May 12, 2009

What a delightful evening!

chefs.jpg In the pic: Chris, Tim, Cynthia, Charles, Sam & Andy

Christopher Cheung; chef owner from Marica called me yesterday afternoon and told me Tim from Yuet Lee is retiring! So he and Narsai David put together a dinner at Tim's place last night and wanted to know if I would like to join them. Are you kidding, of course! I'd cancel all my dates (like I really have hah) to join them. All together we have a party of 11 people. Then not too late into the dinner, Sam Choy of Sam Choy walked in followed by Charles Phan of Slanted Door! So turned out to be quite some party!

I had met Narsai in numerous occasions. However not until last night that we really had some conversations and shared some good humor. A great one was toward the end of the meal, Spam came into the topic. As I said I was very "particular" with my Spam, which I only eat this one brand only, Tim took a can of Spam out from his drawer. I looked at it and I said this was exactly the kind that I wouldn't eat, especially "low sodium"...too healthy! Later I found Narsai trying to sneak that can of Spam in my purse. Caught him and I mentioned to him again not this "low sodium" one!

I just totally cracked up when I went home. I couldn't believe not only he managed to sneaked the Spam in my purse, but he also took a table salt shaker from Tim's restaurant and put that in my purse as well! Very cute! I must give him credit of how thoughtful he was that he tore a corner of a piece of napkin and screwed the top with the napkin inserted underneath. So no salt had spilled into my purse!

Of course conversations we had over dinner were all about food. I'll be looking forward to have these guys over for a meal soon. That's going to be another joyful day!

Cheers all!

October 13, 2008

Sure miss that!

February 29, 2008

The worst meal ever!

Another new challenge/surprise or whatever you want to call it. Everyday is always something new. This time...the freezer broke down on a Friday, last Friday...great! Sometime I really feel like I'm in one of those reality shows, well in fact; I AM in a reality show, just not being broadcasted.

Thanks to my buddy Chris, from Maria Seafood on College Ave! Called him at 10:30PM, told him about my situation and he offered some space in his freezer for me. The rest, of course all in my own house and Simon, my manager's house.

Since it's over the weekend, there's nothing much I could do or shop for. I finally found a replacement and scheduled to pick it up on last Tue. Chris even loaned me his truck! Another buddy of mine, Dave, who's kind enough to replace my Japanese maple for me after it was stolen the first time...oh well, his was also stolen after 6 months it was replaced; took a day off and helped me picked up the freezer from Morgan HIll.

We left the restaurant in late morning, took us longer than we thought for the whole process. By the time we were ready to leave Morgan Hill, it was already past 2PM. Poor Dave hadn't eaten anything for the whole day, so we decided to stop at Milpitas, where all the Chinese restaurants are. Most of the restaurants had already closed after lunch hour by the time we got there. Finally we walked into this one and...

It was a self-serving restaurant, and it was supposed to be a very famous one in Taiwan(I don't want to mention the name here since I'm not writing anything good.) I had heard of it and had been meaning to try it. So I was glad they have one in this restaurant mall. First I was standing at the cash register for almost 10 mins trying to place an order. There were people acknowledged my presence, just no one took my order!? Finally someone came, but when I tried to ask them couple questions about the food, all he could do was just to point at a picture on the wall and told me "that's how the food is, looks like that picture." ("Ok..." I thought.) I still ordered a few dishes:

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So first was a satay beef noodle. The beef was marinated in baking soda for so long, that yes the beef was very tender, but totally tasteless. (This is an old trick, but if you use good and high quality meat, and cook it right, please don't use baking soda! It'd kill the texture and the taste of a good piece of beef!) If it wasn't the satay sauce, I'm sure I would be tasting the bitterness from the baking soda. The noodle was fine, but the sauce and the beef... I only had one bite.

Then it was supposed to be an oyster omelet type of dish. I know the Taiwanese version was probably serve with some rice flour while the ChowZhou version, a province in China; only stir fry it with egg and green onion. I actually had the ChowZhou version served at my restaurant before and it was featured in one of the food magazines! This one that I ordered, again I only had one bite. There was so much rice flour in it that it just tasted like glue and I couldn't taste any of the oyster at all! And for the sauce, I really had no idea of what that orange looking thing is!

For this brown soupy noodle, while it was supposed to be hairy fine noodle in their special sauce, just looking at it, I thought it somewhat looked like shark's fin soup. Not until I put my spoon in and scoped a spoonful in my mouth, other than corn starch with soy, I really didn't know what was that!?

The fried fermented tofu was the best of all if I may say. Of course it didn't get the texture of the really good fermented one like you could get in a Shanghainese restaurant. At least for this dish, I had two bites!

The last one was a side order of porkchop. Since it was only $3.50 for a side order of porkchop, I thought why not? This was the time to remind myself again how important it was to cook with good ingredients! All pork that I use at the restaurant are good grade and porkloin with high quality. This porkchop that I tasted, I couldn't even tell if it was the oil, the meat or the oil and the meat. I got a mouth full of grease and fat, that I was ready to spit it out.

Another thing was filthy dishes! We asked for couple bowls to split our dishes, even there were only 2 other tables, I guess if it's self-serve, we just got to serve ourselves. We're told to get our own utensils at some corner. They were all plastic and the bowls were oily. Later the day, Dave told me he was very surprised I didn't just walk out already(he knows me well in this one!) while I was standing for so long just to get someone's attention to place orders. Well, I would have usually but he looked like he was going to die from hunger, and I felt really bad since he helped me and I hadn't fed him anything the entire day so far. Now I know, even if he's going to faint half way to another restaurant, I would chance it next time!

February 19, 2008

Valentine's Dinner

Thanks to all my extra helps again, we had a very successful night on Valentine's Day! So let me share some of the courses we had that night...

Each couple were offered with a shrimp and vegetable consommé, a "hug & kiss": sea salt crusted radish and salt & pepper chili after they're seated. And for those who ordered the tasting menu, two different Rosé Brut were sent to them in addition for a toss.

Every course was pair with wine for the classic tasting and sake for the exotic tasting. The first course for the classic tasting was a "Sesame crusted Ahi tuna salad with ginger sesame soy dressing" while the exotic tasting got the "Sea cucumber & fennel salad with citrus & mustard dressing".
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Then second courses were "Roasted chestnut & mushroom soup with truffle honey" and "Traditional Chinese ginseng & chicken herbal soup".
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Finally the main course were "Oven grilled duck breast w/ goji berries couscous in demi-glace" and "Black mushroom & Chinese ham stuffed quail baked in clay"

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Since the night of the Valentine's day was so crazily busy, we did a "re-run" the following night, so that we could video taped the quail and how we served that. Of course also hopefully to let you see how much fun our guests had on the night!

Lastly dessert! It's a dessert trio consisted of "Persimmon sorbet w/ organic ginger liqueur", "French rose Tiramisu" and "Layered carmel & chocolate cake w/ Cointreau marscapone cream". Some asked me why was I serving the rose tiramisu again this year? I wasn't planning on it until the week before when I found out "tiramisu" actually means "pick me up"! So how could I not then? However I serve it in a different way this year in a martini glass.

Thanks again to all my extra helps! Craig Roby, my guest chef; wouldn't have done it without him! Patty Chu and Auntie Maureen, my last minute called-in help; they certainly had been a great help in the dining room! Last but not least, my regular staff & all of you who continuously supporting the restaurant! Special thanks to those couples who made this their 2nd or even 3rd year celebrating their Valentine's night at the restaurant! You all sure made me felt very special! Thank you!

November 16, 2007

Trip to Asia

So I was able to sneak away from the restaurant and attended 3 banquets in Hong Kong, thanks to the extra efforts and hard work from my staff. And of course must have to mention the additional helps from my dear friends, Josephine and Jean!

First was my best friend Vicky's wedding, a long awaited one, while they have been together for more than 15 years! I can't put into words of how happy I was for her...for them. Since we live afar, I had only met Ronald less than 10 times in all these years. However 15 years later, I still see how much love and care he has for Vicky, how he caters to her and the way he acts and takes care of her... And that's all I care about. They sure are the couple who has my whole heartedly blessings! IMG_9967.JPG
In addition, seeing all the dear friends from school, talking about the good old days... delightful! Care to check out our 17 years ago and 17 years later pics?
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Then was my mother's 61st birthday banquet. In Chinese traditions, men celebrate their big birthdays on the zeros, 60th, 70th, 80th... while women celebrate on the 1's, 61st, 71st, 81st...etc. My mother is a very nurturing person. She always thinks of others first. She always gives. She would over exhaust herself, just to make sure everything was done right before any celebrations or dinner gatherings. She might only have 2 hours sleep on Chinese New Year's eve, wearing herself out to prepare the best meal and the cleanest house for my entire family and my dad's best friend to come and feast on New Year day. She wouldn't mention a word but she knows everyone's favorite food and would surprise you on the table when you're least expecting. She's a super thoughtful, super mom! She's the one in blue. And have you ever seen such bigger than a fist Chinese birthday buns before!?
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For her banquet, it was just a very small and low profile one with only family and my parents' best friends. It was because she didn't want to bother anyone for gifts. Even if you mentioned no gift in the invitation, Chinese would always bring you something. Especially family members. Therefore my mother used me and the mid-Autumn festival which was just around the corner on the calendar as an excuse, "let's get together and have dinner" was how she put it. As for me, any family gatherings would being me joy. I miss my family, and I miss all the gatherings that we ALWAYS had when I was a kid or when I was living in Hong Kong.

It's true that I have a very unusual family! A family that others always asked, "How come you all are so closed, and get along so well?" I think the answer is we truly love and care for each other selflessly? My grandfather had 3 wives (yes, all at the same time! ;) but the strangest thing was all the kids(my uncles) all got along so well that I didn't even know they're from different grandmothers when I was little! All the cousins are like bothers and sisters. It's just too bad that we had spread around the world quite a bit, but our hearts are always together! We're the FUNG, a name that I'm very proud of, a family of food and a family that many others envy!

Lastly was my second uncle's 80th birthday banquet. Uncle Ban had couple strokes a few years back. He has been doing better and now is able to hold his chopsticks and bowl and feed himself. However he still can't quite walk much. Therefore he and my aunt had chosen to reside in the resort they bought more than 10 years ago in the Canton area in China, where they can hire two full time live in domestic help.

The food was good but the company was the best! The restaurant that my aunt chose for the banquet was HUGE! We all had a great time. We joked around, played around and had a wonderful time.
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July 10, 2007

It's a good year...

...for my dive for abalone after haven't been able to get out for more than 2 years.

Even though I would love to get out more or even to stay up in Mendocino for a day or two, this has been a good year to start after I have been stuck at the restaurant for two years. I think I must have been dived for 3-4 times this year so far. And only one last time left in Nov if we really want to go again that a low tide with favorable time.

For the last time out, we haven't found many abalone or a good size that we would like to get, but we found plenty of sea urchins and it was like a wall of sea urchins that we saw under water. So that was still good!

Then of course when we're back at the restaurant, we had another big feast!

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BTW, after the dive we went and checked out a house for sale. Isn't that will be great to wake up to this view every morning?
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April 30, 2006

Best way to start off a weekend!

The whole gang(myself of course, Josephine, Lourdes & Elizabeth) and Jane went to the city sat morning to the farmers' market at the SF ferry building. This sure was the best way to start a weekend with:

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We started out having caviar and champagne at the Tsar Nicoulai Caviar Cafe. It was so nice to meet Ellen Peterson, the cafe manager. Thanks for the extra tasting and my favorite California Estate Osetra! Hopefully we'll see some of their caviar on our July menu to celebrate our 1st year anniversary!

Since Vivian didn't make it up to the city in time when all of us were done, I stayed behind to wait for her and we went shopping! It sort of felt like back in the good old days in Hong Kong with my parents - shopping and afternoon tea! Therefore after we had a blast shopping around union square, we had high tea at the Ritz, where I love their sunday brunch at the Half Moon Bay. It's time to try their high tea in SF.

First we had all the little sandwiches, Viv and I were looking at each other thinking the same: "we need more!" However after the generous portions of the pastries, we were stuffed! It was a beautiful day! How can you start a weekend better than having all your dear friends and good food around you? Looking forward to the gorgeous sunday!

April 23, 2006

Dinner, but...

I was planning to have dinner at Bushi-tei tonight. Was really looking forward to that too! When I got there, I thought to myself, how lucky I was to be able to park right in front of the restaurant, and it's in the heart of Japantown! As we parked, I saw Andy Lau in the restaurant!
Honestly he's just another "star" from Hong Kong to me, never really got crazy about him, but he sure looks good! Of course immediately I had to "powder my nose" right away before I got out of the car and walked into the restaurant! ;)

We asked for a table for two, and we were just standing 5 feet from his table! Couple minutes later, the hostess told us they couldn't serve us because the restaurant was closed for private party! And she was kind of pointing at his table. Wait, shouldn't you know already as we walked in? For a minute I thought Andy was cute! Really, cuter than I thought he was! However when I couldn't get into a restaurant because of him!? He's not cute anymore! I wanted my food more!!

April 4, 2006

Wine tasting


4.3.06 Martine's Wines had organized a wine tasting event at Fort Mason for all trades only to meet with all the wine makers of the wine that Martine carries.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it there until I closed after the lunch hours. Therefore I wasn't able to taste them all, but a good amount still. One of the highlights for me was to meet with Marie-Paule Marty from Chåteau Ferry-Lacombe and got invited to visit the winery. It would be really nice to be able to visit the Provence! (Wondering how soon will I be able to sneak away from the restaurant though...and travel far!?)

I had tasted Chåteau Ferry-Lacombe's Rosé, which has a beautiful and fraqrance nose! Delightful pink in color that sure cheered me up a bit and already I was screaming out for the halibut from my April menu. It actually accounts for over 60% of their production. For sure you'll be seeing that on our wine menu as soon as I'm able to get the order in.

Meeting Sebastien Gay and tasting his wine from Domaine Michel Gay et Fils was just delicious! Especially the 2003 Aloxe-Corton, full body and complex! As much as I love their wine, unfourtunately they are a bit too rich for my food. I wonder if I can create something just to have their wine on my menu!?

There are a few that I was very impressed by and think they will go very well with my food. Therefore all you French wine lovers, please come in soon and check out our new wine menu and tell me how do you like our new additions!

February 12, 2006

Valentine's Day menu

It was since last month, I have been trying to think what am I going to do with Valentine's Day? Oh yes, I wish I can have that day off, to be away and maybe on a beach just lay there, listen to the ocean and watch the sunset... Oh no, but what I meant is what will I be serving at the restaurant?

First question in mind, will I get any reservations? At first I thought I would do two seatings, one at 6:30pm and one at 8:30pm. And I would be serving a chef's tasting dinner... However I haven't got any reservations until last week of January. Since this is my first year, maybe I would take it easy and see how my customers response? So I decided I'll still offer my regular menu while I will have a chef classic and chef exotic menu, with sake or wine matching. I must admit this idea came from Jean Georges.

It was about 5 years ago, when I was still working as an engineer. I was sent to the New York office for a week to train a new guy, and to implement a back up system. The first night I was there, I met a chef, King Phojanakong at the Beekman's kitchen. He's such a friendly and nice guy. He stopped by to ask how was I doing and we started talking. Turned out he was working in Berkeley for Fatapple the whole year before. The next few nights and days on the weekend, he had taken me to so many good restaurants, which really opened my eyes to food that serves in the east coast. King now has opened his own restaurant, Kuma Inn; in the lower east side. If you're in NY, be sure to stop by and say hi to him. You won't be disappointed.

If I remember correctly, it was lunch on a saturday that we went to Jean Georges. We ordered the chef's tasting menu. When our food came then I found out they had prepared a classic tasting for me and an exotic tasting for King. I love that idea! So I actually can taste more! The service was classic French, and my experience was wonderful! Until today I'm still in the mission to find a restaurant in the bay area that offers that high level of service!

Alright back to the menu...I think I would like to play with sauces this time and using different ingredients to create that differences between classic and exotic. So now is Sunday almost 10AM, and I still don't have a concrete menu yet. I wonder if any chef would operate like me(so last minute)? Oh well... guess it'll all depend on what I can find at the market, but I can promise you I'll try my very best to make you feel darling after your meal!

February 8, 2006

Pig's feet!


Some years back a dear friend of mine, Cecilia Chiang; took me to the French Laundry's christmas party. After that she said since we're already in Yountville, let's visit another friend of hers' restaurant. So we went to Bistro Jeanty to see Chef Philippe Jeanty. I had his pig feet salad and until today, I'm still thinking of that and as I think I can almost still taste it!

Therefore while I was trying to figure out what I was going to put on the menu for this month, I knew I was going to put a Cynthia version of pig's feet salad. I asked many of my friends what would they think? Some said yes, some said "what?", and some said "are you sure?"

I kept thinking, part of my mission of this restaurant, is to educate my customers about good food! So the answer is yes I will put that on my menu. However what should I call it and not to scare my customers away? Hamhog salad? Pork's nuckle salad? ...etc.

The day of Feb 1(Wed) finally came. That morning I got a call from Vivian and she asked me if I read the paper yet? No I told her, and she told me to go and read the paper. What I found on the food section of SF Chronicle that day, with a big title, "Pig's feet, Chorizo & Chickpea Stew" in the recipe section.

Okay, if everyone can have pig's feet on their menu, why can't I? So I went back into the restaurant that morning, printed my Febuary menu with "Pig's feet salad" and yes it's the chef's favorite! Well I can tell you many of my open-minded friends tasted it and they like it. Even Vivain, the "no feet woman" and my favorite customer, Peter; brought a vegetarian friend who just started eating meat and had her first bite of pork that night would taste it. So please don't think it's the feet and give it a try!? If you really don't like it, okay I'll exchange it to something else for you.