Hainanese Chicken Rice is one of those seminal foods that I distinctly remember from my childhood. Silky slices of tender chicken, fragrant rice, clear gingery soup and the accompanying dipping sauces -- this dish stands out as an early taste memory so pleasurable that it can make my mouth water even today.
It was a treat to go to the restaurant in Tradewinds - one of the Manila hotels in the upscale business district of Makati. Unfortunately, hardly a trace of this hotel, its restaurant or its menu can be found on the Internet today - but it existed, a while ago - back in the early 80s. I found one blog post that confirms it here - its author reminisces about the dish and her commenters also confirm the name and existence of the hotel and restaurant.
So why was Tradewinds so special? One went to Tradewinds just for the Hainanese Chicken Rice.
This is a crazy luxurious dish, containing some of my most favourite seafood in the world, and cream and butter. I've had uni sauce for pasta before, mostly in fancy restaurants and the like, but not to this degree at home. Well, ok, we did attempt an uni cream sauce once, with actual fresh uni, but this dish, this dish nails it just so. Just the right amounts of cream and uni and other goodness (mentaiko was definitely the key) to turn something fantastic into something orgasmic.
Whenever I open a cookbook for the first time, I’ll usually skim the recipes with photos first. Are they appealing? Do they make me want to read the recipe? Do they make my mouth water and immediately start plotting out how I might make the dish, and soon?
Restaurant menus can be different. They often don’t have illustrations or photos accompanying the text, and the way a dish is described or written may have to work twice as hard to entice and lure and seduce.
DD and I visited New York in December of 2009. He was there for work, I was there to tag along, partially working remotely as well. We also turned the trip into a bar-hopping and salacious dining extravaganza. During our 5 days there, we managed to sample 3 of David Chang’s eateries: Momofuku Ssam Bar, Noodle Bar, and Milk Bar, though I have to admit that the visit to Milk Bar was just a cursory walk-through - we had been lunching at the Ssam Bar next door, and could not pass up a visit to peek at sweets. I don’t much recall what we had at Milk Bar if anything as I was too full from our decadent lunch.
We knew we were going to have very limited time in Vancouver. 3 full days, most of which would be taken up by family gatherings (Chinese Banquets, a wedding, a wedding-related cocktail and hors’d’ouevres afternoon)... DD had mapped out a strategy of how to make the most of our time in Vancouver/ Richmond, food-wise, and that was to target the best items or dishes that specifically typified “Vancouver” -- that which we may not be able to get anywhere else. Needless to say, Japadog was in our sights.
Somewhere around the fall of last year, I went on a Japanese cooking jag, inspired by and anticipating our upcoming trip to Japan. We were taking Japanese language courses and I was shopping at Nijiya, weekly. The Japantown neighborhood suddenly became familiar, where it hadn’t before. My mania for Japanese cooking reached somewhat of a turning point when I took a Japanese Kaiseki cooking workshop through the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California in December, and cooked up a multi-course Japanese holiday dinner.
In the dark, walking on the sidewalk towards the restaurant, it can be easy to miss Halu's door, if not for the small bench outside, groups of folks milling about, the shoji screens covering up part of the windows, and the numerous items plastered on the door and windows - most are old concert flyers and menu pages, advertising the bill of fare; others are clearly warning notices - unless you're truly, awfully oblivious - you'd see that Halu definitely does not serve any sushi in any form, nohow, nowhere. "No Sushi Today (or Tomorrow)," the signs proclaim; and "Sushi Free Zone" just for good measure.
Halu's popularity a good sign that the lack of sushi is clearly not a problem.
We arrived in Kyoto in the evening, as dusk was just starting to fall. We’d been travelling all day, from Kanazawa in the North, by the Sea of Japan. It was too short a visit, but we wouldn’t be making the same mistake while were in Kyoto – planning a good 5 days in Japan’s ancient erstwhile capital. We didn't have any definitive dining plans, so once settled at Shunkoin Temple, we decided that ramen made for a fast and easy meal option. For many of our food recommendations, we relied on Kyoto Foodie’s blog and headed out to the other side of town in search of Takaraya Ramen on Pontocho, near Gion.
Quite literally, the new (Korean) kid on the block (it opened on June 28th), Manna replaces Little Bangkok - a tiny Thai place on the corner of 10th and Irving. It's still small inside, but looks like it received a new coat of paint and somehow feels larger than the older restaurant. (I must admit that I might have frequented Little Bangkok only once, hastily ordering a lunch from their steam table one day, and don't quite remember the experience.)
Toyose is way out in the Outer Sunset, Noriega and 45th to be exact. So close is it to the beach I wonder whether folks have taken their orders of Korean Fried Chicken down to the coast, perfect for an evening picnic or twilight bonfire. It didn't hit my radar until the New York Times ran a story on late night eats in San Francisco, focusing on where folks from the restaurant industry tend to congregate after work. We live in the Inner Sunset, but it still took us 10 minutes or so - even late at night on a Sunday - to make it out to the outer avenues. It's a Korean restaurant located in the garage of a residential building and its only distinguishing sign is the one above of a winking chicken. Cheeky and appropriate.