Taste of Hong Kong @ Central Harbourfront – 16 March, 2017

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Four days of delicious food on the Central Harbourfront, Taste 2017 is a vast improvement on 2016. The restaurants are more prepared, have a better understanding of the event, have prepped more portions (3-500 portions per regular dish/session seemed the average) so it’s unlikely they’ll run out… Purchasing food is quicker and easier. There’s more seating – if a lack of bins.

It’s expensive, dining at these 16 restaurants is anyway, but the food dishes we tasted were good. The portion sizes of some dishes are a little small for the price, the paper plates environmentally friendly but not the best given the quality of the food. And there’s lots of samples from the various shops and market to try.

While all 16 featured outlets are worth taking a look at, Richard Ekkebus Culinary Director at Amber has done something more than a little special – and raised the bar for all participants for next year – he’s set up a special seated dining area and each session the producers and suppliers of the ingredients of each of his dishes are introducing and talking about what you are eating. Fascinating!
Click on any photo for the full gallery of images.

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Treating Your Tastebuds

The Taste of Hong Kong festival returns for it’s second year to the Central Harbourfront. This year there are 16 restaurants participating and all will offer four taster portion sized plates: three standard items at prices $50-$200 and one iconic dish that could cost up to $420.

Payment this year is only by credit card, if you don’t have a credit card then you can buy a prepaid ($200, $300, $800) one at the festival or from any bank. The remaining balance can used after the festival at other shops around town.

So the big question is how to enjoy and get the most from Taste and sample all the dishes you want to… There are two main approaches to Taste, the casual wander where you sample and join the queues that take your interest. But really this relaxed approach while enjoyable does not bring the best out of the festival.

To get the most from Taste, you need a little advance planning and it’s best to go with three or more friends. Firstly download and peruse the menu, chose which dishes you want to try and then ‘rank’ them in a rough order. This gives you the restaurants you want to visit, and with around 3,000 people per session, you’ll be queuing, which realistically limits one person to 4-6 restaurants.

But this is where your friends come in. Choose a meeting/eating point and then each of you joins a different restaurant queue and buys 4 (or more depending on your friends orders/preferences) of each dish. Meet-up, eat-up, enjoy and repeat… Remember to bring a tray, or something similar, with you to help you carry all the dishes!

To whet your tastebuds here’s a list of some of the dishes that are available:

Amber: Fukuoka line caught Spanish mackerel cured & torched, Miyazaki Hyuganatsu.
Arcane: Rangers Valley wagyu short rib served with green beans, confit garlic and pepper sauce.
Café Gray Deluxe: Brittany Diver scallop, XO emulsion and Amalfi lemon.
Chino: Uni/ truffle/ spicy lobster tostada.
Duddell’s: Pan fried M9 Australian wagyu wasabi soy sauce.
Kaum: Ikan Belut – Sambal Hijau, pan-fried eel fillet served with char-grilled chilli, shallots, tomatoes and coconut oil relish.
Mercato: Black truffle lobster carbonara
Okra: Sea urchin a la mode – Murasaki uni with smoked jelly and sea water.
Rhoda: slow cooked Hawke’s Bay lamb shoulder, spiced cauliflower and cumin.
Tin Lung Heen: Barbecued Iberian pork with honey.
Tosca: Prime beef in pizzaiola sauce.
Yardbird: Yuzu chilli hot wings with fermented yuzu chilli sauce.
Zuma: Grilled Hakkinton pork skewer with miso and pickled daikon.

As well as these tasty dishes there’s several food shops, importers and a market offering a wide range of products to take home and enjoy. There are also food demonstrations and talks.

A little planning will treat you and your palate to a fine, if teasing, meal.

Taste of Hong Kong
Date: 16-19 March, 2017
Venue: Central Harbourfront
Tickets: $678, $198, $168 from Ticketflap

Edited: The menu card only list 15 restaurants, there are 16 participating. We have updated the article to reflect that.

Taste of Hong Kong 2017

The Taste of Hong Kong returns for a second year to Central Harbourfront from 16 to 19 March. This year’s festival features an increased number of Hong Kong’s top restaurants, confirmed so far are Amber, Arcane (Sunday only), Cafe Grey Deluxe, Chino, Duddell’s, Kaum at Potato Head (Thursday & Friday only), Mercato, Okra (Saturday only), Rhoda, Tin Lung Heen, Tosca, Yardbird and Zuma with perhaps three more to come. Each restaurant will serve four taster portion sized plates: three standard items at prices $50-$200 and one iconic dish that could cost anything…

So what is Taste? The concept is that you can sample taster size portions of dishes from restaurants that you might never visit and create a meal from a range of cuisines. It is a interesting idea, sort of like changing restaurants between each course of a meal – and organisers IMG have turned it into a very profitable global concept.

bc was underwhelmed by last year’s event, not by the concept but by the execution – read the report here. We do love food though, so we spoke to IMG about how they’re looking to ‘improve the experience’ this year.

As HongKongers we’re accustomed to queuing but IMG have said they’ll be working with the participating chefs and restaurants to improve the service efficiency. Increase the information about which dishes are still available, including having far more of the icon dishes per session. As well as having drinks carts serving people in the queues.

There is to be more seating, covered and uncovered. A wider range of entertainment and more artisan shops to purchase food and drink from. Plus an expanded range of talks about food and wine.

The invited chefs look to have a better understanding of the concept and several of the icon dishes show they’re looking to offer something unique at Taste.

IMG appear to have addressed a lot of the frustrations that dampened enjoyment last year with some more improvements yet to announced but it all sounds promising for a tasty event in March.

Taste of Hong Kong
Date: 16-19 March, 2017
Venue: Central Harbourfront
Tickets: $678, $198, $168 from Ticketflap

Wine & Dine 2016 – A Few Things to Enjoy

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It’s Wine & Dine! After a walk around under the blazing sun here’s a few things to enjoy. We can’t say it’s a ‘best of’, there’s over 400 booths to explore taste and savour. Have fun finding your own favourites.

It’s not cheap! While many outlets are offering discounts on their regular shop prices for buying bottles (with many happy to home deliver after the festival). Food is pricey, most places are averaging $50-75 per portion.

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In an attempt no doubt to break up the massive crowds this year’s Wine & Dine Festival is laid out in short blocks set at sharp angles. It’s not instinctively easy to find your way back to an outlet/booth so eat /drink what you want when you see/find it. This layout also makes it hard to direct friends to a spot they’d enjoy – take a photo of the booth number.

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Wine Whiskey and Beer

There are more wine companies and stands than you can possibly sample… decisions, decisions. Your wine tokens get a tasting portion – not a full glass. Ensure they rinse your glass first! Check out the Riedel tent, the glass manufacturer has an ongoing selection of talks and tastings.

There’s a large, essentially craft, beer area – towards the Admiralty end, far side from the harbour – with a wide range of local and international beers to sample. Several stands have special beers only available at Wine & Dine. Want a bite with your beer? Next to the beer stands at booth E814 you can find a mixed sausage platter of black cuttlefish and traditional German cheese sausages covered in melted cheese for $40.

If you like whiskey there are single brand whiskey stands, most are grouped in the middle of the festival. Except for the Jack Daniels booth which is in the American area. Celebrating it’s 150 anniversary, you’ll be able to taste a wide selection of Jack Daniels.

Food

It won’t mean much to many but one of the booths in the American street is offering a free drink to those who kiss Hillary and or punch Donald 🙂 For for a simple snack try Millennium Seafoods lobster soup.

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Enjoy a big tasty sausage? Opposite the stage the 30cm Mega Jumbo Wurst ($75) offers a nice meaty custom made German sausage. Cooked over a massive circular BBQ, the team is organised and ready for the rush, their target to serve you in 60 seconds. There’s also a 15cm version ($65) which is the same type of sausage but sold more like a hotdog in a bigger bun. Wash is down with some Fruh Radler (lemon beer).

Flavabomb (E506) has a lovely light refreshing Gelato di Moscato – a choice gelato ice-cream, topped up with moscato and we added in a few dried strawberry flakes (top photo). A light refreshing option perfect in the summer sun or after dark. They also have a range of bakery products including croissants and pain au chocolat and some tasty beef balls with truffle.

Seafood: Abalone more abalone plus a bit of shellfish. There several booths offering abalone from a variety of different locations, in different sizes and farmed or wild. On the harbourfront edge of festival The Gold Coast Hotel has a bowl of their signature tasty Sri-Lankan crab for $98 and a hearty German sausage with sauerkraut for $60. Both portions sized to be almost a complete meal in themselves. Next door the Panda Hotel has a lobster bun ($40) and salmon, crab, cheese tarts ($40).

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If want a change from seafood, U Banquet is offering Grilled Assorted Balls for $20 a portion

While you’re picking up your free cookies from Lucullus check out some of their other offerings the predominantly Kowloon side chain has a range of tasty bakery and desserts on offer including cheese tarts (original, durian or green tea, $30 for 2) and stuffed baked parmesan cheese rolls (chicken, Thai green curry, sichuan spicy pork $35 for 2) and some cute looking chilled offerings.

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There are lots of desserts on offer, one of bc’s favourites from last year returns at booth E507. A rich silky smooth egg custard served in a real egg shell. $40 for  box of 4, it’s seriously delicious.

Other food booths to check out –pork knuckle specialists Golden Pig, K-Town, Butcher and Baker who are offering hotdogs ($40) and baked chocolate fondants topped with ice-cream $30. And for something a little different, next to the Admiralty entrance, Kwun Tong private kitchen Wines Buddy and Dining at Home.

Basic things: A reminder there is little shade! Sun cream and a hat or expect to boil during the day. Bring water, there’s lots and lots and lots of wine, beer, whiskey – but little water to keep hydrated. There are very few seats.

NO refunds on coupons! In fact, unless you want to sample wine, there’s very little point in waiting in the long lines to buy coupons at a rough estimate over 80% of booths accept cash.

It’s outside, there’s food, wine, beer, whiskey, live music… what’s not to like, have fun!

Wine & Dine Festival 2016
Date: 27-30 October, 2016
Venue: Central Harbourfront
Tickets: $30

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Taste Festival FAIL!

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For those thinking of attending Taste at the Central Harbourfront, then sadly I suggest you think again if you haven’t already bought a ticket. Especially if you’re imagining something like last year’s enjoyable and diverse Wine & Dine Festival.

At Taste there are just 12 restaurants: Aberdeen Street Social, Amber, Arcane (Sunday), Bibo, Café Gray Deluxe, Chino (Thursday & Friday), Duddell’s, Serge et Le Phoque, The Ocean, Tin Lung Heen, Tosca, Yardbird and Ronin and visiting UK restaurant Duck & Waffle (Saturday). The organisers IMG are hoping to attract 3,000 people per four hour session. If you are keen to try all 12 outlets then you’ll be hoping to get served every 20 minutes as will the other 250+ customers at each booth. Even the most efficient McDonalds in Hong Kong would be struggling to serve 750 people every hour for four hours straight; and they’re a restaurant specifically designed to serve fast food. The 12 outlets at Taste are restaurants used to serving 100 or so people in an evening, with care taken in the cooking and presentation of the food. And with rents for a booth at over $20,000, the dishes aren’t cheap ranging from $50 to $380 for mini-portions on a paper plate…

Each restaurant is offering 3 dishes and one signature dish, as the organisers IMG didn’t ask the participants to prepare any dishes for the media to taste it’s impossible for bc to comment on the individual offerings. On the opening night an outlet ran out of its signature dish within just over an hour having prepared less than 30 portions. Others ran out of their ‘main’ dishes before 8pm. One outlet spoke of preparing 300 of each main dish per session – so only 1 in 10 of IMG’s projected session visitors might be able to taste it…

Arrive early and expect to queue and queue… Even the Event Director Simon Wilson thinks you’ll only be able to taste dishes from 5 or 6 outlets per 4 hour session. Thursday was the first night, and the weather meant only a couple of hundred visitors yet there were long lines all around. Service at all the restaurants was friendly but disorganised with ordering and food arrival taking several minutes per customer. Late in any session I expect the food choices to be extremely limited if non-existent.

The place feels very sterile, there’s no area to sit and congregate and share food stories. There are no tables on the event ‘lawn’ (more like a squishy puddle in the rain) so the few standing only tables inside the booths were crammed and with staff working flat-out to serve food; clearing the tables of piling rubbish was an oft forgotten afterthought.

The restaurants are spaced around the exterior, while the ‘spine’ of Taste features various wine, craft beer and food produce outlets. Drinks are at bar prices and nothing that you can’t find easily around town. Although La Boucherie and Golden Pig are offering some tasty sausages while Eclair! has some interesting savoury eclairs and chocolates.

The lack of restaurant booths is Taste’s main problem. 20 or 30 outlets (there’s no shortage of ‘high end’ outlets locally) would have allowed diners to spend less time queueing and more time tasting – which after all is supposedly the idea behind the event.

This is not IMG’s first Taste event, they have organised many around the world, but Taste HK feels like a rort, designed to fleece it’s visitors of as many dollars as possible… Looking to cash in on the premium names and reputations of outlets with dishes that are expensive for what’s on offer. $280 for a lobster roll eaten standing in a puddle under an umbrella… Maybe it’s different overseas but here it’s definitely an event for those with money to burn. For the rest of us, save your money and go enjoy the dishes as the chef imagined you would eat them, sitting down with time to appreciate all their subtleties and complexities of flavour, texture and taste.

Wine & Dine Festival 2015

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The 2015 Wine & Dine Festival at the Central Harbourfront features a dizzying array of food and wine to enjoy over the next three days. The festival is organised by HK Tourism, which ensures that a large number of the territories hotels have food booths showcasing their signature dishes at prices well below what you’d find when dining at the hotel.

There’s wine, wine and more wine, tasting rooms, samplers and wine pairing dinners. To enjoy a glass and to keep things simple wine’s have been divided in to two categories. Classic wine – $20/coupon and Grand wine $50/coupon. You can purchase as many or as few coupons as you desire.

Food… There’s lots of lovely food, a smorgasbord of tastes and flavours from across the globe. The food and wine booths are separated into zones. Sadly, neither the festival map nor the booklet offer a list of all the participating outlets. In a way that good as it forces you explore, but it can also be a pain to locate a booth you want to visit.

Buffets are for grazing and sampling, and this is the best way to explore the large festival area because you never know what you might find. Dishes are paid for in cash and prices range from $10 up. Some of delights we discovered on our wander last night included a lovely artesian french booth offering cones of cheese, ham’s and salami ($50-60). Among the delights in the hotel booth area were a tasty lamb shank and a delicious stuffed crab topped with melted cheese; or enjoy heart shaped meatloaf topped with gold leaf.

Locally it can be hard to find good bread, but several restaurants make their own and are showcasing this on their booths Ciak has nice fresh bread to go with it’s spicy sausages. While Bagoes is offering fresh bagels, bagel sandwiches.

There’s lots of desserts, one definitely to look out for is is egg custard served in a real egg shell. It’s not cheap $70 for 2, but it’s delicious – booth C204.

There’s also a stage offering a variety of live music through the festival.

Frustrations – there’s very little seating, and no shade! So if the sun’s out, bring some suntan cream and an umbrella because without any breeze Central Harbourfront can be very hot.

It’s outside, there’s food, wine, beer, live music… what’s not to like, have fun.

Wine & Dine Festival 2015
Date: 22-25 October, 2015
Venue: Central Harbourfront
Tickets: $30
More info:
22 October – 8-11:30pm
23-24 October – 12-11:30pm
25 October – 12-10pm
More images here

HK Streetathon @ Central – 6 September, 2015

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HK Streetathon @ Central – 6 September, 2015
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https://bcmagazine.smugmug.com/Bcene-photos/2015/HK-Streetathon-2015/51798472_QccSD5#!i=4331457781&k=S4wjQRM

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OmfestHK @ Lai Yuen – 9 August, 2015

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A couple of hundred yoga lovers gathered in the cramped confines of the main stage at the Lai Yuen carnival for the second OmfestHK. With the popularity of the inaugural event and the wide open grass spaces of Tamar a few steps away the organisers choice of a 30x30m piece of tarmac was a strange one, the area was far too small. Interested yoga enthusiasts would arrive, see the fenced in space was already full of yoga mats and leave…
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