Tastebuds

A food blog from everywhere!

37.2 Degrees Bistro

37.2 Degrees Bistro
Address: G/F, No. 29, Tian Shou Lu, Tian He, Guangzhou
Telephone: 020-38324725

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Quite a while ago a few friends and I went to 37.2 Degrees Bistro to get cake.

The restaurant, even though it has two floors, is quite small. When we got there at around six the place was already starting to crowd up so I guess it is quite popular. I hear that the food there is quite good, but during our stay we only sampled the cakes.

They display their selection of cakes at a counter on the first floor. I selected the Napoleon cake, which consisted of flaky pastry, cream, nuts and fruits nestled in multiple layers. The taste of the cake was all right, but I must say that it was such a pain to eat! They only provided us with this tiny tea forks with which it was impossible to spear through a slice of the Napoleon cake. I ended up making quite a mess and had to eventually dissect the cake layer by layer, which sort of defeated its purpose.

My companions ordered the New York cheesecake and the mixed nuts cheesecake. Both were very good and both tasted quite similar. They were nice, dense, creamy cheesecakes, very much unlike the one that I had at Angel Simple. So if you’re ever in the mood for authentic cheesecake, this place may hit the spot.

Mixed Nuts Cheesecake

New York Cheesecake

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September 30, 2009 Posted by | Desserts, Guangzhou, Restaurants | , , | Leave a comment

Breakfast at Pacific Coffee Company

Pacific Coffee Company
Address: Everywhere in Hong Kong
Website: http://www.pacificcoffee.com/eng/home.php

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This weekend I headed down to Hong Kong again and stayed overnight. The next morning I headed down to Pacific Coffee Company for breakfast.

Pacific Coffee Company is a chain store that is just as ubiquitous in HK as Starbucks. They offer pretty much the same sort of fare: Western beverages and pastries and such. You can find them everywhere these days. As such I wasn’t expecting much quality when I walked in that morning.

For breakfast I got myself a yogurt, a hot chocolate, and a spinach and cheese quiche. The hot chocolate was TERRIBLE. It was watery and had absolutely no chocolate flavour. Don’t order it!

The spinach quiche, on the other hand, was surprisingly good. Despite the fact that it clearly wasn’t fresh, once reheated it still retained much of its flavour. There was lots of spinach, just the way I like it, and the eggy filling was savoury and flavourful. I couldn’t taste much cheese but I didn’t really mind.

But like Starbucks this place is expensive; all that costed me 60 something HKD.

September 29, 2009 Posted by | Breakfast, Restaurants | , , | Leave a comment

Honeymoon Dessert

Honeymoon Desserts
Address: Shop 103, G/F, Up Tower; #182 Bei Jing Lu; YueXiu District; GuangZhou; PRC
Website: http://www.honeymoon-dessert.com/en_us/

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I realize that Honeymoon Desserts is the name of the dessert place that I encountered in Hong Kong at Times Square. Recently I also learned that they have branches in Guangzhou! So one day, while at Beijing Lu, we decided to go and give the place a try.

The restaurant here was very HK style aka cramped and expensive. They have items that cost upwards of 60RMB! Well, we stuck with their less pricey selections.

This is the purple glutinuous rice with almond milk. Here their glutinuous rice was a little different; they omitted the taro chunks and added corn. It still tasted all right, though I did want the big chunks of taro. The almond milk tasted weird…artificial, almost. Or maybe it was just because I am not used to the taste of almond extract. I also wished that they had added crushed ice into the almond milk as that would have made it more refreshing.

We also had the red bean soup with jelly. I think there was a choice between hot and cold and we chose the cold variety. I didn’t really like this dessert. THe jelly was tasteless, absolutely tasteless, and the red bean soup…I don’t know why, but I’ve never enjoyed red bean soup that isn’t home made. It’s got this strange aftertaste that isn’t present when you make the dessert at home…Maybe they’re adding something that we aren’t…I guess I’m just not used to the taste.

Even though we didn’t greatly enjoy the items that we ordered, I don’t think that that is a fair reflection of their desserts. I think we’ll have to return and try their other items in order to make a better judgment.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Desserts, Guangzhou, Restaurants | , | Leave a comment

Dim Sum at Guangzhou Restaurant

Guangzhou Restaurant
Address: No.112, Tiyu Road (East), Tianhe District, Guangzhou

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A few weeks ago we got up fairly late on a Saturday morning and decided to head to Guangzhou Restaurant in Tian He for dim sum.

Guangzhou Restaurant is one of the most famous and popular restaurants in the city. In fact, they’ve been so successful that they now have branches in other countries. As a result the place was invariably busy when we got there, even though their immense establishment stretched two whole floors of the building. However, we only had to wait for about 10 minutes before getting a table.

Dim sum at Guangzhou Restaurant is served menu-style; there are no carts wheeling the food around. That is understandable, I suppose, especially with an establishment this big. Their menu here is pretty large…to order, each table is provided with a pencil and diners have to check off the items that they want.

We ordered a total of ten items that day. It was quite a lot. Firstly came the BBQ pork buns. The buns here are very good, light and fluffy, and the filling inside has the right combination of sweet and salty. However, I have heard from somewhere that that nice glean that they have on the buns is a result of MSG brushed on top. Don’t know, but it tasted pretty good.

For such a huge and busy restaurant, service was very fast. Food started coming about 5 minutes after we placed our order. After the BBQ buns came the various beef innards with turnip. I never try this stuff anymore, though I used to as a kid. Tripe is just chewy…all the flavour really comes from the soy sauce that the ingredients are boiled it.

We also ordered steamed spareribs over taro, another dish that I don’t eat anymore. I did eat some of the taro, which was overcooked.

Whenever we go yum cha we always have to have a dish of boiled vegetables. I love boiled vegetables, but these were a tad too oily.

The panfried pork chive dumplings were decent. They weren’t amazing but certainly passable. The filling inside included pork, chives, and waterchesnuts, which provided a nice texture contrast.

I was a little fearful when ordering the xiao long bao because I’ve never had a decent xiao long bao with soup in Guangzhou! They always come around soupless and more like regular dumplings. However, these ones at Guangzhou Restaurant were different: they actually had soup inside! I was quite happy. Even though the filling wasn’t all that flavourful and the dough was a little thick, especially at the seams, the soup made up for it.

Since my favourite foods are bread and vegetables, I ordered the panfried spinach bun with pork. These were quite good; the bun was nice and fluffy with a nice sear at the top and bottom providing texture contrast, and the filling inside was quite flavourful.

The last item to come was the steamed vegetarian dumplings. These were glutinuous flour dumplings filled with peanuts, water chestnuts, and some other non-meat ingredients and then steamed on tofu skins. They were all right. The filling had flavour and contrast but the dough was way too thick and chewy…

And that concludes our dim sum meal! The price came up to 200 something RMB, which is decent for the quantity and quality. However, one overall aspect that I did not enjoy was the oiliness of all the foods; I walked out with a highly unpleasant sensation on my tongue as a result of all that oil. I guess they need to cut back on the fat.

September 27, 2009 Posted by | Breakfast, Guangzhou, Restaurants | , | Leave a comment

Food Adventure in Tian He

All around Tian He

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Last week, after a super stressful few days, I decided that it was time unwind by…exploring and eating! So in the evening I headed out to Tian He.

My first stop was at Bread Papa’s on the 2nd floor of Grandview Mall. Bread Papa has come quite a long way; I remember getting a cream puff back when they opened their first store in Guangzhou at Grandview back in 2005 or 2006. Back then they only had one option on the menu! Now they have so many choices and they’ve opened so many stores all around China…

My feelings are quite mixed about Bread Papa. I would never rave about their cream puffs for they’re not that good, but I guess they do hit the spot it you ever get a craving for cream puffs. Bread Papa’s cream puffs are pretty big and filled right up with sweet custard-like cream. They bake their pastry right on location so it is fairly fresh. However, the one that I had had evidently been sitting around for a while for it was somewhat dry. Cream puffs are also somewhat messy to eat…I ended up with powdered sugar and filling all over my fingers.

After my cream puff fix I decided that I wanted cake. So I headed out to a bakery that I’d never tried before called Angel Simple. I had passed by the place a few times before and they have a large selection of cheesecakes so I decided that it was time to go and give them a try. Like Bread Papa, Angel Simple is a chain store that is fairly new on the Guangzhou food market; it wasn’t around till only a few years back.

After taking quite some time feasting my eyes on their large selection of cakes, I settled with the green tea cheesecake. Bad choice. The cake certainly looked promising, but it didn’t taste like cheesecake at all. It was light and airy, more like cream cheese whipped with cream…I guess it is an Asian thing, since dense, strong cakes aren’t favoured in this part of the world. The flavour of the green tea, however, was very subtle, almost too subtle to be noticeable. In the end the artificial flavours just became too much and I didn’t manage to finish the cake, even though the slice was fairly small…So, the credo is that if you like American cheesecake, don’t get your cake fix from a Chinese bakery.

After all that sugary stuff I wanted something salty. So I headed down to Festival Walk, the underground mall east of Teemall, and got some fried octopus balls (takoyaki) from one of the stalls.

I actually really liked this snack. For 6 RMB you get six takoyaki freshly made to order smothered with mayo and some brown sauce and sprinkled with dried fish flakes. The takoyaki itself didn’t have great flavour but it tasted good with the condiments. However there was a bit too much brown sauce, which was somewhat overpowering. I also do wish that the takoyaki had a crispier exterior as that would contrast with the soft centre quite well.

By the time I finished the takoyaki I was very full. However, I was determined to have some frozen yogurt before calling it a day. I headed over to Dolciberry, also located in Festival Walk. It seems like one of the few places in Guangzhou where one can find frozen yogurt. They’ve opened fairly recently and don’t have many flavours, only original tart and a “monthly special” which for at least the past two months has been mango. For 18 RMB you can get a small cup with one topping. I got the mango yogurt with pineapple topping.

The topping was canned pineapple, nothing special at all, but the mango yogurt was pretty good. It didn’t really have that yogurt-like taste that original tart has and which I don’t like all that much. However, it was really too much food for me so I left over half of it unfinished.

After stuffing myself I somehow did managed to hobble myself back home. Ah, it was a good evening.

September 21, 2009 Posted by | Guangzhou, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

High Tea at The Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong

The Peninsula Hotel Lobby
Salisbury Road, Kowloon
http://www.peninsula.com/hong_kong/en/default.aspx#/hong_kong/en/
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A continuation of our Hong Kong adventure:

So after having our dessert at Causeway Bay, my friend and I headed back to Kowloon and set out to accomplish one of my life’s goals: have high tea at the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong.

For those of you who don’t know, the Peninsula is one of the oldest high-class hotels in Hong Kong and it is famous for its high tea. Served every afternoon, it aims to recreate one of the most popular past-times brought over by the British during Hong Kong’s colonial years. Needless to say because the place is so touristy and classy, everything at the Peninsula is notoriously expensive.

Anyways, so we disregarded the price for this once and went and had their high tea set. I must say that it was quite the experience. Everything was so daintily done that we felt rather out of place at times! Firstly, we each got individual tea pots with our choice of teas. I had jasmine tea and my friend had Earl Grey, which was served with milk. They also brought over hot water for us to add to the tea leaves when needed.

Pretty soon the three-tier tea set with the food came. On the bottom tier were three raisin scones served with butter and jam. They were pretty decent scones.

On the second tier were the savoury items: cucumber sandwiches, ham and egg salad sandwiches, a small quiche, a smoked salmon roll, and spinach pastry. I really liked the ham and egg salad sandwich in particular.

On the top tier were the desserts: a cake stick with fruits, cream cake rolls (it had this strange disk on top that I thought tasted like cardboard), truffle (very, very sweet), another chocolate treat (also extremely sweet, esp towards the end of the meal), and a few other tidbits that I can’t really recall.

Halfway through out meal they brought us a raspberry coulis + cheesecake mousse + lychee ice concoction that was absolutely amazing. Definitely the best item of the meal, I thought.

So that’s the end of my one-day Hong Kong adventure! I was absolutely stuffed by the end, but it was great fun, and I had a great time catching up with my friend. Oh, btw, the bill at the Peninsula came up to 500 something HK dollars.

September 19, 2009 Posted by | Miscellaneous, Restaurants | , , | Leave a comment

Hong Kong Adventure

Location: All around Hong Kong


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Last week I went down to Hong Kong to visit a friend and partake in a one-day food adventure. It was absolutely amazing.

First up, I met my friend at Harbord City at around noon and I was quite hungry. So we headed to this Chinese restaurant on the second floor of the shopping mall called Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao. It was a fancy Chinese restaurant with fairly high prices, but that is to be expected at such a high-class place like Harbour City. Nonetheless the great food that they served totally made up for it.

First, we had the Japanese Style Cucumber Salad. It consisted of garlicky cucumbers and a few pieces of some soft white vegetable that I wasn’t able to identify. The salad was very refreshing and a great start to the meal.

Next came the best part of the meal, the xiao long bao. These dumplings were amazing. They were soupy with and their wrapping was quite thin. The flavour of the soup inside was really good as well. A definite must-have if you ever come here.

Because we were planning to eat a bit everywhere (or at least I was), we didn’t order too much. The last item served were the pan-fried pork buns. These were freshly made and pan-fried, resulting in a nice crispy bottom with a soft upper part. The filling was similar to the xiao long bao filling without as much soup. My only complaint was that the buns were a bit small, but otherwise they were excellent.

After this Chinese lunch we went off on the metro to Causeway Bay. There, underneath Times Square near City Super is a small food court serving various different cuisines. One of the booths sold Asian desserts and drinks. It was very easy to order because they had plastic versions of all their items on display, much like those you see at Japanese restaurants. Anyways, so from the dessert booth I got the Purple Sticky Rice and Durian with Coconut Milk. It basically consisted of a scoop of purple sticky rice with taro chunks and some durian in a pool of shaved ice drizzled with coconut milk. Sounds simple, but it was absolutely amazing…the textures and the tastes all complemented each other very well…I think that I’m drooling just thinking about it…So if you’re ever in the area, definitely check the place out!

September 18, 2009 Posted by | Miscellaneous, Restaurants | , , , | Leave a comment

Korean Restaurant at Teemall

Location: 5th floor, Teemall

Sorry about the lack of location for this review. I totally forgot to take a business card when I left so now I can’t remember the name of the restaurant. It’s not on the Teemall website either…however, no worries, you aren’t missing much by avoiding this place.

So yesterday, my dad and I decided to head to lunch at one of the restaurants on the 5th floor at Teemall after some shopping. I should have known that it was a bad move since most restaurants in these big name shopping centres are pretty mediocre but for convenience’s sake we went anyways.

We choose a rather non-descript Korean restaurant located in a corner next to the large food court with Cafe de Coral and what-not. It was a fairly small restaurant compared to the ones surrounding it, and there wasn’t a lot of people when we got there at around noon.

We got seated and they served us rice tea, which was pretty good. It had that nice burnt-rice flavour.


After we placed our orders they served us the banchan. There were five types: boiled baby bak choy (which I forgot to take a photo of but you can probably imagine how it looks like), liver, kimchi, white fungus, and these fried sugary crisps. The bak choy was just boiled bak choy, nothing special at all. The liver was marinated in spicy oil…I didn’t taste any. The kimchi was average. The white fungus was interesting; it had this sweet-sour taste to it. Never had fungus like that before. And the sugar crisps…didn’t taste any either.

Very soon our entrees came. I ordered a traditional dolsot bibimbap and my dad ordered a dolsot bibimbap with fish roe. Our orders came with kimchi soup and gochujang, the red pepper paste with which you mix into the rice.

Dolsot bibimbap; Sorry, I mixed it before remembering to take a photo…I need to get better at this…

Fish roe bibimbap

Kimchi soup

Frankly put, the bibimbaps were terrible. The ingredients weren’t very fresh. The rice was dry and the egg yolk on my dolsot bibimbap had a thin dry crust on it, clearly indicating that it’s been sitting around for a while. They also didn’t heat the stone pots up long enough so the rice formed absolutely no crust on the sides of the bowl. That, in my opinion, totally defeats the purpose of stone pot rice. I sent my order back to be reheated but even so not much crust was formed due to the looseness of the rice. Terrible.

We also ordered a Three Colours Vegetable Salad that I again forgot to take a photo of. But really it was just boiled bean sprouts, greens, and a twiggy vegetable that I don’t know the name of. Very mediocre.

It was a very disappointing meal, and the prices weren’t cheap either. The bibimbaps costed 48 and 58 RMB and the Three Colours Vegetable Salad costed 36 RMB. The lesson of the day: don’t eat here!

September 13, 2009 Posted by | Guangzhou, Korean, Restaurants | , , | Leave a comment

Banana Leaf Curry House

Banana Leaf Curry House

Location: 5/F, World Trade Plaza, Huanshi Dong Rd. (环市东路371-375号世贸大厦五楼)

Telephone: 8776 3738


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The one thing that peeves me a lot about food blogs is the lack of accompanying photographs; eating is after all a 50% visual experience! Unfortunately, sometimes I will have to be hypocritical and fail to post photos but I’ll try to keep such posts to a minimum.

A few days ago we were feeling up for some Thai, so my family decided to head to the Banana Leaf Thai restaurant near the Garden Hotel. Banana Leaf is sort of like a franchise with six locations in Guangzhou and three in Shanghai. However, despite that the food here is still pretty good. Authentic, I don’t know, but good, yes.

The decor of the restaurant is very nice. They have a stream running through a part of the dining area with fake market boats floating atop to recreate a traditional Thai floating market. There is a sort of open kitchen at the side with chefs making roti and drinks. Thanks with live seafood were located near the stream, clearly an element catered towards the Chinese obsession with freshness.

Banana Leaf is a loud restaurant. Every night they have a troop of singers who make a huge racket by singing and trying to get people to dance to their songs. It isn’t the place to enjoy a quiet meal.

Service here is very fast. Our food started arriving approximately 10 minutes after we put in our orders.

First was the prawn curry. I really liked this dish. The prawns were flavourful and succulent though I did have to struggle to get the meat out of the hard shells. The winning element of the dish was the curry sauce, which was mild and flavourful and quite rich. Probably not how authentic Thai curry should be but we all enjoyed it enormously. Dipping anything in that sauce makes even the most bland items taste exciting.

Next came some sort of stir-fried curried lamb. The portion was extremely small compared to the photo in the menu. I didn’t really like this dish. It had an interesting array of spices with a splash of acidity but I found it to be too dry. Perhaps I was expecting something bathed in curry and this didn’t fulfill my expectations.

Then came a whole array of dishes. The water spinach stir-fried with sambal was very good and flavourful, though a tad on the oily side.

The roti prata came served with a curry dipping sauce. I didn’t really like the roti; it tasted stale for some reason, even though it was freshly made to order. Perhaps it wasn’t stale but just overly dry…or maybe I just picked the wrong pieces because some of the pieces at the bottom of the basket were brushed with butter. The curry dipping sauce was very different from the curry sauce with the prawns; it was a whole lot stronger spice-wise and oilier. We all preferred the prawn curry over the curry dipping sauce.

The stewed pumpkin with mushrooms was my favourite dish of the night. It consisted of a whole pumpkin stewed and stuffed with stir-fried mushrooms. The mushrooms had a ton of flavour and imparted some of that to the pumpkin so the whole dish tasted wonderful. Well, maybe I’m being partial since I love vegetables, especially pumpkins, but it was a very good dish in its own right.

I also ordered a drink, the red bean and grass jelly with coconut milk. I order this everytime I visit South-east Asian restaurants. The one at Banana Leaf wasn’t that good. It was sloppily assembled and there wasn’t enough ice.

The thing with ethnic restaurants in China is that courses never come in order. The combination satay, which was listed as an appetizer, was the last dish served. There were five different satays (fish, chicken, beef, pork, and shrimp) served with a curry dipping sauce. The satay didn’t taste like satay…it seemed pan-fried as opposed to BBQed. I only tried the beef and the shrimp and there was nothing special about them. The meat wasn’t spiced like it should be so it tasted bland without the curry dip. The shrimp satay had a weird taste…I actually spitted it back out….Also, the curry dip wasn’t very good. I was a little peeved that they didn’t serve the satay with peanut dipping sauce as is traditional.

Overall, the good was decent, but probably not good enough to get me coming back too often. The bill came up to about 260RMB.

September 12, 2009 Posted by | Guangzhou, Restaurants, Thai | , , , | Leave a comment

Vaastu

Vaastu

Location: 1-48 Haiyue Lu, The Canton Place, Zhujiang Xincheng, Guangzhou

Website: http://www.vaastucuisine.com/

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Last Friday evening my family and I went to a fairly new Indian restaurant at Zhu Jiang Xin Cheng called Vaastu. I had found a review on it on the internet, on the NY Times, no less, so I decided to give it a try. The location was a little obscure, and the confusing road signs in the area didn’t help at all, but eventually we found the place.

At first glance the restaurant was quite empty and it remained fairly so during the duration of our stay. It was strange how they had a service-charge section at the front and a non-service charge section at the back. Clearly most customers would opt to pay less and thus their store front would remain empty-looking. Also, it is obvious that the restaurant is specifically geared toward a Western clientele because there was English everywhere.

The menu was nicely laid out and easy to read. We didn’t really know what to order so we went primarily with our waitress’s suggestions.

First they served a complimentary course of fried biscuits with chutneys. I only tried the marinated garlic, which tasted all right. Sour and refreshing.

Service wasn’t particularly fast but nor was it slow either. It was about a 20 minute wait before our orders came. First were the vegetarian patties. They were some form of mixture of chickpeas, spinach, cashew, etc. that was shaped into patties and deep-fried. I didn’t really like them that much; the flavour was all right but I thought that they were a bit salty. I don’t really like deep-fried foods anyways so perhaps I’m being partial…

Next came the lamb sausages on a hot plate over a bed of raw lettuce and onions. The servings here are small; there were about five 8cm long sausages for 60-70 something RMB. I didn’t try them, but may dad said that they were good and nicely spiced. However, he did complain of the small portion size and the hole through the middle of each of the sausages. Perhaps it was a way for the restaurant to capitalize…

Then came the broccoli in a curry sauce. Actually, there really was no sauce because the heat from the hot plate that it was served on cause the sauce to congeal into a pasty-layer on the broccoli. I didn’t like this dish much. The flavour of the sauce was too strong and dry and the broccoli was overcooked. Broccoli needs to be crunch!

After that came the rest of our orders: curried shrimp, chicken tikka masala, and two types of naan. The shrimp was all right; it was cooked to the right level of doneness but I didn’t like the curry. I guess it is a matter of personal preference but I found the sauce to be too obtrusive in flavour. I prefer soft, mild flavours over loud ones.

The chicken tikka masala, on the other hand, was AMAZING. The chicken pieces were boneless and tender and the sauce was creamy, smooth, and full of flavour. It was tomatoey but not overly acidic and had several spices that nicely accompanied it. This dish tasted absolutely amazing with the naan. A definite must-have if you ever drop by Vaastu.

The naan was also very good. We had the plain and buttered varieties, both of which were nice and chewy.

I would say that the food was pretty good overall and it is a good taste of authentic (perhaps?) Indian cuisine in Guangzhou. However, the prices here are high (we had to pay 360 RMB for three people) and the portions aren’t very large at all, so it would have to be an occasional indugence.

September 11, 2009 Posted by | Guangzhou, Indian | , , | Leave a comment