Tastebuds

A food blog from everywhere!

La Seine

La Seine
Address: G/F, Xinghai Concert Hall, 33 Qingbo Rd, Ersha Island
Tel: 8735 2222 ext 888, 8735 2531

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Last night we took a visit to La Seine, the French restaurant behind XingHai Concert Hall on Er Sha Island.

I have pretty fond memories of this place…it’s sort of like the place where I grew up. Ah, just being on Er Sha brings back so many memories…=)

Anyways, back to the restaurant. La Seine is really one of those high-class Western cuisine places in Guangzhou. The ambience is sort of darkish, as one would find in many higher-class Western restaurants, and their food is definitely pretty decent and authentic. I even heard that some time back they had a French pastry chef working there, though last night I only saw Chinese cooks in the open kitchen.

After we placed our orders they brought us the bread basket. There was a nice variety inside, including baguette (THANK GOODNESS the crust wasn’t soft!), walnut bread (crispy crust and a decent amount of walnuts; my favourite of the night), a wheat roll (super dry, not good), and sesame flatbreads.

The bread was served warm with butter. However, we took it a step further by ordering the cheese platter and slattering the cheeses on the rolls! La Seine has a very decent selection of cheeses. Unfortunately I was too lazy to ask for the names of each of them but from what I can glean there was brie (AWESOMELY creamy), blue cheese (all right, though I’ve never been a great fan of the strong taste), some log-shaped cheese that was nice and gooey and had a peppery kick to it, and then four other types of cheese that I have no clue about. This platter costed 126RMB, and I think it was worth every jiao!

Oh yeah, and they have this neat looking cheese cart in the middle of the room.

Next, my Lyonnaise Onion Soup came along. Now, I know that French onion soup is supposed to be served with a slice of baguette and melted cheese on top, but is the bread supposed to be completely soaked and soggy??? I’d always thought that the bread should be so stale so as to be able to hold its shape even in the liquid…Anyways, I guess I have an adversion to eating soggy bread so this item didn’t really add up for me. The flavour of the soup was pretty good (you can tell that it’s been boiled for a long time) but the soggy bread was just sort of weird…

For my main I had actually ordered a Tuna Tartare but apparently they made a mistake and instead gave me a Tuna Steak. Gr…I guess not many people order Tuna Tartare around here. Oh wells, I guess I have to come back another time to try the tartare.

Oh, but on a side note, when we brought the mistake to the attention of a waitress, we asked her to bring us a menu and show us which dish was served to us. So she walked off but then instead went off to attend another table and totally forgot about us! Tsk tsk.

The Tuna Steak was nonetheless pretty good. Apart from being severely over-cooked (50%??! Goodness!), it was nicely seasoned and the cream sauce added a subtle richness to it. The tuna came with a small side of rice and beans but I didn’t really touch those as I was too focused on cheese and bread =P

So overall, it was a wonderful meal at La Seine. The portions may be somewhat small but they’re tasty and totally worth the cost.

OH! ANd on another side note, I’m now pre-editing all my photos before I post them up so their quality should be better now!

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October 29, 2009 Posted by | French, Guangzhou, Restaurants | Leave a comment

Bakery Post#2: Matcha, Red Bean, Custard Pudding

Bakery Post #2: Matcha, Red Bean, Custard Pudding
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Through a friend’s suggestion I discovered a new, intriguing bakery near the train station today. Unfortunately I have AGAIN failed to record the name of the
establishment but it is located in the office building to the northwest of the GZ East Train Station. It’s in the same building where the 7-11 and Starbucks and
McDonalds are, so not too hard to find.

At first sight one can see that this place is classy; it isn’t just any old Chinese bakery. In fact, they sold a lot of Western-style goods like biscotti and
madeleines, treats that are almost impossible to find in a typical bakery in Guangzhou. AND they had artisan breads! I’ll definitely go back to try those sometime.

But anyways, today, I decided to get the most unusual-looking item that I could find: the Matcah, Red Bean, and Custard Pudding.

I have to say this roll was definitely very unusual. It consisted of a matcha-flavoured soft bread ring riddled with red bean pieces and topped with custard.
My opinions on each of these components individually aren’t very high. I found the matcha bread to be highly lacking in the green-tea flavour even though one can
smell the green-tea scent very clearly. ANd the bread base wasn’t very sweet either…it seemed like they skimped out on the sugar and made it up with the pieces of
red bean, which were unevenly dispersed throughout the dough and thus resulted in random chunks of sweetness amidst the surrounding…non-sweetness.

Now, the custard, on the other hand, was quite good. It had just the right amount of sweetness. Clearly its role is, like the red bean’s, to impart the necessary
sugar to the bread base. Unfortunately, again the amount of custard did not match with the amount of bread so there were again areas of “non-sweetness.”

Biting into all those components as a whole, there was a subtle contrast between the gooey custard (which wasn’t sticky, so it isn’t a messy eat) and the soft
bread, but I think it would have been better if the custard had been caramelized at the top. Ah, creme brulee on matcha bread! Now that sounds interesting.

October 25, 2009 Posted by | Bakery, Guangzhou | | Leave a comment

Cafe de Coral

Cafe de Coral
Address: Everywhere
http://www.cafedecoral.com/web/show/show.jsp?ppid=10

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Sorry for not having posted for sooo long…it is so difficult finding a suitable proxy these days that I usually guiltily just give up…sigh, guess this is just China.

Anyways, a super long while ago when I was in Hong Kong and was feeling miserly after a day of impulse shopping, I decided to get some cheap dinner.
So the natural choice had to be Cafe de Coral!

Cafe de Coral is a very popular HK-style fast food restaurant. They have branches everywhere these days…I guess their main appeal is that they serve cheap, good food, the former of which is a rarity in HK.

The ordering system was a bit confusing…they have different lines for different categories. I didn’t want to appear like a tourist so I ordered one of the few items that I was able to read off the menu: curried beef brisket!

It was quite good, actually. The curry flavour was there, the beef was very tender, and the portion was quite large.

In addition to the curry I also had a HK-style bubble tea. What is a HK-style meal without bubble tea?

So overall, it was a nice cheap meal. If you want to have a taste of what HK locals eat, Cafe de Coral would probably be a good bet.

October 24, 2009 Posted by | Chinese, Hong Kong, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment

Bakery Post #1: Red Bean Pastry

Bakery Post #1: Red Bean Pastry
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So because I like breads and pastries so much and I’m always looking for an excuse to visit bakeries, I have decided to start a bakery series! At least once a week I will blog about an intriguing bakery item that I find around town. I’ll try my best to post unusual items that aren’t usually found in typical Chinese bakeries in North America but actually, once you come to China that really isn’t difficult at all. Over the years I have seen many of the typical Chinese bakery items disappear from local bakeries and replaced by stranger and stranger offerings…

Anyways, so the item of this week is a red bean pastry

that I found at breadTalk.

breadTalk is a fairly new franchise here in Guangzhou and isn’t as ubiquitous as, let’s say, Maxims. Thus their breads are quite unique. Take the red bean pastry, for instance. I haven’t seen this anywhere else. Hmmm, how to describe it…

Firstly, it is very sticky. The wrinkly pastry appears to be glazed with some sort of syrupy glaze…thus it isn’t the sort of thing that you can eat neatly. Past the outer layer of sweet puff pastry is a mixture of custard and red beans. The filling wasn’t too sweet and blended into the outer layer quite well. Biting into the bun, one can taste the lightly caramelized outer pastry, which is slightly chewey, and then the lightly sweetened inner filling, which is smooth and soft. A really nice treat overall.

October 9, 2009 Posted by | Bakery, Guangzhou | , | 1 Comment

Hot Pot at Grandview

Hot Pot at Grandview Mall
Address: 8th floor, Grandview Mall (above the arcade)

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A few days ago we had lunch at a hot pot restaurant in Grandview Mall (sorry, forgot the name again…). When we got there at noon the place was pretty empty, but it did fill up somewhat during our meal. The restaurant is pretty dark and has a rather…cryptic design. Definitely not your typical hot pot restaurant.

First they served us complimentary drinks: water (lol) and a small glass of plum juice. The juice was pretty fresh and pulpy. It tasted sweet and sour and was somewhat catchy; a you sip some and then you want more sort of idea.

Unlike traditional hotpot, here diners are provided their own individual pots. For my soup base I had mushroom broth.

For my sauce, I had the sesame sauce. It came at first with a LOT of oil that I scatted off before taking the photo…

We ordered a moderate amount of food but godly, their portions were quite small for the prices that they were charging! True, the ingredients do seem more fresh and the choices are more upscale than typical hot pot places but honestly, it was quite pricey…


Clockwise from top-left: fish (really boney), fried bean curd, lamb, mushroom combo, beef, and wood ear.


Clockwise from top-left: venison, fish, bean curd, wood ear, beef, mountain yam, meat ball combination (handmade and pretty good), and beef marrow (somewhat slimy).


Vegetable combination (18 RMB!)

In the end, it was a decent meal. They had some pretty unusual offerings such as venison and beef marrow, which were interesting experiences. The leftover broth at the end was excellent. However, I think that really, for the same general hot pot experience I would go somewhere cheaper next time…

October 8, 2009 Posted by | Chinese, Guangzhou, Restaurants | | Leave a comment

Shanghainese Restaurant at Citic Plaza

Shanghainese Restaurant at Citic Plaza
Address: 3rd floor, Citic Plaza

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One night we were in the mood for Shanghainese food, so we headed to the Shanghainese restaurant on the third floor of Citic Plaza. Sorry, for again I have forgotten to grab and business card and as a result have totally forgotten the name of the establishment…But Citic Plaza…it’s not that hard to find.

The restaurant was fairly small in Chinese standards and on that weekday evening it wasn’t very crowded either. The atmosphere was quite all right but I was a little peeved that the table next to us was producing an unpleasant amount of cigarette smoke; I hate smoke.

Anyways, on to the food. First, tea was served. Their tea cups here are quite unique, as can be seen by the photos. However, I think it only had an aesthetic appeal, as the taste of the tea wasn’t enhanced in any way.

Then came two appetizers (which we didn’t order but weren’t free either), salted peanuts and marinated vegetables, suan cai. The peanuts were somewhat unique; instead of simply roasted peanuts crusted with salt these ones had a layer of some other spice added. I can’t remember how they tasted anymore, but there was something different about them…and the suan cai was just suan cai, nothing special.

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October 4, 2009 Posted by | Chinese, Guangzhou, Restaurants | , | Comments Off on Shanghainese Restaurant at Citic Plaza

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!
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Today is the mid-autumn festival! Wow, so many celebrations clumped together this year!

So anyways, what better way to celebrate the mid-autumn festival, I thought, than to blog about mooncakes! Since today IS the actual holiday, mooncakes have started going on sale, so I’ve gone out and brought back several varieties of mooncakes from various locations to taste.

Mooncakes are traditionally eaten during the moon festival. However, these days, few people actually buy them for the sake of eating them. Mooncake quality have simply gone down or they have simply become untrendy…these days people usually only purchase mooncakes to give away as gifts. It is more of an obligation than anything else. Moreover, the received mooncakes are often thrown away rather than eaten, which is somewhat sad.

True, mooncakes aren’t a delicate type of food. They are heavy, dense, and not particularly healthy. They’re usually stuffed with only one filling, making them rather one dimensional in flavour. There are newer, less traditional types of mooncakes in the market that have interesting flavour variations, though. And of course there is now the increasingly popular snow skin mooncakes, which are less dense and supposedly healthier. Don’t know, but I’ll go give them a try.

Cantonese-Style Mooncakes

Cantonese-style mooncakes are the ones baked with a glossy crust and filled with a traditional filling such as red bean, wu ren (a seed, nut, and syrup mixture), or lotus seed paste.


Lotus-paste with egg yolk

The lotus-paste filling is probably the most popular flavour for traditional mooncakes. They’re supposedly the most expensive types. The above sample is from the Marriot Hotel, given to us by some business-friend. In the center is a part of an egg-yolk, which gives the confection a sweet-salty taste that may take some getting used to.


Errg I couldn’t figure out the flavour, but it isn’t one of the traditional ones


Wu ren flavoured mooncake

Well, the cake above isn’t really 100% traditional…the filling is traditional, the crust is traditional, but the size most certainly isn’t. This dinner-plate-sized concoction weighs 2kgs! Don’t know who can finish that…I didn’t get to try any because it was given away before I had the chance, but my dad said it tasted pretty good. Again, no elaboration.


Look at the size!

Suzhou-Style Mooncakes

Suzhou-style mooncakes, unlike the Cantonese ones that are usually found in supermarkets, have a flaky lard-based crust. However they usually have the same sort of traditional fillings. Here in Guangzhou they don’t tend to be as popular as the other varieties.


Taro + egg yolk filling

Snow Skin Mooncakes

Snow skin mooncakes are a fairly new variety that is very rapidly rising in popularity. In fact when I went looking for them this morning, they were the only variety in most stores that have not gone on sale because their inventories have already gone so low! Unlike the traditional mooncakes, the snow skin ones have less dense fillings (such as mung bean) and are wrapped in a thin layer of moochi. This type of mooncake usually requires refridgeration and they tend to de-shape easily so they aren’t as portable as the traditional variety.


Peach-flavoured


Sesame-flavoured

The ones below don’t require refrigeration so you can see that their crusts look a little baked, even though they were still labeled “ice skin mooncakes.”


Green tea flavoured


Mung bean flavoured


Corn-flavoured


Egg yolk flavoured


Flower-something flavoured


Can’t remember what flavour…

Other Untraditional Mooncakes

Come this time of the year every food-related enterprise comes up with some form of mooncake-like product to try and take advantage of the local Mid-Autumn mooncake-buying culture. Haagen-Daz serves up ice cream mooncakes, Starbucks produces coffee mooncakes, and ….

A while ago I tried one of Haagen-Daz’s ice cream mooncakes. They basically consisted of a block of Haagen-Daz ice cream moulded into a mooncake shape and covered with chocolate. They had two flavours on offer, macadamia nut or strawberry. I had the macadamia nut one, which at the centre had a little scoop of mango sorbet to imitate an egg yolk. Neat, I suppose. But really this mooncake wasn’t that spectacular. The chocolate coating was sooo hard that one needed a saw to slice through to the ice cream. Because I was eating at a Haagen-Daz restaurant, the mooncake was served on a plate and began melting quite fast. Alas, I had to gobble up everything at a higher speed than I would like and as a result I was unable to truly savour the ice cream. At a whooping 78RMB, I really don’t recommend you purchase a Haagen-Daz mooncake.


Vegetable juice flavoured

And lastly is this crustless mooncake that I found at C-Store listed as vegetable juice flavoured! Strange…

Well, hopefully you enjoyed this post! Now I have got a whole ton of mooncake to eat…

October 3, 2009 Posted by | Guangzhou, Uncategorized | | 1 Comment

Dim Sum at Hai Yun Xuan

Hai Yun Xuan
Address: Long Kou Xi Lu, just south of Tian He Bei Lu

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Happy Chinese National Holidays! Yesterday was the PRC’s big 60th anniversary celebration, so we decided to join in the fray by having dim sum at a new restaurant.

Hai Yun Xuan had only recently opened this week. There used to be another restaurant in its place some time ago, and upon entering the main dining hall one can see that they didn’t really change the design of the old establishment. Everything was quite neat and brightly lighted and the morning crowd wasn’t that large.

Like most dim sum restaurants these days, Hai Yun Xuan doesn’t have carts. Instead you have to order from a menu, which is fine with me since my Chinese is getting better!

The first item that came was the Three Colours Bean Cake. It was basically a Chinese water chestnut-cake with the water chestnuts replaced with three different legumes: azuki beans, millet, and something else that I can’t remember. Apart from the aesthetic appeal this dish really wasn’t much; the beans, unlike water chestnuts, provided no texture contrast. I think I would take the traditional water chestnut version over this any day.

The boiled greens served with sweet soy sauce were standard but good.

My parents’ orders, steamed pork offal and steamed beef ribs. My dad said that the beef ribs weren’t good, though he didn’t elaborate.

The shrimp dumplings tasted strange. I don’t think that the shrimp that they used was very fresh…and the stuffing was overly oily. It wasn’t very enjoyable…

Deep-fried shrimp rolls. I didn’t try these as I don’t like the thought of eating deep-fried foods.

So far, the meal hasn’t been going that well, and unfortunately it gets worse.

When the beancurd rolls came, we thought that they tasted strange. The flavours were there, but there was something wrong with the texture…at the end of our meal, when I tried another bite, we realized that the pork inside was RAW. RAW PORK. My goodness. Certainly not good publicity during a swine flu scare. I felt pretty nauseated after realizing that…it was probably just a mental thing and I don’t think I’ll be getting sick but still…RAW pork??!

However, the last item that came, the sweet buns, were quite decent. They had a flaky crust on the top and some form of gooey, sweet stuff as filling. I couldn’t figure out what it was, probably just sugar syrup or something common, but it accompanied the soft bun quite well, even though it got a bit too sweet at the end.

At the end we spoke with the manager about the pork and they took that item off our bill. The total cost came up to 100 something RMB, which is quite cheap. But still, the thought of that raw pork plus the other fairly mediocre dishes probably won’t get me coming back again anytime soon.

Oh, and before we left the restaurant we sat back for a while watching the beginning of the huge military parade show hosted in Beijing in celebration of the 60th anniversary. President Hu Jin Tao poked his head out of his limousine shouting, “Greetings comrades! You must be tired!” to the troops and troops of soldiers lined along the two sides of ChangAn Ave. in front of Tian An Men Square. When we got home my parents sat for two hours in front of the TV watching that military parade. Lol.

October 2, 2009 Posted by | Breakfast, Guangzhou, Restaurants | , | Leave a comment

Little Mermaid Bakery

Little Mermaid Bakery
Address: cookedDeli at citysuper, Harbour City
Website: http://www.logon.com.hk/module4_detail.php?detail=48

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At Harbour City in Hong Kong, I came across the Little Mermaid Bakery and decided to try out some of their breads.

Little Mermaid Bakery is sort of like a fusion bakery; it carries both Asian and Western style breads. I didn’t get to try their artisan breads but they looked and felt pretty decent; they had the sort of crustiness that you don’t find in so-called “Western” breads here in Guangzhou.

Anyways, I wasn’t feeling too hungry so I only got two items: the sticky choclate doughnut and the Camembert bread.

That picture of the sticky chocolate doughnut looks a bit creepy, doesn’t it…well, it didn’t taste all that good either. It wasn’t really a doughnut; it was more like a moochi with chocolate sauce inside. The chocolate flavour wasn’t very strong at all…all I could taste was sweetness. Don’t recommend this.

But the Camembert bread, on the other hand, was actually quite decent. All right, the bread was very Asian: it was soft and slightly sweet with walnuts pieces here and there. However, they actually had quite an amount of Camembert in the center, which was quite good. It made me feel like I was getting the value for my money since Camembert isn’t the cheapest thing in these parts. Unfortunately I had to enjoy this bun cold; I think it would have been a lot more enjoyable straight out of the oven.

October 1, 2009 Posted by | Bakery, Hong Kong, Travels | Leave a comment