No, I haven’t disappeared, just been v lackluster in updating the site although have been an avid reader of others’… guess this must be another prime example of my three minutes attention span... Am happy to say haven’t really stopped taking pics in between though, so got a zillion backlog to plough through now.

Just the thought of having to go through stuff from half a year ago intimidates me, so have decided to work backwards instead… stay tuned.

 


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Last year when we came to Hirafu, there was one night when I was stuck in the hotel for work. As food at Prince Hagashiyama, where we stayed, was overpriced and unexciting, A & T kindly brought me back a pizza from the village for dinner. The pizza was sooo good that I managed to finish three quarters, quite an accomplishment for moi, who doesn't really fancy pizza. So this time, we made our way to Pizzeria Niseko Paraiso again. 



Originally this was only a sports school and serenaded as a pizzeria at night on first trial in 2005. Guess it was proven to be such a hit that this year, the pizzeria has been expanded to a huge area within the complex to accommodate more diners. 

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For our third night in Hirafu, we decided on Big Cliff. The reason is shallow one of the friends we bumped into on the mountain told us that they had been to Big Cliff and said not only was the food there good, but that they also bumped into some HK entertainment stars there. Those stars have been spotted in Hirafu a few times so we concluded the restaurant must be good enough if they decided to revisit. This was another busy restaurant, but luckily we did make reservations in advance. One of the key attractions is the 23 type of yakitori on offer. As usual, starving after a day of strenuous skiing and snowboarding, we just pointed to almost every single item on the menu. 



For yakitori, we went OTT and ordered gazillions - beef sirloin, shitake mushroom, bacon asparagus roll, pork, chicken gizzard, chicken liver, chicken heart, and spicy sausage kebabs. The bacon asparagus rolls were yummy with the bacon fatty enough.


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When we were on the ski lifts, I asked my ski instructor, Kentaro-san, which are the popular dining spots around the Hirafu-Kutchan area. He named JoJo’s and Yummy’s for western food, and A-bu-cha for Japanese. A-bu-cha happens to be one of our favorite Japanese restaurant around the area too. By day, it is a cafe with its own bakery, and at night, it is filled with a constant stream of visitors, both local and foreign. This was our dinner destination on our first night up on the mountains. 


S and I made our way down the hilly slope at around five forty five hoping to grab a table when it opens shop at six. Arriving with five minutes to spare, there were already a few small groups of people waiting patiently in front of the restaurant, shivering in the cold. At this point we were slightly worried that we might not get a table, but were lucky enough to be spared one. A and T were in charge of ordering, as they were regulars and had visited A-bu-cha many times. I happily sipped my plum sour while taking in the wooden hut surroundings. 

We had the corn with butter (Y400), tuna & tofu salad (Y750), whole mackerel (Y1,600), chicken wing in gyoza, Kose-Nabe (Y1,700), Japanese udon (Y200), and teriyaki chicken with mayo (Y1,200)

S was disappointed when the tuna & tofu salad arrived as she discovered the restaurant uses canned tuna instead of fresh. However, the home-made salad dressing and the silky smooth tofu combination more than made up for this. Next to arrive was one of our faves the chicken wing stuffed with gyoza fried to a golden crispy finish, the chef was generous with the stuffing of vegetables and pork, which was cleverly conceived in the wing. 

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Been a bad blogger for various reasons~ travelling, sickness, and work... But luckily Phoebe has stepped in to help out as our Beijing correspondent and guest contributor... see below for her excellent write-up on Shudi Legend.

I’m SO honoured to be asked to guest blog but at the same time, HKFoodie and Shirls, have been doing such a GREAT job, that I really can’t help but get stressed about it how I’m going to meet their standards.  I’m such an amateur compared to my two dear friends, so please bear with me.  Even before my first posting, I’ve managed to forget my camera on a number of occasions, only to run out of batteries the next couple of times. 


I was first introduced to this Sichuan restaurant a couple of years ago by a good friend that works as an entertainment reporter here in Beijing. Apparently, Shu Area Legend is a follow up to actor Ren Quan’s (from mainland version’s Justice Pao) restaurant in  Shanghai, has apparently been frequented by the likes of Faye Wong and Christy Chung, as well as a number of local stars.  Actress Fan Bingbing (from Twin’s Effect II) has also been rumoured to be part owner.  (I’ve actually seen Ren Quan there twice now)

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A & T stumbled upon this true gem a couple years back and have been devotees ever since. In fact, part of the reason why we are staying one night in Sapporo instead of making our way straight up to Hirafu was to relive the yummy sushi memory here. Situated in the food underpass next to the Sapporo train station, it is one of the busiest restaurants in the area – and all for a very good reason – its ultra fresh and tasty sushi. 



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Over the CNY holidays, we made our annual pilgrimage to Hokkaido for a much anticipated ski trip. This time we went for seven days staying in Sapporo for the first night, then jumping onto the first bus up to Niseko the next day for a 3-night stay there. We then headed for Rusutsu, another popular ski resort an hour away from Niseko, for some variety. We took the five-hour direct flight from HK to Chitose airport, landing in the snow cladded city of Sapporo late afternoon.



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When brainstorming for dinner venues, M randomly suggested Chesa. Good memories from my last visit there immediately came to mind so I was totally fixated on the idea. Unfortunately, we failed in our repeated attempts to get a table, be it weekday or weekend, two days in advance or last minute cancellation. Finally, just when I was about to give up hope of ever revisiting Chesa and began contemplating the idea of Cafe de Coral's version of cheese fondue, we finally managed a booking - so Chesa we went.



We arrived at the cosy little wooden hut like restaurant and noticed that a few tables were well into their mains. The place was exactly how I remembered it - inviting, warm, and friendly. We settled comfortably into one of the side tables and were sitting next to one another facing the center of the restaurant. This is considered an odd arrangement in HK but was rather common in London, even at the very high end restaurants. Actually I think this is a rather good idea, as it's easier to chat with one another rather than across the table. 

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On New Year's Day, we gathered round for some dim sum fanfare. K, our dear organiser, chose Cheena in Causeway Bay as our lunch venue. Cheena was initially located on the ground floor in a much smaller space, but when it became popular and couldn't handle the crowds, the owners decided to open a much bigger venue on the first floor of the hotel. The ground floor Cheena closed down to make way for a Japanese restaurant. This is a pretty unique restaurant with two distinct features that I'd elaborate later.



One good thing about Cheena is that everyone gets his or her little teapot, so each person can order his or her fave tea inside of having to conform to the norm of pu er or jasmine. The issue with this little pot is that firstly, the cup is very small so it is like two sips at a time, similar irritant to the one at Zen. I guess it is slightly better with your own tea pot right next to you. But because the pot is also rather minature like, one would need hot water refill every fifteen minutes - they probably need one waiter just bringing the hot water flask around doing this. I do like the decor and how elegant everything looks though.

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Looking forward to:

- fabulously delicious Japanese delicacies
- 5 days on the slopes honing my ski skills & overcoming my fear of "black"
- outdoor onsen relaxing

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For our little NY gathering we decided against Chinese or Western food, and opted to revisit Chitose in the Lee Gardens shopping mall for its Japanese cuisine. The original Chitose was situated in the Sogo complex and specialised in very high-end teppanyaki cuisine for the Japanese. Was probably one of the most expensive Japanese restuarants within the Causeway Bay area, and was popular for corporate entertainment. This one is a bit more affordably priced.





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Have you noticed that the food scene is constantly evolving with structural shifts? A long while back Jap-style conveyor belt sushi was all the rave and such shops started popping up all over the place. Then came the Koraen influx with the introduction of the many kalbi restaurants. More recently have noticed an increasing number of Malay/Sing places in town, and HKF has been a diligent visitor to many of these shops. Recently I tried out another new one called Old Bazar in Tin Hau. In Chinese, the name actually translates to Lau Pat Sa, identical to the famous hawker center in Singapore. This is a relatively new restaurant that replaces One One Nam, another SE Asian restaurant located in the same spot previously. Not sure if they are connected though.



We came here for a quick lunch, and were handed a reduced lunch menu containing a large number of sets, which included a mains and a tea or coffee. Prices are extremely reasonable at only HK$35-45, and students would get a further discount. I opted for the seafood Laksa, and chose the "Cham Cham" combination, a mix of vermicelli and egg noodle. A opted for the fried noodles with pork's neck in Belacan sauce. We also ordered the vegetable fried in belacan sauce which was very reasonably priced at HK$10 only.

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Have always liked the concept of hotpot, where a group of people gather round a steaming centerpiece and share in the food and conversation. Yes there's the hygiene issue but these days most hotpot places already supply two pairs of chopsticks for everyone, one pair for public and one pair for personal use. For our recent office gathering, we headed to Chong Long Ting in Sai Wan (further away from Central than Sheung Wan) for its hotpot offering.



Of those that joined in the fun, half could not take spicy food in any kind while the other half totally dig the Sichuan-style "ma la" spicy hotpot (麻辣火鍋 ). As you can see from the hotpot picture above, this  "ma la" hotpot is already hot and fiery by appearance. Originating from Chongqing in Sichuan, "ma la" spicy hotpot uses a spcial spice known as huajiao (花椒), also known as flower pepper. This is the ingredient that dulls your sense of taste and gives you that added numb sensation in your tongue in addition to the spicy hot flavour. It is rather unique and is best explained by trying it in person. Because some of our friends did not like this, we opted for the mixed pot variety.

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Before our day trip to Disneyland, I did lots of research and asked around for lunch venue recommendations. The general consensus was that the fast food was only so-so, and for the better restaurants one had to queue for a very long time. Almost everyone's immeidate suggestion was Plaza Inn - the only dim sum restaurant within the park and run by Maxim's - so we decided to give it a try. Some also recommended going to the two Disney hotels for lunch, but it would take 15 min to get there from the park and we decided to save the hassle.



We got to the park at around 10 in the morning, and in addition to hurrying to get fast passes, we also made our way to Plaza Inn to make a booking for lunch, as everyone told us that the queues would be long. It seemed that it was our lucky day. You see, Disneyland Hong Kong experienced its first ever full house only two days before our visit (because of the WTO Ministerial Conference a lot of the schools were on holiday that day), and this was widely reported by the media. I guess people decided to avoid the park that whole week, which meant that we only had to queue for a very short time for most of the rides. When we arrived at Plaza Inn at 12:30 there were still a large number of empty tables for walk-ins too. While the outside of Plaza Inn, located at the corner between Main Street and Fantasyland, looked very Western and fairytale like, the inside was totally Chinese inspired. There were no Disney memorabilia at all.

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My aunt visited us from Taiwan in December, and wanted to try some good Cantonese food. We headed for Zen in Pacific Place for our little dinner gathering. Zen was picked because it was conveniently located in the shopping mall, allowing the ladies plenty of time to shop before the meal.



Haven't visited Zen for a while, as I do not go to PP that often, and there are plenty of Cantonese restaurants that I haven't tried out on the island. Immediately catching my eye when walking into the restaurant is the signature lighpiece that spreads across almost half the restaurant. The place has thoughtfully incorporated some Christmas decoration to the decoration, bringing some festivity and warmth to the place.

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