HONG KONG FOOD DIARY
1. At New Punjab Club, we had the tandoori cobia, the saag paneer, the butter chicken, and naan. By the time we left, we also talked ourselves into the banana walnut pudding with popcorn ice-cream and a flight of Indian whiskey. Our server poured us a few splashes of Johnny Walker Black at the end of our meal.
2. It is possible that by the time I sat down at Pondi I was already tipsy from the old fashioned (neither improved nor ruined by a slice of marinated banana peel) at Potatohead across the street. Almost instantly, we agreed on the chicken pate appetizer and all of the signature dishes. I appreciate a magnanminous appetite in a dining companion, not in terms of how much we eat, but how willingly we say yes to things.
A friend asked about New Punjab Club and I gave him an honest report. It was perfect, but it didn't feel inspired. I supposed it depends on what you look for in a meal. I noticed that my New York recommendations for him was full of places that I described as "fun", "chill", or "a surprise". When a menu feels "inspired," I mean that it has a certain spirit that strings the story along——when I read the menu and understand the decisions that you are making.
3. If it was up to me, every restaurant would be bar that serves food where you can sit for three hours, as opposed to a restaurant that serves drinks where you get kicked out or pressured into ordering dessert after an hour. Sitting is underrated as an activity. How many times do I have to convince someone, can——you shut the fuck up——we just sit here quietly for five minutes? I was only thinking about this because my friend was running late. HYC is out of the way and I only chose this place because it's the only place I could find the Okinawa gin in Hong Kong. No food but there is shisha.
4. Today, I lost count of how many days I've been stuck in Hong Kong. Still haven't had the piece of cake I wanted. And now my fucking eyebrows are overgrown.
5. Passed by Ori-gin and couldn't resist a lemongrass gin and tonic before dinner. Wishing the dude doused in Santal 33 the best of luck.
6. Wingman is a pretty good name for a Valentine's Day restaurant. If you are gonna make a booking, get a girl some flowers, have a plan...I feel like I am the only one still laughing. When we walked in there were already five tables of hetero couples at various stages of coupledom. I felt awkward for the ones who were already scrolling on their phones while barely through with half of their plate of wings, but at the same time I envied how at home they must be. It was only eight PM.
My friend was mad worried about the guy who arrived after us with a girl who had flowers in her arms and they got turned away after some effort on their part to show the restaurant their reservation on their phones. "What would you do if you were them," I asked my friend——with the caveat that first of all, he would never put himself in that position. I don't care for plans in general if someone else is better at making them, but when it comes to dining out I BETTER GET SEATED AT 8 IF I SPECIFICALLY SET ASIDE TIME, ENERGY AND MONEY FOR MY ASS TO BE THERE AT 8. I get so pissed sometimes that restaurants have no choice but to calm me down with free champagne or dessert when their ‘reservation system went down’ or for some reason they failed to clear the last table. I don't care if this makes me sound like a brat because first of all, they overprice their food and underpay their staff. Second of all, there was an agreement and they broke their end of it. This is mostly a New York problem.
Anyway, we had four kinds of wings: Buffalo, Singaporean fried spicy crab, coffee dry rub, California spice. The California spice one came under a pile of chopped chili pepper and fucked up our sweat glands. Because it was Valentine's Day, every girl got a flower. The couple who got turned away came back an hour later and got seated.
7. The rooftop at the Murray overlooks Government House, where Carrie Lam lives. From what we could see, the lights were all out. Where is she? What did she have for dinner? Who takes care of her? Who loves her? Who does she love?
8. You gotta respect anyone who walks through the door at J. Boroski after, like, 2AM, because it takes a lot of brain cells to order a drink without a menu, and it's not a place where you can be like, "Tanqueray on the rocks, please." What kind of flavor profile are you look for? Gin based, rum based, or whiskey based? How about citrus-y? But not fruity. Do NOT put a cherry in it. What the fuck is a "smooth finish"? I am ready to smash some bottles. After we gave the server a bunch of words, I realized I basically asked them to make a manhattan, and immediately regretted it. What else could you do with "something smokey, whiskey based, not fruity and not sweet"? But this is why I am giving J. Boroski, a genius, $25USD, instead of that bar where I could've been like, Tanqueray on the rocks, which, at 2AM, would've also been a great bar. They made something with whiskey that is like a sour but so light and perky it could pass for a margarita base.
9. I don't miss heytea when I'm in Hong Kong!
10. There is a dumb thing going around twitter that gets people to name five drinks that define them. Here are mine before I forget: 1. hot water 2. room temp water 3. water with juice of half a lemon 4. fizzy water 5. alcoholic water
11. Where is American imperialism when you actually need it? Which problematic right wing fave do I have to ironic fuck to get a slice of Costco-grade red velvet cake around here?
12. I have been staying with my cousin at a relative's empty flat. We are like the two problem children in the family in that the elders don't really know what we do for a living, and I am annoyed by the way that they are worried. My cousin and I don't seem to have a lot of needs. At home, I often forget to eat (because it's just easier not to) or put off eating for as long as I can, until my cousin comes out of his room in the early afternoon. And then we would race to make food, since making food means not having to do the dishes. I am never quite sure how much my cousin is spoiling me or if he is just being polite and democratic about things. We are creative in slightly different ways. He makes deluxe home version of stuff you can find at a cha chaan tang (chaotic good), like tomato-beef noodle soup with nice cuts of sliced beef and a fuck ton of cuttlefish balls . I would see someone make cup noodle fried rice on TV once and go "let's try that" (chaotic neutral), only to realize afterwards that it is kind of a waste of cup noodle, especially since cup noodles come in already fun flavors like clam chowder. Between cooking and washing up, I still prefer cooking. But the good thing about doing the dishes is it means I didn't have to cook.
13. Stayed up all night on instagram watching someone's video log of practice making an omu a day (@omu_log) (41 days and counting). For a week, I adopted a diet of rice+soft boiled egg+mayonnaise+natto for lunch.
14. Lemongrass chicken wings and earl grey chiffon cake (cold, not moist, topped with tapioca) at Kiki Tea.
15. Had two dinners because the first restaurant we tried (Mr. Brown) was unsatisfying so we went next door to Francis for a snack (pomegranate baked halloumi) and dessert (knafeh). Discussed: what the hell is a "neighborhood grillhouse", the importance of plating, where is the line between laziness and overconfidence.
16. Tuesday was going to be a low key, chill night, until I ran into my friend after barre class. At Chom Chom, the frat boy (dumb chubby kind not hot kind) waiter first figuratively slapped my friend on the back for "handling" the Sriracha "heat", and then literally tried to high five me on our way out until I dead-ass looked him in the eye and said no touching. After a drink and two kinds of salad, we headed to Belon for madeleines, only to find that it was closed. So we went to New Punjab Club for cake and whisky. I don’t think I need another full meal at New Punjab Club, but I would always go back for cake and whisky. The cake is banana pudding with toffee sauce and popcorn ice-cream. The whole thing is supposed to be too rich and too sweet, but somehow it isn’t. It's warm and moist and it satisfies. The whisky is the Amrut fusion and my friend had the rye, which has a spicier finish.
17. Still at New Punjab Club, the modewala paneer arrived like three little sandwiches on a big oval plate: short stumps of cheese with a creamy, melting middle layered with thin slices of tomato, beet and onion, finished with tangy corn raita and mint chutney. I couldn't tell how they treated the onion, but it was toasty without being charred and pickled without going limp. It is a dish with a backbone (more than what you say about a lot of “concepts”).
18. Having all the courses of a meal at the same restaurant is fascist anyway.
19. Only a perfectionist would use the word “perfect” in a pejorative sense.
20. Someone recommended the red velvet cake at Commissary but I have a feeling it won't be warm. The problem with cake is what tastes good (at patisseries, dessert counters) is usually not at the temperature you wish it could be (ice-cold casing and a warm middle), and the ones served fresh off the rack are usually at places you can’t just walk in (or restaurants that don’t do dessert only seating.) Anyway, I am not even that into sugar.
21. Today, Carrie Lam banned alcohol sales at all restaurants and bars. She said because "people get intimate when they get drunk."
22. This might be the end of food diary. Hong Kong is back on high social distance alert and I am isolated on a boat. Maybe I will do boat diary. Might be boring though–cooking without fat and black pepper, looking at patches of water, the wind, awkward eye contact with neighbor...
23. Pink wine for dinner :)
- warm, moist cake
- glass noodle
- bosco sodi paintings
- edward yang's taipei
- slightly uncomfortable linen
- surgical mask, fresh out of the box, when it goes on my face
- malin and goetz sage body wash