August 25, 2014

Hong Kong - Manzo Italian Steak House

I had dinner with 3 of my classmates one weeknight, and I suggested we try Jamie's Italian. I told them it would probably be an hour wait only if we went at 6:30pm. I was so confident we could get a table if we went "early" that I didn't make any back-up reservations. We arrived at Midtown Plaza 2 in Causeway Bay at 6:25pm and there was already a queue (apparently people starting lining up at 5:30pm). And it wasn't even the queue for a table. It was the queue to get a ticket to queue for a table! We were told by the dude giving out tickets that it would probably be a 3 hour wait in total. I love Jamie but it seemed excessive to wait that long, especially since he wasn't even physically there. Guess I will go when the hype has died down a bit. We went up to three other restaurants in the same building but there were no more walk-in seats available anywhere. Defeated, we headed to Times Square. Fiona suggested Manzo. We arrived before 7 pm and were the first ones there. The decor was casual, with wood furniture and white walls. I had never eaten at Manzo before, so I did a quick search online and found that it is part of the Dining Concepts group (of Bistecca, Lupa, Bombay Dreams and the anticipated Bread Street by Gordon Ramsey). 

Cold Cut Platter ($198 for 3 kinds): We picked (L-R) Bresaola Air Cured Beef, Speck Smoked Proscuitto and Finocchiona Fennel Salami. My favourite was the salami, which had the perfect balance between fat and meat, and a delightful hint of fennel. The bresaola was a bit on the chewy side and the prosciutto lacked in pork flavour. The portion size was reasonable.
Grilled Thick Cut Bacon with Salsa Verde ($108)The bacon was sizzling hot when it arrived. The salsa verde (green sauce which includes parsley, garlic, vinegar, olive oil) was tangy and refreshing, which was nice against the fatty caramelised bacon. Interesting combination overall.

Spaghetti with Sauteed Shrimps and Green Peas ($188): I liked how the pasta was served in a cute pan. It made it easy to share the dish. The spaghetti was al dente and tossed in a lemon-garlic-butter sauce. The shrimps were sweet and the frisee kept the dish light and fresh with its bitter notes. We all enjoyed this dish.

Bucatini with Crab Meat, Spicy Tomato sauce and Basil ($198): This was not as good as the previous pasta. There was too much pasta and not enough sauce, therefore the dish was under-seasoned. The tomato sauce wasn't spicy, nor did I taste the crab meat. However, I liked how the basil brightened up the dish.

"Guanciale" Braised Beef Cheek in Red Wine with Stewed Vegetables ($228): I should've taken a better photo of the beef! It was so tender that you could eat it even if you had no teeth. The beef soaked up all the robust flavours of the red wine and vegetables. There were hints of rosemary and black peppercorn. The vegetables were soft and added sweetness to the dish.

Tiramisu Cake with Almond Gelato ($68): Hong Kong style tiramisu made without the strong coffee liquor (or maybe there was liquor but I didn't taste any) paired with almond gelato. The cake was alright, but could've been more moist. The gelato was creamy and rich, but I didn’t think it paired well with the tiramisu. Lemon Meringue with Honey Gelato ($68): Yum! This was delicious. The pie had just the right balance of sweetness and tartness. The lemon curd was silky smooth and the crust was buttery. It could've been more crisp though. I liked the generous helping of meringue on top and the sweet honey drizzle. The honey gelato went well with the lemon, but in my opinion the pie was fine on its own.

Verdict: Decent and hearty dishes. The meat dishes were definitely better than the pasta dishes. In hindsight, I should've tried their steak given that it was a "steak house".

Manzo Italian Steak House
Address: Shop 1104, 11/F, Times Square, 1 Matheson St, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Phone: 2735-3980

August 19, 2014

Chorizo Carbonara

Last week I had an intense carb craving. I wanted something cheesy and starchy. I remembered there was a pack of chorizo slices leftover from my parents’ dinner party. I did a quick search of “chorizo pasta” and this easy recipe popped up. The main ingredients were chorizo, egg, cream and pasta, which I had. I substituted the whole chorizo with pre-packaged dried slices and the spaghetti with mini shells. It came out like a fancy mac and cheese. Ticked all the boxes of my carb craving!

Mix the egg and cream together in a small bowl.

Add about a teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper.

Slice the dried chorizo and render the fat in a small pan.

Add the chorizo and oil to the cooked pasta.

Add the egg cream mixture. Make sure the heat is off or you will end up with scrambled eggs!

Mix well. The chorizo should start to color the pasta.

Serve immediately with more black pepper and shaved Parmesan.

Recipe – adapted from here

For 2

16 pre-packaged slices of dried chorizo
150g pasta
2 eggs
¼ cup cream
Freshly cracked black pepper
Shaved Parmesan, optional

  1.  Cook the pasta according to package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the chorizo into thin strips.
  3. Combine the eggs, cream, and black pepper in a small bowl.
  4. Heat a small pan on medium and sauté the chorizo until the fat has melted. Turn off the heat.
  5. Drain the pasta, and return the pasta back to its pot with the heat off.
  6. Pour in the chorizo and melted fat into the pasta pan.
  7. Add the egg cream mixture and mix well. The residual heat from the chorizo and the pasta will cook and thicken the egg cream. Add salt to taste. 
  8. Serve immediately with cracked black pepper and a generous shaving of Parmesan.

August 16, 2014

Baked Caprese Crostinis

I'm about to board a plane to Barcelona! I'll be gone until the end of the month, but I will still post new recipes and reviews when I have time between Gaudi visits. After Barcelona I will be in France. Be sure to follow @christineatsss on Instagram for daily updates of the amazing food I'll be eating! I will now leave you with this easy yet delicious canape that you can whip up in no time. 


Makes 8 crostinis

8 thin baguette slices
1 garlic clove
1 medium ball of mozzarella, cut into 8 slices
8 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Torn basil leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to broil. I used my toaster oven!
  2. Cut the garlic in half and rub the cut side lightly on one side of each baguette slice. Drizzle the baguettes with olive oil.
  3. Layer the tomato, mozzarella and basil.
  4. Sprinkle salt and pepper, then drizzle with more olive oil.
  5. Bake for a few minutes until the cheese has melted.

London - Barrafina

This was my second time at Barrafina. The last time I visited their Frith street location I had to wait for almost an hour, but it was totally worth it. They opened a second location in Covent Garden so maybe the wait time will be better now for dinner! This time we went around 215pm for lunch on a weekday and we didn't have to wait at all. The restaurant was basically one long bar and everyone sat on bar stools. There were also two tables outside for larger parties. We were seated at the counter. It was a bit difficult to talk amongst four people but that was expected. Our server was very helpful and didn't try to hurry us even though it was almost time for last order. 

Ham Croquetas: Had this last time while I was waiting in line. One of the best croquets I've ever had! The coating was crispy and thin (but not greasy at all) and the inside was velvety smooth with the perfect ratio of potato filling to ham.

Gazpacho (Specials): Yes another gazpacho! This was better than the one from Ron Gastrobar. It was light and refreshing, with dominant notes of tomato and cucumber. I liked the creamy cold texture.

Tuna Tartar: The tuna was marinated in Asian flavours like soy sauce and sesame oil. However they were a bit too heavy-handed with the soy. The avocado helped tone down some of that saltiness.

Gambas al Ajíllo: Delicious rendition of this well-known dish. The prawns were fried to a perfect garlicky crisp and I could eat the shells of the body. The garlic didn't leave an overpowering aftertaste in my mouth.

Langoustines with Saffron Alioli (Specials): This was our favourite dish. The langoustines were so plump and sweet and just cooked through. The langoustine heads were full of delicious juices. The alioli had a nice heat to it but the langoustines were delicious enough on their own and didn't need the alioli.

Baby Gem Salad with Anchovies and Smoked Pancetta: The lettuce was dressed with a tangy shallot vinaigrette and topped with crispy pancetta and anchovies. This tasted exactly how it looked. Great way to get your daily dose of veggies!

Stuffed Squid with Girolle Mushrooms (Specials): The squid was tender and had a nice char to it. The stuffing however was unmemorable. I remember I had dip the squid in the aioli from the langoustine to add flavour.

Grilled Quail with Alioli: The skin was crispy and the meat was tender and juicy. The quail could've used a tiny bit more seasoning. I slathered the quail with the saffron aioli from the langoustine (again) because it was more fragrant than the aioli that came with the quail.

Verdict: Great food and great ambiance. You can try a lot of dishes with the tapas sized portions! I would probably stick to the a la carte menu, unless something on the specials really catches your eye. Come early to avoid long waits, and best to come with 2-3 people max. I've heard great things about their tortillas, so I'll be sure to try them next time.

Barrafina on Urbanspoon

August 12, 2014

Sugar Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

My sister Nene has a massive sweet tooth. While I only crave sweet things when I'm PMS-ing, she snacks on candy pretty much everyday. As I'm typing this, she is at her desk having Oreos. We bought some at London Heathrow before our flight back to Hong Kong, and we both agreed that they taste much better than the ones they sell in Hong Kong. The cookie is sweeter, flakier and the center is creamier (not like its chalky counterpart). I must stock up when I'm overseas again for the sake of my PMS! Both Nene and I are now on our summer break (my last ever before I enter the drone-y workforce for good), so it's the perfect time for us to bake and cook together in between binge-watching TV shows. Here is our first bake together! We made ice cream sandwiches using sugar cookies and strawberry cheesecake ice cream that we had in the freezer. 

A thick layer of ice cream sandwiched between two soft sugar cookies and covered with sprinkles. Tasted like funfetti cake but with a cool and creamy filling. Yum!!

Roll each cookie dough ball in sugar, and place them 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Flatten the balls with the bottom of a glass. 

Bake the cookies until their edges are golden brown.

Pair up cookies that are of a similar size.

Put two heaped tablespoons of ice cream on the bottom side of a cookie. Top with the other cookie to make a sandwich.

Roll the sandwich in sprinkles and enjoy immediately! Perfect treat for a hot sunny day.

Recipe – Sugar cookie recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Makes 12

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened slightly but still cool
1 cup granulated sugar, plus ½ cup for rolling dough
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 large egg
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Ice cream of your choice, slightly softened (I used Strawberry Cheesecake from Haagendaz)

  1. Heat the oven to 375F / 190C. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. In a separate large bowl, cream the butter with 1 cup granulated sugar and the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined.
  4. Mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix.
  5. Place the ½ cup sugar for rolling in a shallow bowl. Fill a medium bowl halfway with cold tap water.
  6. Dip your hands in the water and shake off any excess. This helps prevent the dough from sticking to your hands.
  7. Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough into a 1½-inch ball, roll the ball in the sugar, and then place it on the baking sheet.
  8. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the balls about 2 inches apart.
  9. Flatten the dough balls with the bottom of a glass until they are about ¾ inch thick.
  10. Bake until the cookies are golden brown around the edges, about 12-15 minutes.
  11. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 3 minutes before transferring the cookies to cool completely on a wire rack. 
  12. Put two heaped tablespoons of ice cream onto the bottom of one cookie. Top with another cookie of a similar size to make a sandwich.
  13. Roll the sandwich in sprinkles and eat immediately before the ice cream melts!