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越旺 Phở 26

One thing I missed most about Australia is the Vietnamese food. If 5 star is the highest rating, I would rate Vietnamese food in Hong Kong as 2.5 at best. And no, not only that. I find that Hong Kong people, in general, does not know what good Vietnamese food is.

I remember I once dined in a Phở restaurant with my Hong Kong colleague. When she saw me picking the basil leaves into my Phở soup, she asked me what I was doing.

"I always thought the leaves were there as decoration. I didn’t know you can eat them."

I almost fell out of my chair when my colleague said that. I mean I can accept people’s ignorance, but that was simply stupidity.

Another time, I invited a finicky friend to eat Phở with me.

"I want to eat Phở. Would you like to join?"
"Oh sure! I love Vietnamese food," my finicky friend nodded. "You know, I am really not as finicky as you think I am. I am actually a very down-to-earth person," she added.
"Great!" I said.

At the Phở restaurant, the waitress came to take our order.

"What would you like?" the waitress asked.
"Mmm…" my finicky friend looked at the menu and thought for a while. "I will have the Kobe beef Phở, thanks!"

"Kobe beef!!" I thought to myself as I stared at my friend, who just claimed to be a lover of Vietnamese food. "That’s like ordering sushi made of Thai rice!" Needless to say, I very soon realized my friend does not like eating Phở.

Anyway, stories aside, I have recently found a restaurant that I dare to proclaim as the best Phở place in town. The place has a strange name; it’s called 越旺 Phở 26.

The spirit of a Phở lies in the broth, and this place makes one hell of a good broth. The soup is crystal clear — like French bouillon — and the steam vapors the fragrance of garden herbs aplenty. Visibly, there were green onions, white onions, coriander leaves, Thai basil leaves, mint leaves and bean sprouts. The most amazing thing about the soup is that there were two herbs that I had not tasted previously — a saw-tooth leaf and a stem-like herb.

A generous squeeze of lime juice onto the soup gave the whole Phở an awakening. I took a sip of the soup, and words can not describe that definitive moment. Next, I squeezed equal parts of Hoisin and Sriracha sauce onto the condiment plate. I placed the slightly cooked beef onto my spoon, and dapped the mixture of sauce onto the beef. I swallowed the spoonful of beef in one go, and I could feel sweetness, savoriness and hotness dancing in my mouth.

I later found out that their 3-color bean drinks, or rainbow drink, was extremely good too.

I have taken a lot of my true Phở-loving friends there and everyone agreed it was the best Phở restaurant in town. At the moment, 越旺 Phở 26 has two restaurants on Hong Kong island. Their first restaurant opened in Wan Chai, and the one I tried was in Sheung Wan.

 

越旺 Phở 26
Address: 上環皇后大道中302號地鋪 G/F, 302 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Phone: (+852) 2866 1888
Rating (via Openrice)
Map (via Live Search)

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My First Korean Lesson

I finally arrived at my Korean class.
I looked at the time on my phone. I realised I was already 15 minutes late!
From the outside, I could hear the teacher speaking. I quietly opened the door. There was an awkward silence.
 
"Sorry, I am late," I apologized as I walked inside the classroom.
 
I tried to make as little distraction as possible. The teacher did not say anything. I found a seat and sat down. The teacher went on with her teaching, speaking in Korean that I could not yet understand.
I looked around the classroom. There were about 15 people in the class.
 
"Do you have a textbook?" the teacher suddenly paused and asked me.
"Sorry, I did not know that I was meant to have a text book," I explained. "The school mailed my information package to the wrong address."
"Oh, you can look at mine if you want," offered the girl who was sitting on my left side. "You were supposed to buy the textbook before you come, but you can look at mine for now."
"Thanks!" I said, as I moved my seat closer.
 
I looked at the girl’s textbook. She had already written three to four pages of notes.
I then turned to the teacher and tried to pick up what she was teaching. She has already moved onto something that seemed way beyond my league.
 
"Maybe I came to the wrong class," I thought to myself. "Or maybe, this isn’t the first lesson," I tried to convince myself.
I then asked the girl sitting next to me. "Excuse me. What lesson number are we in?"
"Oh, this is the first lesson," answered the girl.
"How come you had so much notes written on your book?" I asked. "Is it a second-hand book?"
"Oh no, no, no! I prepared for the lesson in advance, that’s all," the girl explained.
 
The girl said it like it was the most natural thing in the world. My face froze for a minute. I then turned my head around and looked at the students in the classroom. They all look very serious and concentrated. There was no ‘joking around’. It was like the ideal class, like something that only appears in fiction.
I have always pictured night school to be something more casual, but what I saw tonight was a class of complete dedication.
The teacher continued her teaching. The pace of teaching became faster and faster. At the end of the two-hour lesson, I have learnt half of the Hangul and about 50 vocabularies.
 
"Annyong hi kaseyo!" the teacher said as she marked the end of my first Korean lesson.
"Annyong hi keseyo!" I bid my goodbye and walked out of the classroom feeling young and energized, like a boy who just had his first school day at the kindergarten.
  

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Pasta de Waraku 和樂日式意粉屋

It was my very, very good friend Puffduck‘s birthday. She loves playing Wii, so this year I bought her a Wii and the Mario Kart game.

I also took her to the recently-opened, Singaporean-owned, Japanese-styled restaurant, Pasta de Waraku, for lunch. The place is a recent gem I found in Citywalk, the new shopping complex sitting amidst the Tsuen Wan area.

We had salad, pasta and pizza. It was my third time dining at this restaurant. I must say their shiso, cod roe, and garlic spaghetti, as well the cod roe and potato pizza are the best pasta and pizza I have ever eaten in Hong Kong.

The spaghetti was al dente, and there were just the right amount of ingredients to cover the pasta. The moisture of the spaghetti was well controlled — slightly dry on the outside, yet moist on the inside. I swear I could taste the ‘wok hei‘ in the pasta.

I often make shiso pasta at home. So if I say the Pasta de Waraku’s shiso spaghetti is good, it must be really, really good!

The pizza was light, crispy and extremely thin, almost like eating nothing but air. I have always been a fan of thin pizzas, but they are difficult to find in Hong Kong, especially when people are getting used to thick, crusty pizzas. I have tried other pizza toppings at Pasta de Waraku, but their potato and cod roe pizza is my favorite.

Pasta de Waraku might be a bit pricey compared to other eateries in the Tsuen Wan area. But considering the food quality, cleanliness, and atmosphere, I think it is well worth the price.

 

Pasta de Waraku 和樂日式意粉屋
Address: 荃灣楊屋道1號荃新天地上層地下41號舖 Shop 41, Upper Ground Floor, Citywalk, 1 Yeung Uk Road, Tsuen Wan, New Territories, Hong Kong
Phone: (+852) 2877 3375
Website: http://www.waraku.com.sg
Rating (via Openrice)
Map (via Live Search)

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Watch This Space 十面舞伏

This ballet performance was truly a gem, like a sapphire hidden in a cultural desert, discovered when I least expect it.

Watch This Space (十面舞伏) is one of Hong Kong Ballet‘s 2008 performances at Sheung Wan Civic Center (上環文娛中心), comprising eight smaller work pieces choreographed by the company’s rising stars. It was a rare opportunity for me to see what Hong Kong dancers and choreographers are capable of. 

I thoroughly enjoyed all eight pieces of work. In particular:

  • the flexibility and body movements of Yuh Egami (江上悠) in Collage of One 《一一》;
  • the color, freedom and vibrancy of  Nothing 《零感覺》 choreographed by Li Yiran (李怡燃), with special mention to Jonathan Mangosing (高瀚林) and William Lin‘s (林立峯) performance; and
  • the emotion and rhythm in Abush《埋伏》 choreographed by Li Jiabo’s (李嘉博)

Honestly, I thought just watching any one of the eight pieces would have made my money worth.

 

Watch This Space English Official Website: http://www.hkballet.com/2007/eng/production/0809/CW/index.html
Watch This Space Chinese Official Website: http://www.hkballet.com/2007/chi/production/0809/CW/index.html

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Modern Queen’s Restaurant 新皇后餐廳

In response to my last episode of lunch horror, I believe I have found the best Hong-Kong-style minced beef rice (窩蛋免治牛肉飯) in town!

Modern Queen’s Restaurant (新皇后餐廳) is situated in Sham Tseng. I was not sure if the restaurant has any relationship with the better-known Queen’s Cafe at Festival Walk, but the old man owner — who also seems to be the only person serving us — told me that his restaurant’s chef used to work there.

I have tried their minced beef rice for a number of times, both lunch and dinner. It was always full of minced beef and fresh tomatoes. In fact, I find there was so much sauce that there was just not enough rice!

The snap peas, which accompanied the rice, were surprisingly sugary and snappy too.

A word of reminder — the minced beef rice tastes much better at dinner than at lunch. Also, the restaurant usually serve the minced beef rice with a sunny side up. If you want the real authentic taste of minced beef rice, remember to ask the restaurant to give you a raw egg (without the egg white) instead.

 

Modern Queen’s Restaurant 新皇后餐廳
Address: 深井深井村青山公路87號地下 G/F, 87, Sham Tseng Village, Sham Tseng, Hong Kong
Phone: (+852) 24918833
Rating (via Openrice)
Map (via Live Search)

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Mandarin Oriental Cake Shop

Money does not guarantee happiness, but happiness sure does cost money.

After my afternoon haircut session, I began to feel a lot less depressed. I guess the hair really changes the mood of a person.

I then went to meet up with Gwen at Mandarin Oriental cake shop for afternoon tea. I really like the place because they have very nice seats and cakes; and it is always nice to leisurely chat with friends about nothing while looking at people traversing across the busy streets.

We ordered a tea set for two. For HKD$298, we got a pot of tea; three-tier stand of finger sandwiches, cakes, and pastries; a basket of raisin scones with strawberry rose petal jam and clotted cream; a plate of marble cake and Battenberg; and a shot of chocolate mousse.

The mahjong-like finger sandwiches were my favorite. They were petite and easy to eat. The scones were warm and fluffy too, although I did find them a little too big. The strawberry rose petal jam was lightly fragrant, which added a nice layer to the scone along with the heavy clotted cream.

Gwen told me that she will be going back to Europe to chase after her dream. Before she left, she gave me two of her books. I wished her good luck. In case Gwen gets famous one day, I also asked her to sign her books for me!

Mandarin Oriental Cake Shop
Address: 中環干諾道中5號香港文華東方酒店 Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 5 Connaught Road, Central. Hong Kong
Phone: (+852) 28254008
Website: http://www.mandarinoriental.com/hotel/514000041.asp
Rating (via Openrice)
Map (via Live Search)

 

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