Showing posts with label International. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Diva at the Met

Holiday season is said to be the most wonderful time of the year.  No doubt, it is also one of the busiest and most stressful time of the year too.  While I expected myself to be quite busy at my job, I didn't expect to be thrown off course with a flu that hit me one night like a ton of bricks which left me to be repaired for the next few days.  While the sickness may have tarnished my holiday spirit slightly, I knew I would do whatever it take to look and feel my best for our family Christmas dinner at Diva at the Metropolitan hotel in downtown Vancouver.  

I am a fan of innovative cooking techniques and concepts, so I was looking forward to see what new gastronomic adventure was awaiting us tonight.  The service at Diva was top notch.  Valet parking at the hotel is complimentary after the restaurant gives you a stamp for your parking, which is valid for 3 hours.  Who doesn't love convenience? The staff were attentive and professional. We made dinner simple and went with the 5 course tasting menu for $55 per person.  
Four kinds of snacks were included as an introduction to the meal.  We were presented with a basket of eggs.  Inside was a smoked bone marrow custard with truffle.  It was mild, fragrant, and the most luxurious custard ever.
Chicken bacon served on a rock was unique.  It was thin, crispy, salty with a spread of molasses butter.  

 
The next snack was intriguing.  Mussel coal, or bread, black as night, topped with gleaming ikura on a smouldering coal board.  Despite turning my mouth all black, it was worth it.  The mussel bread and garlic aioli were injected with squid ink, giving it coal-black color.  The bread was so moist and tender with hint of dill and exquisite with garlic aioli. I wondered how the mussel flavour was so pronounced and had to ask.  We were explained that the executive chef used 'mussel nectar', or the broth, to bring out the flavour.  The concept came when he and his wife would share mussel frites.  His wife would take all the mussels while he was left with bread to dip in the broth.  I think we all love doing that too so I though the idea of combining mussel broth in bread altogether was quite clever. 
The next snack was foie gras walnut.  Curiously, it was creamy foie gras shaped as a walnut on the right corner of the picture.  It was smooth, and tasted like a rich barbecue duck spread.  The quince jelly was great with it.  
A complimentary basket of artisan bread arrived to keep us occupied.  My favourite was pecan and caramelized onion bread, and shea butter with poppy seed bread.  It was really hard not to get filled up on these.  Grandma paid no attention to the discretion so I got extra portions from her plate ^^.

Orange honey soda in between courses to cleanse palette.  It was a refreshing, tangy, fizzy foam made from fresh orange juice.  Too bad it only lasted a couple of sips.  I would like a tall glass of foam please.
  
The first course, sable fish carpaccio impressed us all. Thin slices of sable fish blanketed over olive oil-poached lobster and octopus dressed with nitro olives and vinaigrette.  I got the crunch from the vegetables and crouton bits, mixed with acidity and sweetness of the olives.  The combination of textures and flavours were refreshing and left us wanting more.  

The second course, smoked black cod was a hit also.  My first thought was "where's the rest of it?".  The cod was perfectly crispy on the outside, tender and flakey on the inside.  There was just the right amount of sodium on the fish, anymore and it would've been too salty. It was served on a bed of pickled cabbage, pork jowl, navy bean cassoulet, cauliflower puree, and accompanied with oyster sauce (not the asian kind in a bottle).  The whole table was in complete silent until everything on the plate was cleared. I never thought I would enjoy navy bean, but the amount wasn't overwhelming.  The cauliflower puree and the oyster sauce complimented the dish so well that I had the dip the bread in to soak up the rest of the sauce.  And I can't forget about talking about pork jowl.  It looked like a piece of tuna sashimi, gelatin-like and fatty enough that it melts in your mouth.  A great component to go with the cassoulet. 
 
The third course, veal cheek, was beautifully displayed.  The plate was also decorated with popcorn sweetbread, chicharone, fall vegetables, pine mushrooms and porcini foam. I felt like a kid and was intrigued by the popcorn sweetbread had a crunchy batter like popcorn chicken.  The mushroom foam was thick and rich, much like a bisque.  
   
Truffled lamb tenderloin with natural lamb jus.  Again, I was thinking, "that's really pretty, but where was the rest of it?".  But believe it or not, we had trouble finishing the last bites even though it was really good.  The food was finally catching up to us, and suddenly we had much appreciation for the smaller portions and beautiful presentations.  The tenderloin was extremely tender, and the bed of truffle it was sitting on was just divine.  

I'm not sure if my words could accurately describe how awesome our last course was.  Pumpkin caramel pudding was anything but simplistic.  It was presented in such a way that made us go "wow" while we scratch our heads trying to figure out what's what.  There must have been about 10 different components in there and I could only list yam ginger ice cream, praline, pumpkin pudding, and meringue. It was crunchy, creamy, nutty and not overly sweet.  The ginger flavour was not overwhelming in the ice cream but was distinct. Altogether, it was decadent, delicious, and I could probably eat about 5 more.  
 
The entire meal was absolutely impressive.  The open kitchen was located right across from us and we could see the action up close.  However, while the chefs were actively busy, the only noise we could hear out from the kitchen was when someone said, "service".  The kitchen was a calm environment with excellent control to details.  The ambience was formal, yet comfortable. However, the decor could use a little update to better match the modern and creative dishes they offer. 
After the bill, we were given the last treat; orange chocolate shaped like tree bark.  I know I complained about how I thought the portions were small, but to be honest, they were just right.  I wouldn't want them any bigger aside from the dessert.  In the near future, I would definitely come back to Diva again in the near feature and explore more of their tasty creations that are also feast for the eyes.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Diva at the Met on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 26, 2012

Elegant Buffet rampage: Seafood buffet at Espresso, Intercontinental Hotel Bangkok

How am I not obese by now??

With all the buffet I've been eating this whole month.  Here's another one.  After years of pleading and begging, I finally had to "honour" to dine at Espresso.  Located at 5-star luxury hotel, the Intercontinental, Espresso offers a variety of international cuisines with focus on seafood and modern fusion fare.  There are also vast variety of European, Japanese and Chinese fare elegantly presented.  There was a pasta station and I think the chef was actually Italian!  This is just based on his appearance and my assumption, of course.  Like, how much more authentic does that get??  

 It's definitely one of the best hotel buffet in Bangkok with superior ingredients, large and appealing selections, and very tasty all around.  A word of advice, if you see something you like, only grab 1 piece only and take a few bites.  Maybe explore all your options first before you get suckered into getting a large plate of something.  You will regret getting full too soon then discovering something better!

Here's a recap of what went down.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Elegant Buffet: Lunch buffet at the Rain Tree Cafe, Plaza Athenee Bangkok

This week is going to be a heavy one on my stomach as we are packing 2 days of lunch buffet.  The first one was at Plaza Athenee Bangkok, and the next one this Saturday will be at Intercontinental hotel.      It's a bonus that both of these places are 5-star luxury hotels renowned for their elegant, yet satisfying buffet :D
  
I was very impressed with the buffet at the Rain Tree Cafe.  While the selections may not be as extensive as other hotel buffet, but the details and execution are definitely superior.  In comparison to Dusit Thani, Landmark hotel, even Centara Grand, I find that the quality is much higher and the food is tastier than most.  Here's the photo recap of the buffet.  

Cheese and charcuterie
Assortment of fine cheeses
Freshly sliced prociutto 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Afternoon tea and brunch at Salon de L'Oriental by Mandarin Oriental (CLOSED)



Located at the ground floor at luxury mall, the Emporium, Salon de L'Oriental is a casual dining venue that offers elegant Thai and international fares, high tea, and Parisian desserts and pastries.  It's a nice open space surrounded by water and luscious green surrounding where you can rest at in between a vigorous day of shopping.

If you like everything, or have trouble deciding like I do, try their trio of soup.  It comes 3 cute little tea cups with french onion soup, pumpkin and lemongrass soup, and prawn bisque.  The french onion soup was lighter than I expected.  The pumpkin and lemongrass was unique in its aroma and I don't often come across this mixture.  Lastly, the prawn bisque was comparable to everywhere else.


This picture doesn't do any justice to the crispiness of the vole au vent.  The puff pastry was very flakey while the filling was rich with bisque-like flavour, chunky seafood pieces.  It was served with a side of more fillings, asparagus, and salad greens.



The high tea set is somewhat modest with 4 bite-size sandwiches, 2 scones, 2 jams, and 2 kinds of cakes (coffee and opera).  It's not as elaborate as other places and there is only one set to choose from.  The only difference between the prices is the type of tea you choose. Although I found the tea set to be a bit too mediocre, their cakes are quite tasty.  Perhaps ordering individual pieces would be the way to go.

If you are looking for a mellow atmosphere and a light meal or desserts, Salon would be a good choice.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Centara Grand Hotel buffet: Wagyu beef & free flow wine



Every night Centara Grand opens up not one, but two restaurants for one epic buffet.  Together, Ginger and the World offer a real trip for diners to get the finest fares from around the word.  Located across each other, the restaurants are a fair distance to get to and each being extremely spacious.  Ginger offers mainly Japanese and Chinese cuisines.  At the other side, the World offers Thai, Indian, and intercontinental cuisines, a salad and raw bar, as well as a large selection of fine desserts.  There is a different feature to the buffet almost every night.  Thursday night is wagyu beef night.  Meat lovers, you can't miss this deal.
The first of many to come

Monday, December 26, 2011

Turkish ice cream


Turkish ice cream, also known as dondurma, is known for its uniquely thick consistency. As I came across a vendor in Bangkok, I tried vanilla and mango flavor dipped in chocolate and peanuts.  The vanilla was a delicate milky flavour.  I was quite in awe by its "gooey" and stretchy texture when digging out a spoonful. It was smooth like a gelato, but thicker and more chewy. The 2 main ingredients giving the qualities of Turkish ice cream are salep (flour made from the root of orchid) and resin.

Another trademark of Turkish ice cream is the vendor with a sense of humor and entertaining the patrons.  Our vendor was very friendly and would pull a prank on the customers by flipping over the ice cream cone as he was handing them out.

It definitely was a cool experience.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lunch buffet at Atrium, Landmark hotel

One of the great things about hotels in Asia is the buffet selections.  Hotels in North America generally only offer buffet for breakfast or on weekends but if you go to any 3-5 star hotels in Asia, you will find that buffets are offered 3 times a day in most places.  The quality, selections, and price of the buffet vary from hotel to hotel but most 5 star hotels such as Mandarin Oriental, Intercontinental Bangkok, or Four Seasons will not disappoint but generally come with higher price than most.  One of our family's favourite hotel buffet is the Atrium at the Landmark Hotel Bangkok.  They have a wide variety of food aisles from Japanese (more of their cuztomizable cones later) and Thai stations, order to made pasta, appetizers, soup and bread, cheese, salad, seafood, grill station, som tum (papaya salad - it's also customized to your preference), noodles soup, Western cuisine, meat (roast beef or lamb generally) and dessert.  Whew that was quite a long list.  The following are photo essays of what's available at the buffet.  So if you're in Bangkok and in the area, you should give Atrium a try, it's worth the value.

Satay, barbecue, and pasta station
 
Som Tum (papaya salad) station
Seafood cocktail station
Japanese station with sashimi, sushi, cold soba, tempura, and other Japanese delectibles
 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Araxi

After years of hearing raved reviews about Araxi, I sort of made it a mission to conquer it on this trip to Whistler once and for all. I had made the reservation 2 weeks prior just in case it gets full from the long weekend.  The restaurant was conveniently located in the heart of the Village and a minute walk from our hotel.  We were warmly greeted and seated cozily by the window.  I already took a peak at their menu online but  couldn't wait to hear about new additions to the list.  

Araxi has an extensive list of wines from around the world.  While we admired the by selections and inventory of wine bottles that surrounded us, consquently, we also had to watch servers reached over us or literally crawled under the table to reach for the correct wine bottle ordered by the patrons.  We felt bad for them and perhaps there should be a better method of filing the bottles (and not under or behind the tables).  It didn't take long for us to decide what we wanted.  Araxi offers a 4 course prix fixe menu for $58 per person, which is quite an excellent deal. BBJL and I were in for another culinary expedition.

Bread and tapenade
Raw Bar


BBJL ordered beef tataki as the commencing course for additional $5.  The thinly sliced Canadian prime beef tataki was served over a bed of grated radish and cucumber and topped with cucumber pearls.  I thought the emerald green pearls were fascinating while BBJL quickly scraped his off the beef.  They had a refreshing taste of cucumber and just a hint of sweetness.  They didn't exactly enhance the flavour of the tataki but were pretty as ornaments.  For the rest, the rare beef tataki had a nice texture but the ponzu sauce tasted a bit watered down.  The small dab of spicy yuzu definitely gave quite the heat to the bite.

Spicy albacore tuna roll with cucumber and crisp shallot.  I thought the crisp shallot was brilliant and wondered why I haven't experimented with that at home (a big tub of fried shallots from T&T does wonders).   I didn't expect a lot and was delighted to find that the roll was actually really good!  The rice was seasoned well and not soggy.  The albacore tuna was fresh and the texture was mixed with the crunchiness of cucumber and shallots.  The spicy mayo also gave enough kick to the roll without the need to reach for soya sauce.

Appetizers
BBJL was once again disappointed to find the green pearls in his seafood bowl.  Despite an exotic and elaborate presentation, unfortunately, the seafood bowl lacked the component which would make it stand out from a regular seafood cocktail.  For an upscale restaurant, I'm not sure if this dish was well thought out.  All the dressing was on the bottom, leaving the top part extremely bland and boring.  BBJL was sad to discover more flavours at the bottom after all the seafood was gone.  Overall, it was quite a mundane, simple dish.

Luckily for me, they had just added foie gras to the list.  The presentation was simple, but the taste...well, it was mindblowingly good.  The more I think about it, that was probably the best foie gras I've ever had!  It was so smooth, creamy, and just melted in my mouth.  Bravo....I wanted to give the chef a standing ovation.

The Mains


After our positive experience last night at Il Caminetto, our expectations soared. BBJL wanted to try the duck breast this time at Araxi.  It could also partly be my constant echoing propaganda "My sister said the best duck breast she's ever had was at Araxi!".  So, for the second night in a row, the duck breast was once again on the table.  Before it arrived, I overheard the server informing the patrons that they were out of duck breasts for the night, and I was counting my blessings that we scored one of the last few.  Once it was presented, however, we were surprised to find the pieces were sliced so thick.  I guess the texture would still be the same regardless, but we're spoiled that way.  After a few bites, we unanimously agreed that we didn't have the same mesmerizing moment with the duck as we did the night before.  The meat was a bit tough and not tender or juicy.  The skin was not as crispy as it was at Il Caminetto or La Belle Auberge.  The jus was okay but didn't bring out that much flavour.  Though it was not terrible (or I'd send it back), everything about this dish was only average.  It was a wee bit of a let down when you reaction was "meh", instead of "Oh wow!".  As for my sister, I later learned that the best duck breast she's ever had was actually at Chambar in Vancouver which we were going to the next day (Doh!). Duck breast for the 3rd night in a row?

The arctic char on top of chive and leek risotto.  The texture of the arctic char to me, resembled somewhat of salmon (even the taste, just slightly).   I think the main focus of this dish was to the natural flavours of the fish come through with minimal seasoning.  However, I found that there were no flavours that really stood out, complemented, or brought contrast to the dish.  I thought it was very linear and lacked a wow factor.  The risotto had a beautiful vibrant color and was cooked perfectly, nonetheless, it was a supporting role.  Meanwhile, the best part I enjoyed about the arctic char was its extremely thin and crispy skin.

Desserts

BC Berry pavlova with lavender meringue and strawberry rhubarb frozen yogurt, what a lovely presentation!  The meringue was sweet a chewy but was balanced by the tanginess of the frozen yogurt and tartness of the berries.  It is a perfect dessert for those with a sweet tooth.
Orange blossom creme brulee was decorated with berries and flourless pistachio squares.  It was not a small portion and was done perfectly with crispy caramelized sugar top, creamy and sweet texture.  The orange flavour was very subtle. The squares had a smooth texture and had very little sweetness, but very filling.

The verdict..
We were definitely full to the brim and the prix fixe was a really great deal.  The service was excellent and although some dishes didn't exactly surpass our expectations, the majority were exceptional. We had a wonderful and memorable evening at Araxi and I would love to come back for another visit.

Araxi on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wasting money at Dusit Thani Hotel Bangkok

While on our way to finding dinner one evening, my parents decided to make a quick stop over at Dusit Thani Bangkok, a 5 star hotel located in the heart of downtown Bangkok.  My family has been visiting the hotel frequently ever since my sisters and I were little.  Last year, the hotel suffered heavily from the civil unrest and has renovated since.  We were off to a bad start that night just by pulling into the parking lot.  As my dad signalled his car to park for a spot, the parking lot security let a Mercedes that came out of nowhere after us to steal our spot instead.  I think we were all frustrated and wanted to start a riot, or at least say something. But since we didn't think it was worth our time, especially when the parking security seemed to be absolutely clueless and oblivious, we brushed it off and walked down to Dusit Gourmet to pick up some breakfast sandwiches.  While I love their delicious seafood and prociutto sandwiches, I remember hating the arrogant, indifferent customer (no) service based on our experiences ever since the previous year I was visiting.  Basically, once their gourmet bakery goes on sale at a certain time (whenever they feel like), they start treating customers like second class citizens instead.  Alas, I was still standing there, waiting to get those yummy sandwiches for half price and receiving the usual cold attitude service.

Dusit Gourmet

 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Shattering dreams: Intercontinental Brunch


So ever since I have been in Thailand since December, I have my mind set on the legendary Sunday brunch at Intercontinental hotel in Bangkok.  After seeing and hearing stories about the epic luxurious brunch with Moet champaign free flow for,*gasp*,  $75, I kinda made it a mission for my visit.  HOWEVER, 5 months later, still no such brunch due to conflicting schedules.  Now that I finally have the time, the red shirt mob or the UDD have managed to prevent my dream from actualizing.  The hotel is forced to close from the public indefinitely.  Seeing how the civil unrest is going, I don't think the possibility of me going to Intercontinental hotel for a Sunday brunch and enjoying myself will happen anytime soon. Bye bye food.... Bye bye Moet.......