Hong Kong is a fusion foodie paradise! It was Yukiro’s first time in the city, so I wanted him to experience the sky-high harbor views, and local spins on sushi.
My Pirates and I were invited to try some of Hong Kong’s newest restaurants, which are raising the bar on an already top-class food scene. We indulged in sexy naked rolls, got high on “magic mushrooms”, and drank wine with Miffy the blow-up bunny… Intrigued? Ready to laugh? Read on, and don’t miss the hilarious final photo.
(My skull dress is by Gladnews; more pics soon.)
We began at the top: or rather, on the 29th floor, at Sushi To (Soundwill Plaza II, 1-29 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay). Celebrated local chef Harlan Goldstein opened this Japanese restaurant earlier this year.
Causeway Bay is one of my favorite shopping districts, and this is the ideal place to stop for lunch — the iconic view says it all. From our window seat, we lorded over Victoria Harbor, silver skyscrapers, and traditional red junk boats.
Harlan has an immense local following, and is a rock star among Hong Kong chefs. He opened several European restaurants in HK throughout the past decades, and this is this first foray into Japanese cuisine. (More about our meeting with him, below.)
Sushi Tō specializes in omakase, and Harlan honored us with a “La Carmina Tasting Menu!” The selection encompasses more than sushi: there are his unique takes on robatayaki, teppanyaki and more, with creative ingredients such as “magic mushrooms maki”.
(I know you’re staring at my Totoro nail art. It’s hand-painted, using bio sculpture gel, by Vancouver-based Glam Nail Studio.)
We were speechless over the starter: a salad with slow-cooked salmon, 68 degrees onsen egg, and sesame soy dressing. Yukiro marvels: “I didn’t expect sushi to taste this good outside Japan. Its probably the finest fish I ever had the pleasure of consuming, and the way they served it was subtle and yet artistic.”
And then: kampachi and salmon sashimi. Simple and ocean-fresh. We’re all still salivating over this photo.
John felt this was the perfect first introduction. “The fresh sashimi melted in our mouths as their simplicity prepared us for the fireworks of flavor in the sushi rolls that came later, including the dragon fire maki.”
We sipped on a number of cocktails; the old fashioned and pineapple-infused one were winners. John adds, “Be sure to try the “sake-tini,” a refreshing summer cocktail to round out an amazing meal.”
My friends show their enthusiasm for the burdock pickle and wasabi konbu beef roll. “The panko crusted Hiroshima oyster with black truffle miso sauce was devilishly good too,” adds John.
The non-sushi selections were just as delectable. This is Hokkaido scallop, crab meat clams, shrimp, rice and soup in a stone hot pot. Dessert was so enticing — white sesame tiramisu — that we ate it before we could take a photo.
Let’s leave the last word to Yukiro. “The way they personalized their menu just for us really showed how much they care about their customers. They should change their name to “Sushi To die for!”
For dinner, we went to the newly opened Mama San in Central. Chef Will Meyrick’s restaurant made waves in Bali, and now has a branch in Hong Kong’s hottest food district, Lan Kwai Fong.
The interior sets the mood: Indonesian tradition meets young nightlife.
The PR team gave us this picture-perfect seat, overlooking the partygoers of Lan Kwai Fong. (Address: 1/F, 46 Wyndham Street, Central). As you can see, I had a special date with me… Miffy!
Mr Skeleton describes Mama San’s menu as “an eclectic mix of items from countries ranging from China and India to Malaysia and Vietnam. Beef tartar and cassava chips helped us whet our palettes before shifting to heavier dishes like the “Dhania ghost” slow-cooked lamb shank.”
Miffy seems to be a fan of the appetizers…
… and the cocktail menu, consisting of classics with a twist. My go-to is the “Dark & Stormy”, and Mama San put a nice spin on it: rum, house ginger beer, orange bitters and lime in a paper bag.
After walking in the humid weather, we were relived to have salmon sashimi with pickled radish, edamame, organic flowers and yuzu dressing.
The southeast Asian spices stirred our senses: coconut, Thai basil, chilis, kaffir lime. Miffy dove head first into the salt-crusted barramundi fish, stuffed with lemongrass pandan and lemon basil, served with nahm jihm (Thai dipping sauce).
John says, “After all of the amazing foods we tried in Hong Kong, I would have to put Naked Gurume Gyarari (グルメ画廊) at the top. Chef Justin Chan took us on a gourmet tour of Japanese tapas-style fusion cuisine.” (28 Elgin Street, 1/F Central District, Hong Kong)
Yukiro jokes, “It was so hot outside that we wanted to go in there completely Naked. At least our stomachs were naked on the inside, but when we went out, they were more than completely dressed in the finest materials from the world of Japanese-inspired food.”
I agree with the praise! Justin and his team blew us away with dishes that look like art, and surprise the senses – yet, let the flavors do the talking. As John puts it, “The name of the establishment refers to stripping down ingredients to their bare essentials, but the creations that pleasantly assaulted our tastebuds were anything but minimalist.”
The scallops with crystalline ice leaves are a great example. I’ve never tried these glistening Okinawan leaves before, and they paired wonderfully with the seafood and sauces.
Many dishes are inspired by Chef Justin Chan’s childhood memories. He houses fried oysters in a traditional dim sum basket. Naked calls itself a “gourmet gallery” that mixes art and food; Yukiro describes the interior as “hip, with subtle inspirations from Japanese art.”
This Sexy Naked Roll left us speechless. John says: “The perfectly grilled “nigirizushi”, or seared tuna on butter-toasted rice, had us begging for more.” You must order this, when you visit.
He kept serving home runs, like a rich and satisfying lobster risotto bisque, and this succulent hamachi collar.
Yukiro says, “Again I was astonished by the taste of the sushi and we had to order some dishes twice even though we were more than filled.” John adds, “For jaded foodies who are looking for flavor combinations you’ve never tried before, Naked might just be an eye-opening (and mouthwatering) experience.”
Now we’re back in the hands of Harlan, this time at Penthouse. (Same location as Sushi To, but one floor higher.) “Entering the bright and spacious restaurant, you would be forgiven for imagining that you had stepped into a hip Manhattan studio, but the ceiling window view of Hong Kong would soon convince you otherwise,” describes John.
Harlan Goldstein opened Penthouse not long ago, and despite being a celeb chef, he’s as hands-on as it gets: we saw him working right in the kitchen, alongside his staff. Harlan took a break to sit with us, and we chatted over bourbon cocktails called “Wall St After 5pm.”
Originally from New York, Harlan’s a strong and passionate personality. He’s been in Hong Kong since the 1970s, and locals can’t get enough of his restaurants. John says, “Harlan described his vision for his restaurant as a cosmopolitan East meets West establishment.” Looking around, Penthouse was packed with “loyal local customers, in love with the no-fuss contemporary cuisine.”
We couldn’t wait to try the rustic dishes that draw upon Italian slow-cooking and handcrafted pastas. The meal begins with salad selections from the buffet. Someone couldn’t resist taking a bite…
On the right: Yukiro died over this heirloom tomato tartare with burrata cheese, and balsamic jelly. On the left: I scraped the bowl clean of black ink bomba rice, with scallops and crisp baby squid.
Penthouse has a Josper oven/grill that heats up to 500 degrees, retaining juice while adding sumptuous flavor. The Spanish Duroc Pork Ribs were tender slow-cooked for hours, and fell right off the bone. John reminds diners “not to forget the hanger steak and the well-stocked, unlimited dessert buffet.”
Yukiro says, “I am hooked on Goldstein’s creative and subtle ways of mixing ingredients. I now want to eat my way through all his other restaurants.”
For the grand finale, we had dinner on the 49th floor of our hotel, the Upper House (we’ll do a huge post about our stay soon). John sets the mood: “From the simple and elegant interior featuring natural tones and Asian touches, to the spectacular view of Victoria Harbor, the ambiance of Cafe Gray Deluxe is perfect for celebrating a special occasion.”
You know the meal is off to a good start… when you photograph the table bread! Baked with sesame seeds and served warm, with a yogurt and olive oil dish… One of the best I’ve ever been served at dinner. Yukiro speaks the truth: “We stuffed our faces with it and had four refills.”
Once again, the staff made us a special menu with a wine pairing for each dish. Cafe Gray’s cuisine is homey yet gourmet, with carefully culled ingredients. We started with lobster carpaccio, prepared with Thai chili watermelon vinagrette, and pickled green papaya. John says, “One memorable pairing was the plancha seared kingfish chimichurri with fennel and peppers, served up with a glass of 2012 Dry Riesling from Lakewood Vineyards in Finger Lakes, New York.”
The staff impressed us with their knowledge of wines, and the wines were so delicious that Yukiro says “they helped us forget all the misery in the world for a little while.” Here’s a bokeh-ful image of the French Chateau Bordeaux, a sturdy red fit for a royal. We finished with Greek yogurt mascarpone cheesecake…
… while taking in this epic sunset view of the harbor and Tsim Sha Tsui. Tip: time your dinner so that you can catch the 8pm “Symphony of Lights” show, when skyscrapers like the ICC glow with moving images. That’s your first taste of our Upper House adventures, with more soon.
The best part of fine food reviewing? Sharing meals with your friends. We always have fun — isn’t that the point? — and hope you’ll try these restaurants for yourselves.
But don’t bring Miffy along… she drinks all the wine! (“Oh Miff-ehhhh!”)
Do you consider yourself an adventurous eater? Are you as fond of Japanese food as we are?
New York, I love you! Thanks to everyone who came to see me at the Japanese maid cafe, and for participating in the cosplay contest. I was mega-impressed by the intricate costumes, which you can see in the photos below…
But first, here are some snaps from my home at the Paper Factory Hotel. This is, without doubt, the coolest place to stay in NY.
The hotel is located in Long Island City, right across the water from Manhattan (it only takes 15 min by subway to reach Times Square). The Paper Factory’s design pays tribute to its industrial past, and the vintage child cars in the lobby encourage guests to play.
It’s obvious I loved staying at the Paper Factory Hotel — their creative, design-oriented approach is just my speed. I encourage you to check them out, especially when the restaurant Mundo opens up later this summer.
In June, my team and I filmed at Maid Cafe NY, located in New York’s Chinatown (150 Centre Street, NYC, 10013). It’s modeled after the Japanese maid cafes you’ll find in Tokyo, especially the Akihabara district.
The girls dressed me up in one of their pink French maid outfits. For the show, I learned how to greet customers (by yelling “Welcome home, master!”) and how to be as anime-like as possible.
At Maid Cafe NY, it’s all innocent fun: the staff interacts with the customers in cute ways, and makes them smile by drawing on their drink cups.
The cafe serves Japanese food and sweets, like omelet rice with ketchup drawings. I helped the maids prepare sweets with cute faces on them. Cris digs into a matcha cheesecake, decorated with my Scottish Fold cat’s face in chocolate sauce.
Customers can pose with the maids for cheki, or souvenir Polaroid photos that we decorate (in kawaii ways, of course).
Maid Cafe NY was packed with customers. They’re doing an incredible job at bringing Jpop fans together. Many of them are young and dress up in Japanese street fashion.
My friend Jenny (a talented illustrator) dons a long turquoise wig, in a tip of the hat to Hatsune Miku.
Inside the cafe is Cosplay Shopper, a store that sells anime/manga costumes and accessories like cat ear headbands, or Sailor Moon outfits. These goods are also available through their online site.
Camila invited me to be a judge in their cosplay contest. I know New York has a big community of cosplayers, and that the turnout would be impressive.
Even so, the event was beyond expectations! Over a hundred contestants and spectators lined up in front of the cafe, dressed to the nines. We barely managed to pack everyone in, and it was standing room only.
How cool are these handmade cosplay designs? Can you recognize the characters they are representing?
We assigned the contestants a number, and they went inside to put on the finishing touches. Wigs teased up, and circle contacts in.
Some of these intricate costumes took months to complete, all by hand.
Everyone gathered in front of the stage, packed like sardines. Jenny and Hiten cooled off with bubble tea.
The winners would get passes to New York Comic Con and gift certificates for Cosplay Shopper. One by one, they went on stage and showed off their outfits with flair. We asked them questions, such as why they chose to be this character, or how they made the various pieces.
Camila announces the next contestant. What a parade of creativity: we saw armor constructed from cardboard, weapons from duct tape…
Many of the cosplayers were still in high school, and made these colorful DIY costumes in their spare time.
The contest brought together J-culture lovers, and celebrated their creativity — I say that’s a success! Thanks to everyone who showed up despite the rain; I always love meeting readers in person.
Have you ever tried cosplaying? Which character would you dress as?
Also check out my photoshoot at the Paper Factory, to see more of this art-hotel. One more NYC post to come… and with luck, I’ll be back here soon.
My stay in Taipei was a joy — because I got to experience this modern boutique hotel, Humble House. The design reflects the mix of busy city life and lush nature that is unique to Taiwan.
What better place to debut this mint-colored lace dress, sent to me by Nanette Lepore? Let’s give it a twirl!
Humble House opened last December, making it one of Taiwan’s newest hotels. The design has a sleek grey aesthetic, but without feeling stark or robotic. Quite the opposite: it puts the focus on organic forms and green spaces, like this sky garden.
The outdoor pool has a perfect view of Taipei 101, formerly the world’s tallest building. This district, Xinyi, is the center of government and business. I recommend staying around this area, since it’s central and near some of the hippest bars (which I’ll show you soon).
Inside, the choice of contemporary art is inspired by the Tagore quote, “Let Life be Beautiful like Summer Flowers.” These works ponder the relationship between nature and civilization, expressing them through modern mediums.
My first impression of Humble House was this ground floor installation, custom-created by Paul Cocksedge. Suspended from the high ceiling, these electroluminescent sheets twirl in the wind, as if I threw them in the air.
Outfit details: NY-based designer Nanette Lepore sent me this Beach Breeze dress from her summer collection. I love the lace overlay and elegant high neckline, and this mint color is my current favorite.
My shoes are Camper Allegra sandals.
In most hotels, you hardly remember the art on the walls. That’s not the case at Humble House, which has thought-provoking works like these by Yang Yongliang. They seem to be photos of flowers, but if you look closely, the parts are made up of skyscrapers, highways and other city life.
Climbing the stairway to heaven. The angles turn it into an M. C. Escher vision.
This trippy LED piece, by Polish artist Piotr Uklanski, makes it seem like you’re staring down into a black hole. In fact, it’s an optical illusion and the work is only a few inches tall.
Much of the art has a sense of fun, like Paola Pivi’s “Crazy Ball,” made from miniatures of famous chair designs.
Taipei is known for its food, and some of my favorite meals were at their Italian restaurant, La Farfalla.
We wanted to join in the fun: so photographer Ken “hacked” the breakfast buffet! He gathered ingredients — honeycomb, ice cream, beets, Asian fruits — and concocted this dessert plate. He even made his own eggs Benedict and Hollandaise sauce, from items found in the buffet.
Lunch at Farfalla is a semi-buffet, meaning that you order a main, but build your own appetizer plate from the generous spread…
… which includes seafood, cheeses, salads and of course desserts.
As for the mains, the photos speak for themselves. This is steak with a potato block and basil oil drip.
I died over the pan-seared Hokkaido scallop with sea urchin risotto. Oh, creamy glory.
A healthier option: Dover sole with caper basil and cherry tomato.
And braised Australian beef cheek, with mashed potato. All photos by Ken Yuen and Jacqueline Kwok (noircorner).
On the terrace, I danced next to the butterfly statue by Zadok Ben-David. Called “Natural Tower”, the corten steel changes color as the temperature changes and time passes — making the butterflies seem alive, and in harmony with their environment.
“Peony,” by naturalist Sugiura Yasuyoshi, lets guests to get closer to nature, while staying in a cosmopolitan city.
Nanette’s dress is made for twirling in the lobby. You may be wondering: why is this fabulous place called Humble House? Asia has a culture of modesty, and the hotel focuses on unobtrusive service. Every need is taken care of, without fuss.
I loved staying at Humble House, a high-tech hotel full of soul. You must at least come up to the terrace for a cocktail, to take in this view.
Did you realize Taipei was so modern and design-oriented? I hope my travel posts continue to surprise you.
Coming up: I’ll show you the pop culture side of Taiwan, from Hello Kitty exhibits to apothecary bars…
Yikes, I’m extremely back-logged with blog posts… but they’ll come hot and heavy from now on, I promise.
Let’s go back in time, to our Wicked Grounds drag performance party. Then I’ll run through the best Gothic, alternative and LGBT nightlife in San Francisco. Sounds good? Strike a pose, vogue, and let’s go-go-GOTH.
You’ll recall that some of my best friends and I gathered in San Francisco over Memorial Day Weekend (you can read all our SF adventures to date).
We learned a big travel lesson: it’s extremely stressful to travel during this American public holiday, since the rest of the country is doing the same. Hotels were booked solid, traffic was choked up… It took far too many hours to pick up this birthday cake with a boot on it (don’t ask why) and drive the short distance to the venue.
Still, Die Schwarze Frau managed to get dolled up, and vamped in the alleyway before her big American debut.
We got to Wicked Grounds, the San Francisco kink cafe, and immediately felt at home. The space is a gathering-place for the alt community, and has regular events such as themed munches. Plus, they serve yummy food and drinks.
We took full advantage of the human-sized cage, and tested out the selection of floggers…
Die Schwarze Frau’s performance was tiger-fierce. She whirled around, screamed at skulls, stripped, and did drops to the ground. I’ll show you more photos from her Tokyo performance soon, and perhaps a video!
To open the show, Naomiyaki did spooky live drawings on bodies, such as an overturned bottle of poison. (She also took most of the photos in this post.)
Naomi asked the audience to participate and made body-art the spot, based on this girl’s personality. Thanks to everyone who came to our event, and to Wicked Grounds for hosting us: we loved meeting you, and hope to be back soon!
After, the shenanigans continued at Dark Shadows, a much-loved San Francisco Gothic night at Cat Club. Such a pleasure to meet many readers and friends at this event.
We’re quite the motley crew to party with. Can you spot in this photo: a bear, blood, Covenant, unicorns, Frankenstein?
The DJ played some of our favorite synth-Goth tracks, like Mylène Farmer’s Désenchantée. On the right: “Despite all my rage, I’m still just a… bat in a cage.”
If you aren’t ready to commit to a permanent tattoo, Goth body-art lets you be expressive for a night.
Things with Trevor got a bit blurry…
I’m wearing a hakama, or traditional Japanese skirt as seen on samurai. It’s a modern interpretation by J-Goth brand Despair.
The MUNI (San Fran subway system) was an easy way for us to club-hop. We weren’t in town for Death Guild at DNA Lounge (every Monday), but we managed to see Bianca Del Rio at Trannyshack. Remember this post about how we met the RuPaul’s Drag Race winner?
I adore retro culture — can can dancers, top hats, burlesque — so we stopped by an Absinthe Party to honor Autumn, the designer behind San Francisco’s Dark Garden Corsetry.
She was traveling to Paris to further study the art of corset-making. (Soon, I’ll do a post about the shops we visited in San Francisco, including vintage and Jpop boutiques).
We raised a glass of the green fairy, and bid her bon voyage.
On another night, we went to Bondage-a-Go-Go, held every Wednesday night at Cat Club. BaGG has been running for 21 years, and is a fixture in the “kinky, fetish-y, gothy, nerdy, punky, leather-y” San Fran scene.
Photos aren’t allowed unless you have special permission, so be assured this is a safe and private space for play. That night, we saw dungeon demos by people in masks, and Go-Go dancers in cages.
The only San Francisco nightlife that didn’t live up to our expectations… was the Castro gay district. Long lines, unfriendly bouncers, and a slightly dingy atmosphere. Stick to the Goth / alt scene, and the lively T-shack drag shows, and you’ll have a grand time in this city.
Have you experienced San Francisco’s clubs and bars? How do they compare to the scene in other cities?
If we missed out on anything in this round-up, let us know in the comments! Coming up: coverage from New York, Cape Town, Taipei, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul…