I’ve been looking forward to trying another of Hong Kong’s speakeasies since Bo Innovation. Private kitchens were all the rage a few years ago, and only the truly good ones survived, and Xi Yan has proved that they not only survived, but has grown with outlets in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Xi Yan’s cuisine can be described as Asian fusion. Drawing inspiration from Thai and South East Asian cooking techniques and flavors, Xi Yan serves up multi-provincial Chinese food infused with other Asian influences.

Southeast Asian influences include the use of lemongrass or calamansi, infused into traditional Sichuan and Shanghainese dishes.

Their private dining outlet showcases the best of their menu. Unassuming outlook is an inadequate description when you reach the place, unnoticeable is more accurate: there is no signage for the whereabouts of it on the streets, not even on the very building it resided. It is on the third floor of a run-down commercial building in Wanchai, quiet, secluded and exclusive. Enter, sit down and enjoy

$430 per head

Salmon and jelly fish in Wasabi sesame sauce

Salmon and jelly fish in Wasabi sesame sauce

Grilled potatoes with salt and truffle

Grilled potatoes with salt and truffle

Shrimps in superior pickled sauce

Shrimps in superior pickled sauce

Crispy duck stuffed by glutinous rice

Crispy duck stuffed by glutinous rice

Sichuan spicy chicken

Sichuan spicy chicken. The menu changes every other night but this spicy chicken is a stalwart.

Stir fried spicy clams with basil

Stir fried spicy clams with basil

Chrysanthemum mandarin fish with lemongrass calamansi sauce

Chrysanthemum mandarin fish with lemongrass calamansi sauce

Satay shrimps with salted egg yolks and basil

Satay shrimps with salted egg yolks and basil

Longan and jujube sorbet with bird's nest

Longan and jujube sorbet with bird’s nest

Stewed chicken with pear and white fungus

Stewed chicken with pear and white fungus

Stir fried mix mushrooms with pickled cucumber

Stir fried mix mushrooms with pickled cucumber

Custard glutinous dumplings with sweet potato ginger soup

Custard glutinous dumplings with sweet potato ginger soup

Rating :  Love It

Food   :  Sichuan Spicy Chicken, Crispy Duck Stuffed with Glutinous Rice

Summary : A must try in Hong Kong. Contemporary chinese cuisine at its best.

3/F, 231-233 Queens Road East, Wanchai
Hong Kong
Tel:                (852) 9020 9196



Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung

I couldn’t wait for my trip to Sydney to try out Din Tai Fung the world famous Taiwanese dumpling chain with shops in China, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, the USA and Australia. Located on the second floor of World Square shopping centre, it is located in a very unassuming corner. The location didn’t seem to be a problem to anyone judging by the long queue outside the shop. Two girls with headsets took down our names and gave us queue tickets. The dumpling house itself didn’t look like a typical Chinese restaurant. It was tastefully done with modern wooden tables and chairs. The large paper lamps from the ceiling also added a nice feel to the place.


Dumpling Making

Dumpling Making

The dumpling shop itself looked impressive. There was a whole team of clinically outfitted dumpling ‘techinicians’ making the dumplings and examining each piece closely. There was even a QA guy making sure all the dumplings coming out looked perfect.

Xiao Long Bao

Xiao Long Bao

The drunken chicken was out of stock which gave us a reason to order more dumplings.

The Xiao long bao pork dumpling ( Aud$8.80 ) were served first. The dumplings were sitting temptingly in the bamboo steamers. I could see how the soup inside made the dumplings wobbly through the translucent skin. The skin didn’t break when I transferred the xiao long bao from the steamer to my spoon. I didn’t put vinegar or chili on my first dumpling to gauge the full flavor. I bit on a small section of the dumpling skin to get access to the soup inside and gingerly sipped on the soup. The soup was sweet and plentiful for such a small dumpling. I popped in the rest of the dumpling into my mouth and savoured every bit. The dumplings are the best I’ve had so far. It’s even better than the famous Shanghai Yu Yuan garden xiao long bao.

Xiao Long Bao steamed crab meat and roe with pork dumpling

Xiao Long Bao steamed crab meat and roe with pork dumpling

The Xiao Long Bao steamed crab meat and roe with pork dumpling $13.80 had the very subtle flavour fo crab roe mixed with the soup. I found it quite expensive and had better crab roe xiao long bao’s flavour wise. But Din Tai Fung’s dumpling skin is still clearly a winner. The skin is just so delicate and thin enough.

Shrimp and Pork Shao Mai

Shrimp and Pork Shao Mai

The Shrimp and Pork Shao Mai AUD$8.80 is very interesting as it also had soup inside. Interesting shao mai’s but I would still go for the classic xiao long bao’s.

Zha Jian Mian ( Spicy Pork Mince Noodle )

Zha Jian Mian ( Spicy Pork Mince Noodle )

Zha Jiang Mian (Spicy Pork Mince Noodle ) is a classic Taiwanese dish and was done well. It was a good complement for the multitude of dumplings we were having.

Rating : Love It

Food   : Xiao Long Bao

Summary : Din Tai Fung is extremely addicting. I’ve been there twice in one week. You can’t help but have thoughts of perfect little dumplings in sweet broth on your head while going through the day. Be very careful in visiting the place as it will spoil you and set your standards high on how dumplings should taste like elsewhere.

Din Tai Fung

Shop 11. 04 Level 1
World Square Shopping Centre
644 George St, Sydney NSW 2000
Tel :   +61 (02) 9264 6010         
Open 7 days
17:00pm-22:00pm (last order 9.15pm)

Little Lamb

Box Hill is like a mini-Chinatown. It has so many authentic looking Asian restaurants in the area which are cheap, cheery and authentic. Little Lamb is a particularly busy place because it has a $20 hot pot buffet. It’s name is probably inspired by the popular Little Sheep Hot Pot chain in China. It is close to impossible to get a seat on weekends without prior bookings.

Little Lamb Broth  Sze Chuan Broth

You can select from a clear broth or the sze chuan broth . Don’t be too intimidated by the red color of the sze chuan broth. It look spicier than it tastes of. My lips and tongue didn’t go numb which is my gauge for spiciness.

Little Lamb Meat

You can order all the meat you want.

Little Lamb Veggies

More expensive items such as the prawns , oyster mushrooms can be ordered once. The rest  of items such as assorted fish and prawn balls, veggies, noodles are unlimited.

Taro Pancake

Your $20 also buys you dessert! There is the taro or redbean pancake which is extremely oily and taste just like tikoy (Chinese New Year Cake/ Nian Gao). It’s pretty good though. Just wash down all the oiliness with the free tea.

Glutinous Rice Balls

This glutinous rice balls are my favorite though. Soft and chewy with peanut or black sesame filling inside. I totally got addicted to these chewy balls and I’m craving to go back to Little Lamb again just for this!

Summary : Defnitely good value for the money. I would come back here again and again for my hot pot fix especially this winter season!

Rating :  Love it
Food   :  Hot pot

Little Lamb Hot Pot
Whitehorse Road, Box Hill
Tel : 98909854

On my Manila to Melbourne flight, I got upgraded on the Manila – HK leg of my trip. Yey! Being a loyal CX frequent flier does come handy as it increases the chances for flight upgrades.

CX MNL - MLB Breakfast 

Sigh… the two hour HK trip seemed much shorter as I enjoyed my roomy seat. I enjoyed the dimsum platter for the in-flight breakfast.

 CX MNL - MLB Lunch

On my HK – Melbourne leg… where are the ceramic plates!!! Back to reality and plasticware.

 CX MNL - MLB Dinner

Noodles were better than my Pineapple Chicken dish for dinner.

Summary : Cathay Pacific’s meals are decent enough. Business class meals would of course be good since you’re paying top pesos for your seat. My experience with their economy class meals have been passable. Chinese dishes I have had would be prepared better than continental dishes like a generic chicken or fish dish. I normally would choose noodles and pile on the chili sauce to give flavor to my meal.

Here’s a related post on a Philippine Airlines flight I took. Share your plane food stories.

 by Fabian

This blog post has been a long time coming. I offer no excuses for why it took so long to write this post, except that I am a procrastinating and lazy person by nature. Some of us only do things when we absolutely have to. While there have been no death threats or bribes from a dear friend who is now in Melbourne, what spurred me on tonight to write, finally, was another pleasant meal that had taken place last night, and now it would seem to be a true shame if another pair of pleasant meals that I also had were not documented as well.
JV’s underwater hockey friend, Marion, had flown in from Australia for a couple of weeks, and in proper Pinoy fashion, we used our hapless foreign visitor as an excuse to eat out. Her stay here was sandwiched between two dinners at Gloria Maris in Shangri La.  Both of these dinners were accompanied with enough wine to tranquilize a horse, courtesy of Dennis (and another oenophile Elmer!). I forget exactly the names of the wines we drank, but I do remember that Riesling and Chinese food are a decent combination. Chardonnay isn’t too bad either.

 Duck Salad
Duck Salad
My favorite appetizer in Gloria Maris is this. I’ve had this more than a few times, and each time I grow more appreciative of how nicely made this is. This is a cold salad made of duck, seaweed, mayo, and pili nuts. The combination can make for a slightly sweet salad, but it is refreshing and delicious. I ate a bit of it in the beginning, and some of more of it in the middle of the meal, and at the end you think, what the heck I’d like a little bit more. Good stuff.

 Wintermelon Soup
Wintermelon Soup
This is another fairly decent starter. Wintermelon is what it is: melon-ny, pulpy, and quite nice. I quickly realized that this would fill me up fast, so I didn’t finish my whole cup. In terms of starters thus: Duck 1, Wintermelon 0.

Crab with Sotanghon Deep fried Crab
Two Crabs
There were two kind of crab. I did not eat much of this, but I do recall that they were quite good. I always enjoy crab especially when there are sliced garlic and peppers on top. Crab, like other white-fleshed seafood has a relatively mild taste. It’s all about the condiments.

Stuffed Chicken 
Stuffed Chicken with Chestnuts
We had some chicken stuffed with sticky rice and chestnuts. This seem so classically Chinese to me, and I picked on this a bit.  Also delicious and very rich. Thank God there’s a glass of wine nearby.

 Peking Duck
Peking Duck
Nothing is as plainly tasty as Peking Duck. Within the wrapper is an onion to cut the richness, and of course we dip with hoisin sauce. Goodness. I can eat maybe one or two pieces of crackling lechon; I can easily eat triple the amount of Peking Duck. These weren’t carved out in front of us during the meal, but as presented here, they were already pre-sliced and in nice little wrappers. Innocuous looking, tasty things.

Prawn Curry
JV has said that she wanted some curry, so the cooks of the kitchen whipped this up. Not my favorite of curries. I generally don’t like curries in Chinese, Japanese or Korean cuisine. It was still okay though, but I didn’t eat a lot of this. Very yellow.

 Taro Duck
And More Duck
Before you get the impression that we’re a bunch of duck gluttons, recall that these food represent what we ate for two meals. 🙂 The Duck with Taro is a deadly combination. You can really eat only so much of this because fatty duck is fried with a layer of taro that does an excellent job, as with most starches, of absorbing a lot of fat. Another glass of wine please.

 Cheese Platter Cheese Platter 2
Prosciutto and Various Cheeses
It was a trifle odd to have this Italian commercial in the middle of the meal. But I’m not one to turn away very thin salted Italian meat. Dennis brought over this spread from Galileo Enoteca, a place that I have unfortunately still not visited. Would have been nice also taken outside the context of a Chinese meal. But somehow, it fit the meal. It helps when people all around the table love cheese. 

 Mango Sago
We had mango and sago. I didn’t get to taste this. But I think Marion enjoyed it. It looked sweet, gelatinous and nice. Normally, I wouldn’t mind having dessert, but as you can imagine, I was stuffed beyond dessert.

Summary : I enjoyed most things, but especially enjoyed duck (and wine). These were two great dinners. I am embarrassingly always available every time JV and Dennis call me for a meal at Gloria Maris.

If you want to get a good idea of what I ate, you’ll have to go to the Shangrila Plaza Mall branch. I don’t think they serve the above dishes in all the branches (and no branches serve the prosciutto!). The quality and taste of the food is dependent on the branch chefs, and you might have to request for them to prepare a particular dish.

Rating  : Love It

Wine for our Gloria Maris dinners.

Chateau Batailley Pauillac 2007, Bordeaux
Wente Merlot 2001, Central Coast California
Cliff Edge Shiraz 2002, Mount Langi Ghiran

Chateau Bataille 1997Wente MerlotCliff Edge Shiraz

Read a lot about Dong Bei from various blogs talking about Ivan Dy’s Binondo Tour.

Piqued my interest on how it compared to Lan Zhou which is our favorite noodle shop in Binondo.

Dong Bei

This is a 4-table place. What’s interesting is that dumplings are actually made in one of the tables in the dining area by the staff. Perched on their seats, they stuff pork & chive mixtures into tiny wrappers. Makes the meal an interactive experience.

Dong Bei Dumplings

Dumplings – chives, celery, cabbage, pork Php 80. Specialty of the house. The dumpling wrapper is extremely thin and a bit watery. The staff said that these dumplings are actually placed in boiling water and not steamed as I initially thought. I prefer Lan Zhou’s dumpling though since I like dumplings chewier.

Beef Noodles

Beef soup Php 100 – Pretty difficult to compare the noodles with Lan Zhou but we ended up concluding we liked Lan Zhou’s noodles better. Firmer and chewier. Soup broth was different for both places. Dong Bei broth tasted made of Chinese herbs while Lan Zhou broth tasted of beef or pork bones. Depends what type of soup broth person you are.

Fried Chicken with Sinjian Flavor

Fried chicken with sinjian flavor Php 180 – I liked the way they cooked the chicken. It was crisp and there was mix of subtle flavors.

Summary : Pretty interesting to compare Dong Bei with Lan Zhou. They are both good and deciding on which dumplings or noodle soup is better is a tough choice. On my part, I prefer Lan Zhou. Which one do you prefer?

Rating :  Like It
Food  :  Dumplings

Dong Bei Dumplings
Oriente corner Yuchengco Street
Binondo, Manila

Lan Zhou La Mien 

This noodle house has been shared with us by Chinatown locals. The Binondo area has a lot of small Chinese restaurants right now opened by newly arrived mainland China immigrants. The food they serve is refreshingly authentic to the region they come from with unbelievably cheap prices. 

 Rolling dough

Lan Zhou serves dao shao mian or knife cut noodles. The name daoxiao mian, or knife-shaved noodles, refers to the way the noodles are prepared. The cook holds a large ball of dough in his left hand and, with a knife, deftly and quickly slices shavings of dough into a large pot of boiling water.

 Hand pulled dough

You can watch the cook through the glass window dividing the kitchen from the dining area. The Chinese lady pulls and tosses the lump of dough transforming it into pasta.

 Lan Zhou noodle soup

La Mien noodles – The specialty of the house Php 70. The noodles are fantastic – chewy and doughy. Best d@#n chinese noodles I’ve had in Manila. The broth is flavorful and made from real beef bones.

Bowls of chopped spring onion and coriander, chili garlic sauce and bottles of soy sauce, and black vinegar are on every table to place in your bowl of noodle soup.


Dumplings Steamed – Not-too-thick wrappers enclosing a filling of pork and Chinese chives. Served with shredded ginger in black vinegar. 

Summary : Everyone should have a try of Lan Zhou. The noodles are so fresh, springy and chewy. Beats any other bowl of Chinese noodle soup out there.

Rating   : Love It
Food     : A bowl of noodle soup

Lan Zhou La Mien
819 Benavidez Street
Binondo, Manila
Tel : 2445365

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