or had the coffee I took at the Cupping Room in the morning seasoned my tongue to the extent that I couldn’t detect the trace of coffee in this mix? The noodles were a winner for me. Despite that it’s a little oily, the fragrance from the spring onion oil made them so tasty! I should learn how to make noodles like that, though it isn’t so healthy to be eating instant mee, even if we are not dumping in that sinful pack of MSG-laden powder. Let’s take a closer look at the plate of heavenly goodness.  Then came the fall. The condensed milk bun… was just sad. For me. I admit that I am not a big fan of white breads, in most forms anyway, but the Tsui Wah bun, and another that I had tried at an open-air local coffee joint somewhere in the alleys of SOHO, were pretty decent and enjoyable. Somehow, this was a complete letdown. It’s like the bun wasn’t well-toasted enough, even if they had more condensed milk smeared on it than Tsui Wah.
Or maybe it could just be that a different type of bun or bread was used? So my conclusion was that, take online reviews with a pinch of salt, even if there are many positive reviews, because we all have different tastes, and also because sometimes reviewers just have not tried enough places to know which are the really good ones.As it was winter solstice, we proceeded to Cong Sau at Causeway Bay to have our 汤圆!  We also ordered the almond paste (or I think that’s what the other bowl was since it’s white haha), and I really like the tang yuan, because of its size. Even though there were 6 pieces which meant that we had to take 3 each, one ball was just a mouthful or two, and it contained black sesame, my favourite! Peanut would have been a good second choice but oh well, both are great. What I also liked about it was the soup base used, which is cooked in ginger, giving you a feeling of warmth as the spiciness of the ginger spreads through you on this cold day. Is it because it’s winter solstice that it feels colder that day? Because the next couple of days felt warmer, with one day even having temperatures that felt like what we typically have in Singapore, for December in Hong Kong – that is just an anomaly.
Since we were at Causeway Bay, we decided to just hang around the area and checked out Hysan Place, where we spent a long time browsing books and stuff at Eslite Bookstore that spanned several levels of the mall. They have pretty interesting reads stocked that I would have thought of buying, but they would just accumulate into clutter for me, even if I personally prefer physical books to e-books. I haven’t been reading much these recent years, which I think I resume reading, but because I was preparing to move, I decided not to get anymore stuff that would require me to transport them from the old to the new home.

After a while, it was feeding time again. Initially, we thought of having a tea/coffee break, so we were kind of looking around for tea-time sets, like coffee/tea with a slice of cake or something. But after some time, we thought that we should just have an early dinner instead, so we checked out this Japanese bistro. Perhaps it was a weekday night, so the place was quite empty, it almost felt like we had the whole restaurant to ourselves. Both of us took the set menu, which came with a small portion of salad and a mushroom soup as appetisers.These were our mains. My friend’s hamburg steak and my teriyaki grilled chicken. They were too generous with the sauce as you can probably see, and the fries were an indulgence for me. 🙂
Close-up of the mains.  
And that concludes the 冬至 day of feasting. Happy ‘belated’ winter solstice!

C-Jade HK Cafe, Bugis+

One afternoon, the colleagues and I headed to Bugis for lunch, and thought we’d try something different. We would usually just head straight to Ramen Champion in Bugis+ where we could all choose whatever type of ramen we liked, whichever was available anyway. This day, we had wanted to go to this place that sells Taiwanese street food, or something like that, but as we were walking past we saw that the eatery was completely devoid of customers, so instead of giving it the benefit of doubt we chose to walk on, until we reached the end of the level where C-Jade HK Cafe was. C-Jade, I presume, is meant to be some attempt at modernising the Crystal Jade name because I don’t see how abbreviating it this way makes it any easier to read. There are less syllables to read yes, but it really does not make much difference.

The items do look rather nice on the menu, to be honest, and we saw some people having the mini steamboats which looked rather appetising too. But I am typically a boring eater, and when it comes to HK cafes, my usual choice would be noodles, and to be exact, fried/dry instant noodles. It is odd, that I don’t even eat instant noodles at home these days, but I would order instant noodles when I am out. I am not opposed to it, or it is not because I don’t like it but it is just that I don’t normally eat much at home, and if I am actually at home for lunch/dinner, it would be food that my mother has cooked.

I liked the fried instant noodles at the Xin Wang Hong Kong Cafe, and also the Indian versions at the various prata stores around, so since they have this on the menu, it was an easy choice for me.

20121122-085440.jpg

I was quite disappointed when my food was served, because just by looking at it, I could already see that there is a difference from what I usually have. They have somehow drenched the noodles in an overkill (to me at least) of a gooey sauce, maybe it’s oyster sauce, Hoi Sin sauce, or whatever, I cannot remember now, but it just made the whole plate of noodles soggy, and made eating difficult. The sogginess also affected, in a bad way, how the noodles tasted. The fried egg was done pretty ok, a sunny-side up egg with its yolk still in liquid form, so that was a compensating factor because I don’t like sunny-side ups that have a solidified yolk. Because the sauce was also spread over the luncheon meat, it also made it soggy, and that’s not how I like fried luncheon meat. Diced luncheon meat stir-fried with potatoes in tomato sauce sits well with me even though they are both fried and then fried in sauce, but fried luncheon meat soaked in some gooey sauce is not nice.

Being in a Hong Kong cafe of sorts, I wouldn’t miss out the HK Milk Tea of course. Nothing spectacular but it wasn’t bad. I like the HK version of milk tea because it is not sweet and is generally much stronger than our teh-c (kosong), the closest comparison that I can think of. The one I had here had the tannic taste of tea but it lacked in the fragrance of the milk. So maybe the next time we go to Bugis+ I should stick to having ramen instead, and save HK cafe food for Hong Kong, or Xin Wang that is closer to home.

20121122-085545.jpg