Dim Summing: Hong Kong Part 1

 Our dear friend and T of C contributor, Janella Fox, has made several reports on her trip to Hong Kong featuring her Dim Sum experience. Here is part 1. Enjoy!

Happy Year of the Dragon! In honor of Chinese New Year last week I thought it was a good time to share some highlights from a recent trip to Hong Kong. While it was a very brief visit, I came away with a great sense of the spirit of this wildly diverse and entertaining city. The most striking thing for me was the extremities of waterways, mountains and high rises and how they all collide and yet it feels small when you are actually in it. The other very pleasant discovery was how kind and helpful the locals are (unless you are taking photos of them at the wet market but that will come in a future post).

Hong Kong is a world class city with some of the best dining in the world. I typically plan my days around my meals when in a new city for the first time so I was overwhelmed by the possibilities. One thing I knew I had to have on this trip was a proper dim sum experience. After a day of walking around and shopping we asked for recommendations and ended up in a mall (this is perfectly normal there) on the central side at a place called Lei Garden. Elegant, modern, quiet and clean...I knew I was in for a treat considering the only dim sum I've had has been in the loud crowded cafeteria style places with fluorescent lights and speedy servers who never seem to have the items I want on their carts (which seem to have always been emptied by the other diners, making me wonder if I really should give in and try the chicken feet). Up until this trip, Ton Kiang in San Francisco was my favorite dim sum. LEI Garden was already proving to be a departure from that experience as we were seated in a beautiful white booth with slated wood partitions and soft light streaming in. The server brought us a delicious pot of tea along with a perfectly sharpened pencil and a handsome menu to select from. It was warm and calm and quiet and it felt like a big hug. I think I read somewhere the dim sum means "to warm the heart" and this place was doing just that...and I hadn't even sunken my teeth into the bau yet.

As we had arrived on the later side in the afternoon they were out of many things however we did manage to get a nice range of the best dim sum I've ever had. It went something like this...

Chicken Dumpling: Steamed dumpling of chicken and perfectly blanched vegetables that gave off an impossible green glow through the very delicate translucent rice flour wrapper. I was impressed with the crispness of the veggies in this perfect little bite and despite how delicate the wrapper was it held together without completely falling apart once bitten into.

Har Gow: A staple on the dim sum circuit (and why I fell in love with dim sum in the first place) Steamed dumpling with fresh chopped up shrimp. This one is so simple and so delicious when done with the perfectly cooked shrimp. Heaven.

Crab Dumpling: This was not served as expected. Instead of the perfect little bites this was served as one massive dumpling in a crab based broth. It was the least favorite of them all as it seemed to get soggy and fall apart in the liquid, which is perfectly acceptable once you think about this as a soup instead. 

Crispy Pork Pot Sticker: When given the option of having something fried it's hard not to go for it. We assumed this would arrive and be the most indulgent of them all in all of it's fried crunchy glory, instead what came was the most elegant and beautiful of them all. A plate of 3 pot stickers with the most fragile sheet of crispy goodness placed delicately upon it..it was so composed it was hard to break into it. We did manage to gently tap it into pieces and were blown away by the deliciousness of this. Delicate dumpling, crunchy coating, simple filling of ground pork and scallions along with an accompanying sauce to die for. It was a combination of sweetened soy, spicy chili, toasted sesame, fresh garlic and a bite of ginger. I am determined to recreate it and dip everything possible in this sauce from now on!

Pork Bau: Steamed fluffy buns with pork inside. Bau are another reason I fell in love with dim sum. There is something about the whitest of the white dough, steamed to a fluffy puffy perfection that is unlike anything else you've ever eaten. But once you discover what's inside you reach another level of flavor goodness, the sweet pork mixture that is cooked into the middle. It is so good it almost seems like it could and should be dessert. LEI GARDEN made me never want to eat another one of these little buddies again because it was that perfect and that good.

We ended the meal with a sweet egg tart and resisted the urge to nap in that little booth in the warm glow of the afternoon sun. We made our way back into the mall and out into the madness of the city with full tummies and warm hearts.

Lei Garden is located in the IFC mall in Central Hong Kong (where you will also find the incredible department store Lane Crawford...)

Pizzeria Mozza LA

Squash Blossom and Burrata
Fennel Sausage and Red Onion
LA at Dusk
Butterscotch Pudding & Meyer Lemon Gelato Pie

Had a super chill/fun night at Mozza.  If you sit at the bar, let Nick take good care of you. Everything is good.

t: 323 297 0101

Open Daily: Noon - Midnight

Breakfast Burrito in Isla Vista

Last Sunday, early in the morning, I turned to Adrian and asked him: " What is the ultimate Santa Barbara breakfast that you miss?" He responded with: " a breakfast burrito in I.V.!" We hopped in the truck and went out to Isla Vista, college town to UCSB, and entered into the student universe complete with pajamas in public, massive to-go cups of coffee and/or smoothies, surfers on bikes, and haggard wanderers from the night before making their final journey home. 

So many cool examples of 1950's - 80's California beach side architecture as well as houses that have tons of college gear pouring out: Couches, bbq's, 80's furniture, stolen promo beer/surfborad/energy drink/skate banners, red plastic cups, bikes, and 'need roommate' signs on every other balcony.

Adrian remembered La Cantina having the best breakfast burritos, and as an USCB alum, has many memories of racing to get his burrito before the cut-off time of 11am. Now, they serve their well known burrito all day. It has a magical combination of freshly scrambled eggs, delicious and simple spicy tomato salsa, seasoned rice, spanish potatoes, sour cream, and jack and cheddar cheeses all snug and warm inside a fresh flour tortilla. They serve their burritos with house made tortilla chips too, which are super thin and crisp. I was surprised that they didn't have meat, but in the end, it didn't need it. A great combo that doesn't make you feel the typical crazy burrito belly after. It's not a burrito bomb.

Lots of USCB Gaucho love that's in the form of photo collages at every eatery. Here's one that features a burrito eating contest sponsored by La Cantina.

On the north west corner of I.V., you can walk along a beach path that passes some incredible beach houses and eventually to Devereux Point, a beautiful and peaceful surf spot.  

Adrian at Cole Oil Point, just north of Devereux Point.
One of the infamous doors to many I.V. shows and parties. Lots of good times behind that unassuming door. There always is one.

The Cantina
966 Embarcadero del Mar # C
Goleta CA. 93117
Mon-Tues: 8:30 - 6:00
Wed - Thurs: 8:30 - 9:00
Fri-Sat: 8:30 - 10:00

Bar Jules in San Francisco

On a trip to Oakland to visit Simone and friends from days past, we hit up Bar Jules and loved the vibe. Straight forward dishes with super fresh ingredients from small local farms and meat and fish from sustainable sources. The staff were friendly and the food delicious. We sat right up against the bar connected to the open kitchen and enjoyed watching our food being made by the friendly dude chefs. 

Always appreciate a daily menu that changes with the tides

A nicely written short wine list for those seated at the bar ... amidst a Bar Jules club member.
Spinach soup with créme fraiche

Steak tartare in the Bar Jules fashion

Preserved swordfish salad with new potatoes, celery hearts, piquillo peppers and aioli

Great dollops of créme fraiche straight from the farm jar are the finishing touch to this spinach soup. I love dollops of things.

A fragrant seafood stew with local Halibut, crab, manila clams, savoy cabbage, butternut squash, scallions, cream and thyme. Incredible.

Wood grilled quail and garlic sausage with polenta and romanesco broccoli

Check out the sweet cooking apparatus

Chocolate Nemisis. Not my enemy.

Apple and frangipane tart

609 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA

t: (415) 621-5482

Wed - Saturday lunch: 11:30 - 2:30
Tues- Saturday dinner: 5:30 - 10:00
sunday brunch: 11:00 - 2:30

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