the hinata diaries

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sign of life

Hallo to whoever is still visiting and thanks for all the comments!

As you might've guessed from the silence over the last few months, my blog's been going through a bit of an existential crisis, primarily centered around the question "To eat or to blog?" given that work travel hasn't accommodated both in recent times. An upcoming job change (hooray!) isn't going to help either - blogging at work doesn't seem such a good idea when I'll be seated right next to my new boss.

So a faint pulse, slow, steady breathing... but hey, onto the food and let's see how things go.

Food blogging lite - what's been good in the last couple of months:

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival featured a Bill Granger designed dinner executed by Broth. This was definitely one of the best meals I've had in a long time - typically Australian freshness, crisp flavours, excellent service, and all for a fairly reasonable price (c. $100 including 5 different glasses of wine). I've not dined at bills so I'll give the credit to the team at Broth - I'm sure we all know how easy it is to stuff up a menu that sounds good on paper.

Good in another way, the Thierry Marx dinner organized as part of the Raffles Hotel Wine, Food and Arts Experience served up rather traditional French fare heavy on sauces and flavours. Surprisingly, the food took a distant backseat to the wine - while the representative from Chateau Lynch-Bages was given the mic between each serving, all we got to see from the kitchen were backstage scenes played on television screens scattered across the Raffles Grill. Not a peep or hello from the chef. The wine was often exceptional but equally often mediocre, with the real highlight of the night being seeing well-heeled men and elegantly coiffured women, straight from the Tatler pages, drunkenly staggering to the restroom.

The last Paris trip helped me rediscover modern French cuisine. I highly recommend L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon - although I found his famed mashed potatoes quite disappointing (my mashed potatoes would be silky too if I'd used 90% butter), Philippe's starter of macaroni topped with cepes and foie gras, accompanied by white asparagus were fabulous. The wines were also exceptionally good with spot-on recommendations by the sommelier. The dramatic red and black interior and modern counter seating is more fun than intimidating, and the restaurant takes on the atmosphere of a chic neighbourhood hangout, where servers ply regulars with free tasting samples of new dishes and wines.

Helene Darroz was also loads of fun, serving up modern French food in tapas-sized portions. Sit in the lower priced salon, a chic yet cozy drawing room with a view of the open kitchen. I had an amazing first course of toast topped with beef marrow and slices of the season's last black truffles, which came accompanied by an asparagus veloute. This is now my ideal breakfast, all I need is a crateload of truffles. Anyone?

Also have some great food recommendations for Fukuoka. If anyone is heading there anytime soon, email me!

Closer to home, Dian Xiao Er at Vivocity was great food, great view, fun retro teahouse decor. I've been dreaming about their Mongolian spare ribs since I ate there last Friday. Their roast duck also proved worthy of its reputation - we had the ginseng based gravy which was wonderful slathered over rice. Next door at Red, White and Pure's boutique, their chocolate truffles filled with wolfberry, ginseng, red dates etc. were surprisingly subtle - no joke candies here - but my favourite discovery was the Japanese tomato and lime dessert vinegar recommended by the staff. Promptly brought a bottle back to the office where it was universally (if a universe can consist of 7 people) declared "hao he" (i.e. yummy).

A visit to San Marco post the arrival of its new chef was also extremely enjoyable save for the snotty service from the maitre d' and female hostess. Our group of six, three of which were funky media people in sneakers and ripped tees, clearly stuck out from their ideal customer type as evidenced by the suits and couples that dominated the room. That said, we enjoyed the food thoroughly and the local waitstaff were incredibly friendly and efficient. The kurobuta pork, in particular, was outstanding.

And old favourites revisited - I still love Min Jiang for its Peking duck and Sichuan food, Sin Huat for everything they put on the table.

So thanks for listening. This was pretty fun after all (especially without the stress of fiddling with photos and all), so hopefully that means we'll see each other again here soon. Ciao till then!