Tastebuds

A food blog from everywhere!

Pegro at the Westin

Pegro at the Westin
Address: 44th floor of the Westin Hotel
Website: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/westin/property/dining/index.html?propertyID=1706

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Today we had lunch at a very unusual venue: 40 floors above the city! Well, we were grocery shopping at the mall underneath the train station and decided to head to the Westin for lunch. As soon as I saw that there’s a restaurant so high up, I demanded that we must check it out.

Pegro does have a pretty decent view of Tianhe, if you factor out the smog. Too bad today was so smoggy…well, most days in Guangzhou are smoggy, especially when the weather is warm. I bet the view is nicer at night, though, when TianHe turns into a panorama of lights.

The restaurant’s decor is pretty nice. Wow, I sure have really vague descriptions when it comes to anything non-food…You know what, since I don’t care much about decor, you should just judge for yourselves from the pic above.

Oh, and the waitresses had very casual uniforms…overly casual for this type of restaurant…

Anyways, enough said, onto the food!

Well, first of all, Pegro, even though it is listed as an Italian restaurant, serves an international buffet lunch for some reason. I was a little dismayed since buffets are usually known for their quantity over quality approach to food. Some high-end buffets in Guangzhou are exceptional, such as the one at White Swan Hotel, but they all have their hits and misses.

First I went for the cold appetizers. The grilled tuna was pretty decent. It had that nice, rare sheen. The jelly ladeled on top was interesting; it was slightly spicy. That, plus the juicy fish eggs, added a unique flavour and texture to the tuna.

The mango salad with sliced beef wasn’t that interesting. The beef was nice and thin but lacked flavour. The mango salad also lacked flavour. Yeah, uninteresting.

The bruschetta was pretty good. The tomato topping was flavourful but the bread underneath has definitely suffered from sitting under the lamp for too long; the olive oil and juices from the topping has made it a bit soggy.

Next to the bruschetta sits the green bean salad with quail eggs and dijon mustard. Not too interesting, though the dijon mustard did jazz up the otherwise mediocre mayo-based dressing.

Of course, and I also got sashimi! Pegro, unlike most other buffets, has a self-serve sashimi platter where you can take as much as you like. Awesome! However, the quality of the fish wasn’t that good. Too many tendons in everything but the salmon. ANd the octopus was too tough. Oh well.

Sorry, my cold appetizers are over yet. To sum up the first stage of the meal I got two freshly-opened oysters! They were fresh and tasted like how oysters should taste.

Ok, onto hot foods. The roasted pumpkin would have been good had it been warm, but alas, it was practically at room temperature. The Yorkshire pudding (I think that’s what that was…not sure…it was eggy and savoury) also suffered the same ailments. The roast beef was better, but too stringy in the well-cooked outter layer.

ABove is the random hot foods plate: clockwise from top right, we have a cheese and spinach baked oyster, rice ball, meat puff, and chicken tikka. The oyster was seriously lacking in flavour; one would expect anything with cheese to be pretty flavourful but NOO, this was not so. Don’t bother trying it out. The rice ball was all right, but it wasn’t as hot as fried foods should be. Take a look at the rice ball innards!!

Right. Back to the rest of the items on the random hot foods plate: the meat puff was pretty good. Well, actually, it didn’t have enough stuffing, and I couldn’t quite make out what the stuffing was (I think it was pork floss or something), but the pastry was very well executed. Very flaky with numberous identifiable layers…yum. Oh, but the chicken tikka, don’t even bother looking at it. It was the most bland, dry, and boring piece of chicken ever.

Wow, this has been a lot of food…I actually had a plate of vegetables that I forgot to take a picture of but they were nothing amazing. There was this mixed vegetable dish with egg yolks that was nice but the other stuff was just mediocre.

For my pre-dessert course I had cheese and bread. I love cheese, but one can not get good cheese conveniently in Guangzhou. The cheese selection here was pretty unique; instead of sticking to the boring cheddar, cream cheese, and brie combination found elsewhere, Prego had three strange cheeses that I did not know the names of! However, I only liked the soft cheese…the hard ones had really strong, sharp flavours that I’m not too fond of. Yeah, I guess I’m not much of a cheese connoisseur.

Oh, and you see a piece of salami there. I don’t like salami much so I shouldn’t comment.

Prego also has a nice selection of bread, but I only tried out the baguette and the grainy dinner roll. The baguette was too dry, probably as a result of sitting around for too long, and the dinner roll was too Chinese-bready (AKA sweet and soft and spongy). Alas, no good bread here…

All right, finally, after all that, came the most important part of the meal: dessert! I actually tried out almost every dessert that they had on offer cause I have no self-control. Haha.

The chocolate mousse was rather boring. Too monotonous in texture, and not chocolatey enough.

The chocolate mousse cake was nice though; pretty chocolatey. The cherry was unnecessary.

Walnut brownie with buttercream= The buttercream frosting was good: not too sweet and not over-powering. However, the brownie wasn’t good: overly dry.

Apricot tart: very nice. The apricot had a nice tartness that actually complimented the sweet crust quite well. And underneath there was this nice gooey layer of custard. Awesome textural contrast.

The creme brulee, on the onset, was highly disappointing, as you can see by its LACK of a caramelized crust.

Despite that great flaw, however, the custard underneath was awesome. Very creamy and not overly sweet.

I found that I liked the coffee cheesecake quite a lot since it wasn’t too strong. Yeah, I don’t like super pugnent foods.

However, although I don’t like the overly strong stuff, neither do I enjoy the overly weak stuff, and this mango cream thing fell into that category. I really don’t know the actual name of this concoction but it tasted like a dense whipped cream dome surrounded by mangoes. And the cream had absolutely no flavour.

All right, my last photo: walnut pie! It was awesome. Last time I tried to bake walnut pie all the nuts floated too the top of the pie, leaving the layer beneath a mass of corn syrup goo. Here somehow they managed to get the walnuts to disperse throughout the filling so that the layers weren’t so separated. Tasted awesome.

Wow, that was one long entry. Yeah, it was a long meal. Actually, I didn’t walk out TOOO full cause I did not finish all the stuff on my plates. I guess that’s the best way to enjoy buffets: take little bites of everything and only finish the stuff that I really enjoy. Pegro’s buffet was, well, average. There were hits and misses, as with most buffets out there. However, it’s not everyday that one gets to eat 40 stories up so if you’re ever in the area and are looking for a splurge, this may be the place to go!

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November 30, 2009 Posted by | Guangzhou, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lu Gang Xiao Zhen (Bellagio)

Lu Gang Xiao Zhen (Bellagio)
Address: #77 Ti Yu Xi Lu (West of Teemall)
Tel: 8559-3009

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A looooooongggggg while ago (yeah, I’m really behind on restaurant posts), my dad and I visited Lu Gang Xiao Zhen, a well-known restaurant specializing in Taiwanese cuisine. This restaurant has been around for a while and I have received recommendations for it from friends, so we figured that it was time to give it a try.

The restaurant’s decor was sort of modern and bright. However, space was a little tight, but that didn’t matter cause the food was amazing.

Firstly we had the Oyster Pancake with Spicy Sauce. All right, I guess not ALL of the food was perfect cause this wasn’t that great. Maybe doughy, chewy, and fairly bland pancakes is an acquired taste. There weren’t a whole lot of oysters, and sauce wasn’t very spicy either.

The stir-fried lily petals with celery was very nicely done, though. The vegetables were crisp and crunchy and refreshing. If you’ve never had lily petals before, you don’t know what you’re missing. They are definitely one of my favourite vegetables and I’ll be posting another recipe up for it sometime soon, hopefully.

Then came the star of the meal: Three Cups Chicken. From what I gather, this is a Taiwanese specialty where the chicken is cooked with three cups of different sauces of some sort. Well, whatever the name entails, the dish was awesome. Each piece of chicken was nicely coated in the sweet, salty, savoury sauce. Even the garlic at the bottom of the pot tasted nice. Yep, this is the sort of dish that people dream about at night…

To end our meal, I ordered a peanut crushed ice. Though it took quite a while before it arrived, the wait was worth it. This concoction tasted basically like peanut butter ice cream: sweet with a salty tinge to it. So if you like peanut butter, this is definitely the dessert for you.


And we couldn’t finish it! Sob.

To sum up, we had an awesome meal. Usually I don’t walk out of restaurants filled to the brim but this time, I did have to hobble out precariously because the food was so good! I quite look forward to going back.

November 28, 2009 Posted by | Chinese, Guangzhou, Restaurants | Leave a comment

Failed Bread and Awesome Pumpkin Soup

Failed Bread and Awesome Pumpkin Soup
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This morning I baked some failed bread. Yep, it was pretty fail, again. Basically, it tasted like sawdust. Ok, maybe not as bad as sawdust, but it just totally lacked flavour. And the crumb wasn’t very good either; it was too firm. And the crust was too hard…I think I made have left it in the oven too long at too high a temperature. AHH.

Usually when I make breads I just follow my own whims and throw recipes to the winds; perhaps that’s the reason that most of the breads that I have baked usually turn out pretty bland and tasteless. With this latest addition to my bread-baking repertoire I tried to reverse that trend by leaving the dough to rise overnight so that it may take on more complex flavours, but alas, either my yeast was dead or my ingredients hate me. Sigh. Next time I should try using an actual preferment.

But on another, happier note, tonight I made the most wonderful soup that I’ve ever made! Pumpkin soup!!! And I followed my own improvised recipe as well, so I must say that I’m pretty proud of myself right now. The flavours of the pumpkin and curry spice stood out really well. It was nice and creamy even though I didn’t use dairy at all. A nice, healthy alternative to traditional cream-based pumpkin soups.

Anyways, here is my recipe for Curried Pumpkin Soup:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • half an onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1.5 tbsp miso paste (just dumped it in cause I had it on hand; not sure whether it affects the final flavour much)
  • 1 small pumpkin, seeded and chopped into chunky cubes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • sprigs of watercress (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add onions and garlic and saute for 2 minutes.
  2. Add curry powder and stir for another minute.
  3. Add chopped pumpkin and miso paste into the saucepan. Stir to coat and quickly add in the chicken broth and water.
  4. Bring everything to a slow boil and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until pumpkin is soft.
  5. Once cooked, remove saucepan from heat. Separate the pumpkin chunks from the liquid and puree the former in a food processor. Note: I left some of the pumpkin chunks unpureed because a)I was lazy, and b)it adds a nice texture difference to the soup.
  6. Mix the pureed pumpking back into the broth and reheat if desired. Add water to adjust the consistency of the soup if necessary.
  7. Spoon soup into shallow bowls and serve with a few sprigs of watercress if desired.

And tada! Curried pumpkin soup! Yum yum yum =P

November 24, 2009 Posted by | Recipes | 1 Comment

Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake
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Last week was one of my friends’ birthday. Since I’m such a lazy student with so much time on my hands, I decided to bake her a cake.

It was a three layered pound cake covered with chocolate ganache with white chocolate shavings on the sides. The cake base recipe I got from smittenkitchen and the ganache I just followed the simple guidelines from allrecipes.com. Assembling the whole thing took me a long time because, my golly, that ganache was quite recalcitrant! It kept refusing to stay on the sides so that I had to put the cake into the freezer for the ganache to set after each application. I sure created quite a mess for my parents!

Hmm…not much I can say about the taste of the cake, though, since I ate so much of it while I was assembling everything together that I got quite sick of cake by the time I presented it to my friend. But everyone seemed to have liked it, especially the chocolate ganache, so yay =D

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Recipes | 1 Comment

Jean-Paul Hevin Macarons from HK

Jean-Paul Hevin Macarons from HK!
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So FINALLY I’m posting the promised JPH macaron post from eons ago. Yeah, school work and stuff have been getting in the way…(stuff aka my laziness)

Anyways. All those weeks ago when I headed down to Hong Kong, I was really really excited to finally be able to try some high class macarons. The first thing that I did as soon as I got to Harbour City was to get box of them.

Macarons!

Now, these macarons were quite pricey; if bought individually they cost something like 20 HKD each. My box of 15 costed something like 280 HKD. Ekk. They had 13 flavours, so I got one of each plus two extras. Below are pics and my thoughts on each flavour:

Vanille w/ Chocolate Ganache:

This first one that I tried was somewhat disappointing. I found it overly sweet and the vanilla flavour was quite lacking. Sob.

“Super Amer” Chocolate:

The “Super Amer” chocolate was very chocolatey but again too sweet for my tastes. Towards the end I came across one bite that had an odd sour taste…probably just an oddity.

Pistache*:

The pistachio macaron had a very nice hard outter crust that collapsed beautifully into its soft insides. The pistachio taste wasn’t very strong, but it was still a very tell-tale nuttiness present in the cookie. This one wasn’t as sweet as the previous two, thank goodness.

Frambroises:


I didn’t like the raspberry one much at all. Well, maybe it’s just a matter of personal preference but I’m not really into fruit jams in general and that jammie taste was very prominent in this macaron. Jam and chocolate…sort of weird…

Bergamot:

Since I don’t know what Bergamot tea is I wasn’t quite sure what to look for in this macaron. Like most of the others, the Bergamot macaron just tasted chocolate-like and sweet. The texture of this particular one was nicely done, though, with that cruncy outter layer and soft moist insides.

Praline Hazelnut:

The praline hazelnut had a very hazelnutty flavour, which was awesome. The texture was notable too, though that seems to be a hit or miss thing for every individual macaron. But unfortunately, I again found this overly sweet due to the prevalence of the chocolate ganache.

Fig:

Cracked crust! Unfortunately all the jolting and jostling on the train must have taken its toll. But that aside, this was a pretty decent macaron. I was able to tell that this macaron was fig-flavoured cause it had figgy bits in the ganache. But unfortunately, like many of the others it was a bit too sweet…

HOney:

The honey macaron was matched up to its name by being more honey-like than chocolatey. However, again it was TOO SWEET!

Mystery:

Next there was this mystery flavour that I simply could not pinpoint. It wasn’t too sweet and was slightly fruity…in fact, it had this very distinctive flavour that I couldn’t get my finger on…hmmmm….

Caram’in:

This particular macaron suffered from the hit-or-miss cookie situation. Sadly, it had a yellow biscuit that was overly hard, and one cannot enjoy a happy macaron experience when the biscuit is too hard. The ganache inside, however, was very good for being chocolatey but not overly sweet. Too bad for the failed biscuit…

Coffee*:

Even though I don’t usually like coffee, I actually really enjoyed the coffee macaron. It had a very distinctive coffee taste that was more creamy than bitter. In fact, it wasn’t at all bitter. Good macaron experience. So much so that I forgot to take a half-way photo =)

Passionfruit*:

The passionfruit macaron was wonderful. It had a very subtle fruitiness in its ganache that became stronger as you chomp through the macaron. It wasn’t too sweet either.

Mango-Coriander*:

Mango coriander sounds like a weird flavour. The mango taste was definitely there, but I’m not so sure about the coriander. However, this was a decent macaron. It wasn’t too sweet and acted as a nice palate-cleanser after all the chocolat based macarons.

So those were the flavours that I tasted from JPH. Though there were a few flavours that shone, I have to say that overall, it was a somewhat disappointing experience. I didn’t like the super-sweetness of most of the macarons and the chocolate ganache that was used in practically every cookie just got a bit boring by the end. I read from The Girl Who Ate Everything that Jean-Paul Hevin macarons generally have a choc base and an additional flavour subtly infused into the ganache. This makes sense since most of the macarons that I tried fit precisely under that description. However, I do wish that the additional flavour is a bit more pronounced since half the time I can’t taste anything except for the chocolate ganache. Maybe my palate just isn’t refined enough haha.

ANyways, overall, I guess I am a little bit disappointed by the macarons so I probably won’t fork over 280 HKD to get another box anytime too soon in the future.

P.S. The “*” are just little reminders to myself. Those with “*” next to them are the ones that I really enjoyed and will get again if I ever feel so inclined.

November 22, 2009 Posted by | Bakery, Hong Kong, Travels | 2 Comments

Another trip to Hong Kong

So this weekend my dad and I took another random trip down to Hong Kong. Yay! Well actually the reason was because my dad needed to renew his visa but me, I’ll look for any excuse to go to Hong Kong. Really I think Hong Kong is one of the greatest cities in the world and I would absolutely LOVE to live there one day. It’ll either be Hong Kong or New York.

Anyways. As we all know, any trip to Hong Kong requires splurging, and this one was no different. As soon as we got out of the train station I went over to a bakery and got an egg tart and a bbq pork triangle.

The egg tart (which was, btw, very fresh and still warm from the oven) was of the uncaramelized variety, the type that I don’t quite like as much. I find these type of egg tarts to be too monotonous in texture…the whole thing is just…soft and filmsy. Of course they taste just fine but I find that they lack textural variation.

The bbq pork triangle was also pretty decent. The filling was saucy and sweet without being overly so. However, one common trait about all char siu bakery items that really bothers me is the presence of fat chunks in the filling. The pork meat tastes great but the chunks of gooey pork fat are quite off-putting…do people actually eat them???

After that little snack we went off to go book browsing. Yep, in this side of the world Hong Kong is practically the only place where I can stock up on English books.

After book shopping we decided to have lunch at one of the innumerable Japanese restaurants that can be found in just about every crack and cranny in Hong Kong. In Tsim Sha Tsui, at least, one can locate a Japanese eatery in just about any random direction. Assailed with so many different choices we haphazardly settled on Sushi One Plus.

As soon as we entered I knew it probably wasn’t a good choice because the place simply didn’t feel authentic. But then of course I was hungry and didn’t bother searching out some other place. So an unauthentic Japanese meal it’ll have to be!

Looking to eat light so that I’ll have room for junk later on, I ordered three small dishes. First came the fatty tuna sashimi, which was expensive but wonderful. The fish was a little cold but that didn’t detract too much from its creamy, melt-in-your-mouth taste and texture. Yummm….

The uni handroll was unglamourous. I wish they added a piece of cucumber to provide some crunch and texture contrast to the roll. The uni was also a bit too small. It tasted fine and fresh and all but I know that it can be done better.

My last order was the asparagus with caviar. The asparagus was sort of weird; it seemed like it couldn’t decide whether it should be hot or cold. However, I think that those little sprigs of asparagus matched with the plumpy caviar quite well. The flavours of both were subtle and thus complemented each other. Unfortunately the strong Japanese mayo at the bottom somewhat ruined that harmony…

My dad ordered a lunch combo and I tried some of his items. Above is the tamago, which was served steaming hot, was sweet and rather dense. I didn’t really enjoy it.

The lunch combo also came with this salmon and mango sushi, which I didn’t try but it looks like it’s got too much rice and not enough filling.

After that semi-decent Japanese cuisine experience we headed over to Harbour City to accomplish my main purpose of the day: buy MACARONS from JEAN-PAUL HEVIN! I’ll blog about that in the later post but below is a photo of the awesome hallowed macarons =)

After splurging on macarons I walked around Harbour City by myself, looking for edible interests. First I stopped at the Panash Bakery at Ocean Terminal and quite impulsively got a chocolate croissant. Unfortunately it wasn’t such a good choice. The nice shiny croissant looked promising on the outside but the inside was dry, tasteless, and paper-like. Even though it was no longer warm the chocolate was in a sauce form and not a solid block like it should be. I took two bites and threw the thing away. Bleh! >

After the failed pain au chocolat I felt in the mood for something cold so I lept at the sight of a very unusual ice cream cone in 7-11: Ovaltine ice cream =O!

Definitely not a flavour that you see around often. As you can see, the top of the cone is covered with chocolate and in the first few bites the chocolate completely obscured the ovaltine. However once the chocolate covering was gone the wheaty ovaltine flavour was unmistakable. Even though I don’t like ovaltine much I quite enjoyed this cone for it was something unique. My only complaint (a defect that affects all pre-packaged cones in warm weather) is that the cone was soggy…

Oh yeah actually a funny thing happened while I was unwrapping the ice cream. Because the weather was so warm, I was in a hurry to get my camera out and take a photo and I think in my haste I accidentally threw my camera case into the trash can along with the ice cream wrapping. Wow, I must have looked really stupid doing that…Thank god it was the case and not the camera.

Anyways, later in the afternoon I walked into Starbucks and, spotting an interesting cake flavour, couldn’t resist trying it out. The Earl Grey cake was quite mousse-like with a hazelnut base and a jelly-like topping. The Earl Grey taste was definitely present at just the right amount. The cake was pretty light and so if you like Earl Grey and light cakes, you’d definitely like this.

All right, lastly and finally I had some chocolate from Leonidas. The Palet d’Or, which had 75% or something cocoa content, consisted of a mousse-like center enrobed with dark chocolate. It was very chocolatey and slightly bitter though I found the center to be a bit dry. Overall a nice piece of chocolate.

The truffle naturel wasn’t really a conventional truffle; instead of being a dense chocolatey mass it was a ganache covered with a thin layer of chocolate and cocoa powder. It wasn’t what I expected so I can’t say much about the truffle…it was good, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

Whew! What a long post! And that, readers, is the documentation of my day of fooding in the wonderful city of Hong Kong. The end =)

November 1, 2009 Posted by | Bakery, Desserts, Hong Kong, Japanese, Miscellaneous, Restaurants, Travels, Uncategorized | 1 Comment