Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 6: Peking Garden (Pacific Place)- Admiralty, Hong Kong

Peking Garden Signage- Pacific Place

After a stroll in Hong Kong Park, we headed downstairs for a meal at Peking Garden in Pacific Place. We would have gone to Shang Place in Island Shangri-La (apparently where the mango and pomelo sago dessert was created), but since it was full, we headed towards Peking Garden, one of the two large Chinese restaurants in Pacific Place.

Plates- Peking Garden
Table Setting Peking Garden

Peking Garden, as the name may suggest, is famous for its Peking Duck; however, it does serve up a  plethora of fine Chinese food in an environment that Pacific Place says "resembles an ambiance of modern metropolitan America." It does certainly feel decidedly western; the crown moldings on the walls and comfortable chairs give a sophisticated, not tacky, Western feel.

Walls @ Peking Garden- Pacific Place

We were seated next to a wavy wood and glass wall that gives a modern touch to an otherwise classic environment.Yes, we could see the people in the elevators and vice versa, but this is undoubtedly a cool touch.

Tea- Peking Garden, Pacific Place

Even the tea had a Western influence. The typical Chinese tea cups are substituted here at Peking Garden for silver-lined tea cups with handles and plates underneath.

Before, I thought Peking Garden was this restaurant in Pacific Place with only one location; however, that is not the case. The moist towelette placed next to the plate reveals all; Peking Garden is in fact a small chain of restaurants that is part of the Maxim's Group, a company that basically has terrain all over Hong Kong. Below Peking Garden at the Admiralty MTR is a Maxim's Bakery. Across a bridge to Admiralty Centre is Canteen, a Maxim's owned fast-food chain. Genki Sushi and Arome Bakery (multiple locations of each in Hong Kong) is also owned by Maxim's. Yes, those Maxim mooncakes at your Asian supermarket are also by Maxim's.

The point is, chain restaurants are so prevalent in Hong Kong that it's extremely easy to eat at such restaurants instead of individually-owned, non-chain restaurants. Funny enough, all the Hong Kong restaurants that I have posted about are chain restaurants. Funny enough? Chain restaurants may be considered bad to some, but in Hong Kong most chain restaurants are certainly at a good standard.

Beancurd/Peaunt/Cucumber Amuse Boche- Peking Garden, Pacific Place

Anyways, we were presented with an amuse boche of bean curd, cucumber, and peanuts. There was some heat from the sichuan peppercorn infused oil and the vinegar and chicken broth/powder made the dish quite palatable.

Scallion Pancakes- Peking Garden, Pacific Place

Since we were not extremely hungry, we ordered some smaller bites off the menu. Peking Garden's Green Onion Pancake is certainly delicious with its multiple layers and crunchy, pan-fried exterior, but it is also somewhat greasy. I would have prefered that more green onion was added though.

Juicy Pork Buns- Peking Garden, Pacific Place 

We also ordered Peking Garden's juicy pork buns, which come in a set of six. 

Juicy Pork Bun Detail- Peking Garden, Pacific Place

Soup  in Juicy Pork Bun- Peking Garden, Pacific Place

These are tasty; each dumpling has plenty of tender, fatty meat, tons of broth, and thin, chewy skin. What I didn't care for is that the broth and the meat is greasy; too much fat is included in the meat mixture. Otherwise, these juicy pork buns are a great rendition; it has all the aspects of what a juicy pork bun/dumpling fan should be looking for, other than the greasiness.

Pea Shoots with Mushrooms and Bean Sprouts in Supreme Broth- Peking Garden, Pacific Place

We ordered the pea sprouts with reconstituted dried mushrooms and bean sprouts in supreme broth for some vegetables. Here, the pea sprouts chosen are young, tender pea sprouts, and the bean sprouts have both of their ends cut off. The vegetables are fresh, and the broth rich and flavorful. We certainly enjoyed the fresh vegetables and the rich broth.

Pork and Bell Pepper Stir Fry- Peking Garden, Pacific Place

The pork and bell pepper stir fry on the other hand is nothing too special in my opinion: plenty of fresh, julienne bell peppers and pork slices stir fried together with some soy sauce and other seasonings/

Sea Cucumbers with Broccoli- Peking Garden, Pacific Place

We were somewhat disappointed with the sea cucumber here, but I guess that could be because we are spoiled with the sea cucumber available in California that is not only reasonably priced but delicious. Here, the flavors are fine; it is a Shanghai style ginger/leek/chive and soy sauce based sauce, but the sea cucumber is not only expensive, it also was harder in terms of chewiness. Instead of having a texture similar to that of soft gelatin, this sea cucumber had a texture similar to that of agar agar or konjac that has been mixed and formed with very little water.

Peking Duck- Peking Garden, Pacific Place

We were thinking about ordering the Peking Duck, but we already had enough food.

Waiter Carving Peking Duck- Peking Garden, Pacific Place

It was fun, however, watching the servers expertly slice the peking duck skin and meat into thin slices. They slice the duck not in front of the customer, but rather at a small table before serving the plate of sliced duck. We just happened to be seated right next to the waiters' final preparation station before service.

My Christmas Pacific Place- Central, Hong Kong

After the meal, we strolled around the mall for some light exercise. 

Bokeh at Pacific Place- Central, Hong Kong

The multitude of various spotlights at the My Christmas stage allowed for some fun bokeh shots with the camera!

Island Gourmet Display- Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong

Back at the Island Shangri-La, the Island Gourmet display greeted us with plenty of beautiful chocolate sculptures. It was a great Christmas Eve/Christmas and holiday decoration!

005, LG, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty
金鐘金鐘道88號太古廣場LG 005號
Tel: (852) 2845 8452

Find the rest of the posts in this series at this trip's TRIP INDEX. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day 6: Hong Kong Park- Central, Hong Kong

Fountain

An advantage of staying at any hotel at Pacific Place (especially the Island Shangri-La and Conrad) is the proximity to Hong Kong Park. Hong Kong is a bustling city, and Hong Kong Park offers a calm environment in an area bustling with business activity.

Hong Kong Park Monument
Hong Kong Park Monument

Like the Expo Promenande, Hong Kong Park has its own host of various monuments. This monument commemorates the opening of Hong Kong Park, which opened in May 1991.

Restaurant Nutcrackers

With the holiday season, Hong Kong businesses seem to decorate profusely. One restaurant put out these nutcrackers along the stairs to the restaurant.

Clear

Besides the lush greenery, random art exhibits are placed in open spots. I don't really understand this particular one though; is this supposed to represent a community?

WO 2 John Robert Osborn VC Monument

Other monuments, like this one dedicated to WO 2 John Robert Osborn VC, are also in the park. Like most monuments, these reveal many details when one walks closer to glance and enjoy them.

Bank of China Tower

Hong Kong Park also offers some great views of the towering skyscrapers nearby. Lots of professional photographers have shot the Bank of China Tower from Hong Kong Park.

Park Encapsulated by the City

However, what is probably one of the main attractions in the park is this giant water feature. Here, one can enjoy the lush greenery while surrounding towers rise high above.

Fishes and Turtles
Fishes and Turtles
Fishes and Turtles

What is also great about the water feature/lake is that there are plenty of fishes and turtles to admire at; they will routinely rise up to the various walls surrounding the water area.

Bird
Birds

Living organisms are not just limited to the water feature though. As unexpected as it may seem in this metropolis, birds do exist in Hong Kong! I rarely noticed any other birds though while in Hong Kong!

Fountain Up
Pathway to the Fountain

Although how short the visit may be, walking around Hong Kong Park is enjoyable; the lush greenery and flowing water are aspects that allow people to relax while they visit. Happen to have some spare time like I did while in the area? Visiting Hong Kong Park is a great way to see a part of Hong Kong most people don't automatically relate with when they think of Hong Kong.

Read more about Hong Kong Park at Hong Kong Park Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

Find the rest of the posts in this series at this trip's TRIP INDEX. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Machi Fusion (Lunch-Nice Time Deli)- Arcadia

Machi Fusion- Arcadia Exterior

Don't judge a book by its cover. From the outside, Machi Fusion seems to represent its name well-- the dark windows and the modern looking signage gives an impression of a restaurant catered to a younger crowd.

Machi Fusion- Arcadia Interior

Inside, the same story continues. Plenty of simple, clean cut lines and an exposed brick wall.

A glance at the menu though usually surprises most people; Machi is a combination of two ideas that would usually be separate restaurants. During the evening, it is a karaoke/pub/bar style restaurant with Taiwanese fusion food (the Taiwanese aspect is already different than the usual fusion==Pan-Asian), but during the lunch hours, Machi Fusion serves food of the restaurant Nice Time Deli, a (traditional) Taiwanese restaurant that the owner of Machi used to operate. There are two menus for lunch as a result-- one from Machi Fusion, and one from Nice Time Deli.

Sauteed Vegetables (A-Cai)

We however ended up ordering dishes from the Nice Time Deli menu. Machi's sauteed "A" vegetable (A菜) or arden lettuce is sauteed with garlic and was a pleasant starter to our meal. Arden lettuce, for your information, tastes somewhat like like romaine lettuce, except that it has more "green" flavor.

Missua

We also ordered a bowl of noodles; if memory serves me correct this is squid potage. It consists anyway of mushrooms, thin rice noodles, bamboo, carrot, and ground squid in a thickened broth.

Oyster Omelette

I was quite surprised to see Machi's rendition of the oyster omelette; the omelette itself did not look like how it used to be served at Nice Time Deli (it looked bigger but also flatter), and the tyipcal tomato-ketchup sauce was replaced with a swiggle of straight up tomato ketchup. However, when it came to actually tasting the omelette, it was reminiscent of the former version: a mix of lettuce, oysters, and scrambled egg encased in a thin layer of crisp, yet chewy rice flour mixture. Substituting the typical tomato ketchup based sauce for straight up ketchup in my opinion made no difference to the flavor of the dish; the substitution however is quite surprising.

Ham Fried Rice

As a young child, the dish I would always order at Nice Time Deli would be the Ham Fried Rice. And so, I just had to order the Ham Fried Rice at Machi Fusion for comparison. Machi's version of the dish is not surprising almost identical if not the same as how it used to be at Nice Time Deli- a slightly oily dish with chewy, short grain white rice, thin strands of scrambled egg, cubed ham, and green onion for brightness. I like to pair this dish up with a tangy sauce for more additional flavor; that sauce I'll show you in after a few more pictures.

Stir Fried Rice Noodles

The house special rice noodle dish used to also be one of our favorites at Nice Time Deli, and so we ordered it at Machi too for comparison. Both versions are quite similar-- there are plenty of rice noodles in addition to various meats (fish cake, fish paste, pork, et cetera).

Sliced Goose with Sauce

With the recommendation of the waitress/manager, we also ordered the sliced goose. At around 15 USD, this dish is not very friendly on the wallet! (The special tangy sauce I was talking about earlier is in the left corner of the picture above.)

Sliced Goose Detail

Suffice to say, the sliced goose is quite tasty, if not for the high price tag. There is plenty of freshly cut, tender goose meat (no metallic sheen on the meat), and it goes great with the sauce. Be careful when applying the sauce, as too much sauce will overpower the flavor of the meat.

Machi overall serves up similar, if not completely the same, dishes as Nice Time Deli does. For those who used to go to Arcadia's Nice Time Deli (now replaced by 101 Noodle Express) often, they will probably enjoy lunch at Machi. Other than the price (a complaint that we had on Nice Time Deli as well), Machi serves up competent Taiwanese fare, if not the best in the area.


Machi Fusion
1220 S. Baldwin Ave.
Arcadia, CA 91007
Tel: (626) 821-0566

Machi Fusion on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sesame Grill- Arcadia: Several More Revisits & New Items

Sesame Grill Exterior

Over this summer, I have gone to Sesame Grill several times and have tried some new items that I'd like to share with you readers today. There are definitely more restaurant posts coming; likewise, more travel posts are coming along the way! (tell me what you want more in the comments section please!)

Clam Chowder

One of our visits was during Father's Day; as a result, the restaurant was decked out with white tablecloths, brighter lights, and a special menu in addition to the regular menu. In the past, only special menus were available on holidays, but in this occasion everything was available-- good for those who like options! One of my companions ordered from the special menu, of which he selected clam chowder as the appetizer.

Sesame Grill's clam chowder is quite refined; as you might notice in the picture, the mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery) is cut into miniscule cubes. Although the broth has plenty of clam flavor, (as expected from quite visits) it is quite heavy in the cream and butter load. It goes well with the freshly baked bread as a substitute for the California Dairies butter.

Mixed Greens Salad

The mixed greens have stayed essentially the same as in the past; there's still the premixed selection of salad greens and the "new" creamy dressing that is slightly sweet and tangy. After all these years, the greens are still a fresh, green appetizer we enjoy before heading onto the lunch entree.

Calamari with Strawberry Mayonnaise

The manager talked about calamari being available, and after listening to her description of it one companion was willing to order it. This version of calamari had a light, crispy batter enclosing the tender, thin pieces of squid; lemon and the strawberry mayonnaise/sauce brightened the calamari. However, the dish overall was still somewhat oily in residue; also, it was the second plate we received of the calamari. The manager promptly took the first plate served to us "accidentally" away after it was served; my companions commented that it was probably overcooked as the batter was of a darker brown quality.

Thai Ground Pork with Rice

My companion ordered the Thai Ground Pork with steamed rice off the menu for another companion visiting from Hong Kong that would be welcome trying anything in the America. Being accustomed to Hong Kong standards, she was not accustomed to the rice of which was large, slightly hard, but fluffy, and the pork, which was doused with more oyster sauce than other flavorings. This is more of a dish inspired by Thai cuisine, but ends up being more of a fusion instead of an attempt to do Thai food.

Shrimp and Spinach Pasta with Cream Sauce

Off the special menu, my companion ordered a shrimp, scallop and spinach linguini with a cream sauce. This was comparable to other cream sauced based pastas at Sesame Grill; the cream sauce is creamy, yet not overwhelmingly rich, while the linguini is cooked slightly past al dente. The interplay between the rich seafood and sauce to the vegetables make a balanced and tasty cream based seafood pasta dish.

Sandabs with Lemon Caper Sauce

I ordered the Sandabs off the menu, having ordered Sandabs during a stop in Monterey during my San Francisco trip; I wanted to compare how sandabs could be prepared. Sesame Grill's version was delicious; the tender sandabs were lightly breaded and pan fried for a light crunch, and the bright and creamy lemon caper sauce went well in bringing the steamed veggies and mashed potatoes together. For around ten dollars, this really is a great fish option for lunch!

Fried Calamari Rings with Horseradish-Tomato Sauce

On another visit, the manager discussed to us that the kitchen has been adjusting the Calamari recipe; since the companion who ordered the calamari last time was not here during this visit, we declined the offer. The manager still wanted to share the fruits of the kitchen's labor, and so she surprised us by handing us the calamari dish when our appetizer of vegetable rolls (not pictured) arrived.

The dim spot of our location wasn't very good for taking pictures, so I took the plate to a brighter location in the restaurant and came out with this result. Do you like it?

This version of calamari had squid rings instead coupled with a few salad greens and a cocktail sauce. Much as we hoped to enjoy it, the squid was overcooked and as a result was somewhat rubbery in texture. We did like the cocktail sauce though; fried calamari with cocktail sauce is a pairing that works well.

Tuna Tartare Platter

Just as we thought we had too many appetizers, the manager surprised us yet again with a large, beautifully presented platter of tuna tartare. Likewise with the calamari, the manager paid for the tuna tartare as well. We paid back in tips, of course, as all should do when a restaurant unexpectedly offers free items for the customer's enjoyment.

Tuna Tartare Details

The tuna tartare, unlike the calamari, was fantastic. The soy sauce based marinade may seem commonplace in other restaurants, but this version stands out with the addition of black and white sesame seeds, sesame oil, and a slightly spicy burn in the background. On the bottom of each mound of tuna tartare is a wonton wrapper, which clings to the plate with a dollop of cream cheese. Coupled with the wasabi mayonnaise (the green dots on the picture you see in the picture), each bite was memorable and tasty. The plethora of flavors and textures worked well and was definitely tasty and memorable; I'd gladly order this tuna tartare again to celebrate a special occasion in a future visit.

Chinese Chicken Salad 1

Moving onto the actual entrees; I tried Sesame Grill's Chinese chicken salad, while my companions kept with their usual items of which I've described way too many times on Tripadvisor and on my last recent review of Sesame Grill. As a result, I only photographed my plate of food.

Chinese Chicken Salad 2

The Chinese chicken salad starts out with the same mixed green salad base; in fact, it even has the same dressing as the mixed salad greens desribed earlier in the post. What makes this different is that there are slices of grilled chicken, fried wonton strips, canned mandarin oranges, and sesame seeds sprinkled on top of the salad base.

I find the amount of wonton strips slightly overbearing, but then again, when I visit Souplantation, I tend to move the wonton strips aside when grabbing the Wonton Chicken Happiness salad with tongs from the serving bowl. The chicken on this occasion was slightly dry, but otherwise it is a pretty good salad with a reasonable price.

Surf and Turf Combo: Lobster with 8 oz. Filet Mingon

On our last visit, we ordered a surf and turf combo- a lobster tail served with lobster sauce and a eight ounce filet mingon served together on one plate. It was interesting how the lobster tail was removed completely from the shell; what you see in the picture is one complete piece of lobster tail meat and the empty shell of what used to house that meat! The lobster meat went well with the decadent, creamy lobster sauce, although it was slightly overcooked. The filet mingon was likewise delicious; our server suggested us to have it cooked to medium and as a result it was beefy, tender, and juicy. It may not have been the best filet mingon I've ever had but it is definitely a solid rendition.

Chicken Linguini- Tomato Sauce version

I wanted to order the usual Chicken linguini again on this visit, but when the waiter gave me an option to have the linguini tossed in tomato sauce, I took his offer. There are no mushrooms in this variation, but the marinara sauce makes up for it; tangy and flavorful, the combination of pasta and marinara sauce is traditional yet comforting.

Overall, Sesame Grill is still a great option for those who like a fancier option in the area; there are several kinks with the food that will hopefully be remedied soon (they are vigilant in reading the reviews), but the service is awesome--friendly and unpretentious. If you happen to be in the area, try it out (and the desserts as well...not described in this post but they are delicious).


Sesame Grill
308 E Huntington Dr
Arcadia, CA 91006-3746
Tel: (626) 821-0880

Sesame Grill on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: As stated earlier in the post, but to iterate: Sesame Grill has paid some of the costs of the food (tuna tartare and calamari respectively) of which we gave back in tip; the opinion stated is solely my own and has not been altered by the restaurant's management.

See past reviews of Sesame Grill here at its INDEX page.