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Archive for the ‘Dinner’ Category

Dining at Lasarte

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Before the most recent trip to Barcelona, I spent a lot of time researching various restaurants to dine at for a good friend’s birthday. In a city known for its food, narrowing down the choices was not an easy task. Obviously, the first place to look was anywhere with the name Adrià, either Ferran of elBulli fame or his brother, Albert, who runs the much-raved about Tickets, along with Enigma.

Making reservations turned out to be somewhat vague, with no clear confirmation a table would be available once in Barcelona. In the end, decided it was important we had a confirmed table to make sure it was an amazing birthday celebration. Running through various travel guides and, especially, the Michelin guide, found out about Lasarte, a three-Michelin star establishment located just off the Passeig de Gràcia.

The reservation process was straightforward and when inquiring about their menu, with regard to dietary restrictions, their response time was remarkable (they are very accommodating when it comes to dietary restrictions). The reservation process alone was just about enough to confirm the birthday would be celebrated at Lasarte.

The day arrived and we took a walk down the Passeig de Gràcia, even stopping for tapas on the way.

Upon entering the establishment, it was amazingly clean and modern. We were seated right away and noticed a few of the other tables with elegantly-presented dishes and just as elegantly-dressed patrons. It was already exhilarating walking into such an establishment, it got even more exciting once the menus arrived.

The evening began with an array of ornate appetizers, each served in a unique way, with a variety of textures to start the evening. The first course began with an oyster dish served with an iced watercress slush, parsnip, and sea mist. For molecular gastronomy fans, seeing anything with foam arrive to the table automatically get the senses going.

Probably the most beautiful of the 11 courses was the red curry dish. Described as scarlet shrimp royal with red curry, raw artichokes, celery, and apple, the dish offered a variety of colors and textures. It’s the typical go-to photo when telling people about the dinner.

Scarlet shrimp royal with red curry, raw artichokes, celery, and apple.

If I were to name the most memorable dish, there is no doubt it was the charcoal grilled pigeon with citrus, capers, black olive, and smoked sauce with galangal. The idea of eating pigeon was a rather foreign concept, which made it the most striking option when first perusing the evening’s menu. There was a red meat quality to the flavor and texture and, overall, it tasted good – it was mostly about getting over the idea of a pigeon being on the plate.

Charcoal grilled pigeon with citrus, capers, black olive, and smoked sauce with galangal.

Dessert was amazing – and gorgeous. Almond and salt praline, apricot, and rum ice cream. It’s cliché to say “it was too beautiful to eat,” but this, in fact, was; and it was all worth it once getting that first bite.

Almond and salt praline, apricot, and rum ice cream.

There’s a reason places like Lasarte are acclaimed. The aesthetic really makes a difference in the overall experience. A quiet and relaxed room with perfect lighting made the dinner all the more appealing. Very attentive staff – who even walk you to the bathroom – add an appreciation for the care the restaurant puts into service.

Then, there’s the food. 11 courses, each with its own unique taste and beauty, it truly presents the soul of the restaurant itself.

All of it comprises the “dining experience,” and this was one of the most memorable ones.

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One of the greatest dishes in the history of food

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Have been to Hong Kong and Macau on two prior occasions, and visited Shanghai and Taipei previously, yet never in any of those instances was there the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the glory that is Peking Duck. On this most recent occasion, it was a priority to sit down and enjoy the ever-revered dish. And, contrary to popular belief, this is a much different entrée than the typical roasted ducks everybody sees hanging in the windows of many Chinese restaurants – still delicious, but Peking Duck is an entirely different beast.

It was on the day of arrival in Hong Kong that the dinner was already planned. Flew into Hong Kong International Airport aboard Cathay Pacific around 3:00 p.m. and made a beeline for the train heading downtown.

Staying in the Tin Hau district, it was a quick ride on the Hong Kong MTR to Central Station and, even before heading above ground, there it was – Peking Garden in Alexandra House, a one-Michelin star establishment.

Even though reservations are required, arrived a bit before the dinner crowd and was asked if it was possible to finish the meal before 6:30 p.m., it was around 5:15 p.m. – said it can be done and was seated right away.

Immediately, was served tea from a very ornate tea set and snacks of pickled vegetables and bean curd; opened the menu and dug around for the Peking Duck.

Putting in the order, the duck came out very quickly – assuming the place expects nearly every table to order at least one – and it was marvelous. The first server came and asked if there were a preference to separate the skin or not, went with keeping skin and meat together, he then left to carve the duck on the other side of the room. Another server arrived with plates of vegetables, sweet sauce, and steamed rice pancakes.

The duck spread across two gorgeous plates.

Before anything, had to try one piece on its own, to savor the dish that everybody and their mother raves about, and it was magnificent. Juicy and flavorful meat and crispy skin, a travel show on Korean network TVN called the taste unforgettable, it’s also indescribable. Started putting together little rolls of the duck and all the add-ons wrapped in the rice pancakes and it was nothing short of heavenly.

Doubt there will ever be another trip to Hong Kong without at least one night sitting down to a plate of sumptuous Peking Duck.

Peking Garden has several restaurants across Hong Kong, the Central location is in the basement of Alexandra House, at exit H of the Central MTR station.

Peking Garden has several restaurants across Hong Kong, the Central location is in the basement of Alexandra House, at exit H of the Central MTR station.

Frying the entire chicken

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Visiting Seoul for the first time, there was no doubt some of the famous Korean fried chicken had to be tasted. Had always been a fan, having been a frequent visitor to the Bonchon location in midtown Manhattan. One of the first nights there, a particularly late night, wandered around the neighborhood of Myeongdong for a spot to grab dinner and found Chicken 678.

Walking past the rather large outdoor space, was seated towards the rear of the restaurant – perfectly tucked away and hidden. Browsed the menu and immediately saw the chicken, it was a split-second decision that an order of soy friend chicken was the one.

Being used to other establishments denoting a specific number of pieces or which part or what shade of meat is preferred, a large plate with bunch of friend chicken goodness arrived – the entire chicken was split up and served, no arguing over what parts to order, they were all there.

Crispy, juicy and everything expected of Korean fried chicken.

Ended up enjoying friend chicken on another late night and it was just as delicious – they know how to do fried chicken.

Chicken 678

Written by Paulo Loreto

July 6, 2016 at 10:31 PM

Thanksgiving

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Left the United States three years ago and have lived in a country where Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday. Have compensated for it in the past by having a feast on that day – of course, nothing equal to the way its celebrated in the US – on one occasion, had potatoes and lechon, not quite turkey and mash, but it was delicious nonetheless.

There really is nothing like sitting down to a traditional Thanksgiving feast, especially after not enjoying one for a couple years. From a country that isn’t native to turkeys (and not really much of a culinary fan of turkey), there is a majesty that comes with seeing a cooked and dressed bird arrive to a beautifully set table. Accompanied by all the fixings, in a time when people are supposed to express gratitude, it really brings out the emotions of being thankful for all the work that goes into preparing one dinner – a dinner that goes all day, but, regardless, a dinner.

Adding to the familial feel of Thanksgiving dinner, besides mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and candied yams; the dinner is always accompanied by traditional Filipino dishes, pancit (fried noodles) and lumpia (spring rolls). Combining traditions from two different cultures brings forward both a gratitude for where one comes from and everything done to bring someone to where they are today.

Hope everybody had a Happy Thanksgiving! Happy leftovers!

Hope everybody had a Happy Thanksgiving! Happy leftovers!

Written by Paulo Loreto

November 27, 2015 at 10:33 PM

Foie Gras and Membrillo Pintxos

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Haven’t had many opportunities to savor and enjoy the beauty that is foie gras, along with that, also have a great love for tapas and pintxos – what a joy to find out that Huertas, in New York City, combined the two fabulous dishes with their foie gras and membrillo pintxos.

Huertas NYC offers a wide variety of Basque treats, everything from the jamon to the pulpo was amazing – an overall fantastic spot for tapas. Seeing the words foie gras always grabs the attention and once spotted, had to give it a try. The richness of the foie gras, the sweetness from the membrillo, on top of a fantastic crostini – it was an amazing experience.

…later on during the dinner, ordered two more.

Foie Gras Membrillo

Written by Paulo Loreto

November 25, 2015 at 9:18 AM

Monster Sushi

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When walking down 23rd street, on nearly every prior occasion, it has been for the sole purpose of stopping by La Maison du Macaron. On nearly every one of those instances, have also walked by Monster Sushi, given the name, it’s always been a head turner, but had yet to step inside.

After spending an afternoon in the area, found myself a block over and thought it would be an opportune time to stop in. Given the name, was expecting a lot, and even just looking at the menu, they have an extensive list of traditional sushi, innovative sushi, and an array of other Japanese cuisine options.

Ordered a few rolls and the quantity definitely did not disappoint. A huge plate that was full of sushi rolls arrives at the table and it is impossible to decide where to even start. Every roll was fresh and delicious and only wished there was more belly space to fit a few more. Would definitely stop by again – probably won’t have room for macarons afterwards, though.

Monster Sushi NYC

Written by Paulo Loreto

November 24, 2015 at 9:23 AM

Filetto di Manzo con Foie Gras

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Taking a break from the various Shanghai fare, the suggestion to go Italian one night brought forth a visit to Va Bene, in Shanghai’s Xintiandi district. According to their website, “Travel+Leisure” ranked them in the Top 5 restaurants in Shanghai in 2009. After dining there, it is well-earned distinction.

Ordered the filetto di manzo con foie gras (fillet of beef with foie gras) for a main course and it was incredible. A well-prepared fillet is always an amazing experience, but include a beautiful piece of foie gras, it takes the dish to a whole new level.

Clearly, the Chinese food scene throughout Shanghai offers a great variety of cuisine, but those times when one wishes to take a break from local dishes, Va Bene is a great destination for those international cravings.

Gorgeous foie gras at Va Bene Shanghai

Gorgeous foie gras at Va Bene Shanghai

Written by Paulo Loreto

June 10, 2015 at 6:36 AM