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Begawan Solo @ Decadent livin'


Whenever someone from the office hops over to Singapore on biz, he or she is always reminded to bring us back goodies from the Begawan Solo shop before heading for the immigration counter.


Begawan Solo @ Decadent livin'


I first fell in love with lapis kueh (layered cake) at university. Ever since my Malaysian university friends started bringing me back home-made layered cake every summer, I have been addicted on lapis kueh, no small feat considering I don’t normally have cravings for cakes. The making of lapis kueh involves an extremely laborious process, I was told. After each additional layer of cake is made, it is added to the base and weighed down using some deadweight for some time until it flattens to less than a few millimeters, before the next layer is added. As you can see, there's well over 15 layers, hence you can guess how long it takes to make one. While I have tried versions from some ASEAN restaurants in HK, the same rich, buttery and especially important for me, not too sweet texture was never replicated well or to my taste at least.

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To celebrate the visit of our friends from London (albeit with no souvenirs), we decided to try out a private kitchen in Wan Chai – Gitone Fine Arts – which, by day, is a ceramics gallery that also offers pottery classes. In the evenings, the gallery transforms into a cosy private kitchen, where it can serve four tables of 10-12 guests. Thoughtfully, all the dishes were served using Gitone’s own homemade pottery.


Gitone Fine Arts @ Decadent livin'


We opted for the Shanghainese menu, which included eight small appetizer dishes and eight main courses. The selection of small appetizers was extremely well received, with a good variety including crunchy jellyfish shreds, flavorsome smoked fish, silky smooth tofu cubes, aromatic drunken chicken, delicate vegetarian duck, crispy cucumber slices, and tasty eggplants in sauce.


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After our little car mishap in the morning, we set off for the ultra-hip Apgujeong area in search of a lunch venue, looking forward to some barbequed food. Just when we were getting desperate and tired from the mindless wandering and inability to agree on one restaurant to go to, clouds of aromatic smoke wafted us to this bright and cheery looking corner restaurant, which is called- aptly and simply- The Chicken Restaurant. The restaurant specializes in a Chuncheon speciality – chopped chicken pieces are spread as slices and pressed down in spices and condiments on a steel plate with all sorts of vegetables and then grilled right in front of your eyes.


Chicken BBQ @ Decadent livin'


Immediately upon seated, the waitress brought us soup, cabbage salad, and lettuce leaves with chili paste without asking. The soup was of a variety that I had never tried before – seaweed soup with vinegar and ice – very refreshing and appropriate for the hot summer day. Typical of the Korean restaurants we visited, none of the waiters and waitresses speak any English and no English menu was available. Luckily, given it is “The Chicken Restaurant”, it wasn’t very hard to understand what’s popular here, and with some pointing and sign language, we managed to place our order.


Chicken BBQ @ Decadent livin'


Specialisation means service was swift and a hot plate that was brim-full with ingredients was placed in the center of our table very quickly. Buried under the thick layer of red chili paste was an entire raw chicken (de-boned), many kinds of veg, and long tubes of rice cake. After the waiter expertly cut the chicken up into smaller pieces and started heating the plate, we all looked intently at the dish, eager to grab our first bite. If it weren’t for the fact that chicken has to be cooked thoroughly before consumption, we’d probably finish the whole plate there and then. Korean style service means that while we were thoughtfully provided aprons to put on, we didn’t have to lift one finger in the cooking process, as the waiters would return and monitor the hotplate regularly.


Chicken BBQ @ Decadent livin'


After the world’s longest torture in which one can see it but cannot touch it (more like 20 min in reality~), we were finally given the go-ahead sign to start digging in. And it was then that we realized the wait was very worthwhile~ while at first sight it looked extremely spicy, the paste was actually quite mild (or our taste buds already lost their senses from the many hot dishes we were sampling in Seoul), with a scent of sweetness, which blended every well with the juicy chicken pieces. The rice cakes (tteok) were amazing in texture and also taste, after simmering for so long with the chicken fat and chili paste, it was still chewy and retained its shape, unlike some horrible mess one sees in HK. In addition to the option of wrapping the chicken pieces in lettuce and adding raw garlic plus the chili paste and stuffing these parcels into our mouth, the chicken pieces also went down well with the cabbage salad, which was on unlimited refill basis.


Chicken BBQ @ Decadent livin'


After polishing off three-quarter of food on the hotplate, the waitress brought over a bowl of cooked rice to fry on the plate. This served as another highlight and a satisfying end to our meal~ with the rice serving piping hot and full of flavor, slightly burnt just the way I like it. Trust me, it took a lot of self control to refrain ourselves from ordering another portion of noodle to fry on the plate.


Chicken BBQ @ Decadent livin'


The meal, very filling and enjoyable, only cost less than HK$200 for the three of us in total~ a great bargain I’d say. There are branches all over Seoul~ just watch out of the chicken sign!


Chicken BBQ @ Decadent livin'







The Chicken Restaurant, Apgujeong, Seoul


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One observation from Seoul was the abundance of spacious, comfy, and chic cafes just about everywhere one went… while a norm for many metropolitan cities like Tokyo, Seoul, and even Taipei, it’s definitely severely lacking in HK. The exorbitant rental prices probably play a large factor in this…here’s a few cafes that we visited in Seoul, including a traditional tea house.


Top Cloud @ Decadent livin'


Cafe Seventy Four @ Decadent livin'


Top Cloud, perched right on top of Samsung Securities Bldg (aka Jongno Tower), is supported only by three columns, and probably has the best panaromic view of the busy Jongno business district. Both a restaurant and bar, we were told that there’s live band performances at night as well. A trendy Western restaurant for entertaining corporates and clients, Top Cloud is apparently also popular with couples in the evening with the gorgeous night view as a backdrop.


Top Cloud @ Decadent livin'


Situated close to the hip shopping area of Rodeo Drive, Cafe Seventy Four is a perfect venue for late afternoon girl talks. While a full a la carte menu is available, its main selling point is the large tea selection and exquisite cakes on offer.


Cafe Seventy Four @ Decadent livin'


Cafe Seventy Four @ Decadent livin'

















An interesting phenomenon we discovered while perusing the menus– a side serving of french fries would cost as much as a mains portion of sirloin steak in these high-end coffee shops. Teas & coffee cost in excess of W13,000, which translates into US$13 per cup or pot, which sounded outrageous at first. However, upon hearing that a plate of nachos would cost in excess of US$80 at JJ Mahoney’s in the Seoul Grand Hyatt… the US$13-royal milk tea suddenly sounds extremely reasonable in comparison.


Cafe Seventy Four @ Decadent livin'


Jeenah also brought us to a traditional Korean tea house on Insa-dong, which used to be the residences in the Joseon Dynasty officials, and is now home to many antique shops, art galleries, calligraphy shops, and traditional Korean arts and crafts outlets. The side alleys lead to many more hidden and interesting stores, and on weekends, the main street bustles with street vendors selling a wide variety of Korean street food.


Korean tea house @ Decadent livin'


A tempting selection of traditional Korean rice cakes were on display at the tiny tea shop that we visited. While these cakes look similar to the ones from Japan, the texture is lighter and the taste definitely much less sweet. While I prefer it this way, my friend’s sweet tooth says otherwise… most of these cakes can only keep up to a week, which was a good excuse for us to polish off our little selection immediately.


Korean tea house @ Decadent livin'


All of these are excellent venues for chilling out and catching up with friends over the weekends, when will we see a better selection in HK?


Cafe Seventy Four @ Decadent livin'


Cafe Seventy Four, 83-20 Chunghdam-dong, Kangnum-gu, Seoul
Top Cloud, 33rd Floor, Jongno Tower, 1-1 Jongno 2-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Korean tea house, Insa-dong, Seoul


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Jeenah, my dear ex-colleague and friend, kindly took an afternoon off from work to bring us round Seoul, visiting Insa-dong, a street filled with small shops selling traditional crafts and porcelain. Knowing how much I love food, she also brought us to many of her restaurant top picks, like the Korean tea houses & Top Cloud, a hip restaurant with a magnificent view. Will have to make sure I am half as good a host as she has been when she next visit HK~


Seoul living @ Decadent livin'


Here’s a few pics of her 9-months old son, Hyunsung, playing with the inflatable toy I bought for him before flying over. Totally adorable, and looking just like Jeenah.


Seoul living @ Decadent livin'








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Strolling round the Tokyo-like alleyways and checking out the trendy people on the street, we saw quite a few people popping into this shop with mysterious dark wood panels. Given we still had a bit of time before needing to get back to the hotel to get ready for my friend’s wedding, we decided to check out what this Gusttimo is all about…



Seoul food @ Decadent livin'



To our absolute delight, this was an Italian gelato shop, and we drooled, with starry eyes, all over the colorful and rich creamy gelatos on display. Wall exhibits indicate that the shop originated from Italy, although given it was all in Korean, it was rather hard to decipher. Our attention switched quickly back to the gelatos and even though we were absolutely stuffed (after pigging out at New York Fries & the Chicken Restaurant), there was not a single moment of doubt that we’d each order a cone.


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Wandering round the myriad-like sidestreets of Apgujeong in search of a traditional Korean restaurant, my friend’s eyes suddenly widened and made an abrupt left turn and headed straight for this New York Fries joint without any explanation. We quickly followed...


Seoul food @ Decadent livin'


As it turns out, this is one of my friend’s favorite fries destination, started up by two brothers from Ontario Canada. The chain has locations in Canada, Australia and Korea, to name a few. The company uses hand cut, skin on, fresh potatoes to make its fries, versus the reconstituted ones you get at McDonald’s (remember Super Size Me & the experiment?). To prove its case, a selection of these humongous potatoes were on display right next to the cash register.


Seoul food @ Decadent livin'


Seoul food @ Decadent livin'
















What’s even better, every cup is cooked right in front of your eyes, ensuring each and every piece is piping hot and crisp when served.

We opted for the Poutine – “a delicious marriage of New York Fries, fresh cheese curds and our signature gravy”. This was served in a huge cup brimming full with fries and gravy~ and trust me, it tasted SOOO much better than McDonald’s or White Spot Triple O’s potato wedges. Deeply satisfying, these fries did not reek in oil and one could actually taste the sweetness of the potatoes. The only negative was that the cheese was cut up into small cubes instead of slices (which is the way how it’s done in Canada, which made it more difficult to melt all over the place.


Seoul food @ Decadent livin'


Seoul food @ Decadent livin'
























Seoul food @ Decadent livin'


This place is definitely fingers-lickin’ good…. looking forward to revisiting or a franchise store opening up in HK~

PS My juvenile friends cracked up totally at the sight of this...








New York Fries, Apgujeong, Seoul







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Lack of restaurant choices was one of our top complaints when we first moved into IFC2... but slowly and gradually, building mgmt has outfitted the shopping mall with quite a selection of high-end restaurants, geared primarily to the corporate customers. Harlan's is definitely one of them. With its magnificent view of the harbour in the long rectangular shaped restaurant and modern, sleek decor, it sure deserves its popularity amongst those to see and be seen.

One would definitely feel Harlan's presence in the restaurant, of Aberdeen Marina Club fame, he is not a head chef that just hides in the kitchen, but likes to mingle with the guests, sharing his recommendations and daily highlights.


Eating out @ Decadent livin'


On our recent lunch visit, every single one of us opted for the set lunch, with the focus on the appetizer buffet on display right at the entrance area. Similar to Isola, Harlan's offers relatively large selection of fresh produce like parma ham with melon, salads, salmon appetizer in a spoon, and even sushi and maki rolls... this received the thumbs up from us~ with the only complaint being we filled ourselves up with too much too quickly.

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With only 45min to spare before the movie, we opted for a quick bite at Sabah in Wan Chai... been reading quite a few good reviews about the place's authenticity so was quite looking forward to it. It's difficult to miss right next to one of the more established nightspots (Neptune II) in the more hustle bustle area in Wan Chai. My review is quite mixed- a couple dishes exceeded expectations, while the rest were only soso...

We ordered quite a large selection - nonya squid, chicken masala, roti chanai, egg chanai, and nasi lemak. Nonya squid, the first dish to arrive (see picture), was very tasty and flavoursome, setting expectations high. The nasi lemak was also relatelively well received. However, the roti chanai and egg chanai failed to impress and were left largely untouched. Dry and not crispy enough, somehow it felt like the food had been prepared the night before. The chicken masala was a bit too oily and lacking in spices.


Eating out @ Decadent livin'



Teh tarik has always been one of my favourite drinks (along with a kaya toast), and at Sabah, it came with the usual made on the spot gimmick. The taste was quite disappointing~ a bit too sweet and not very silky and smooth in texture. Neither of us managed to finish our drink.

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Used to have these "Zoe cravings" when there was only one outlet in Happy Valley near the Parkn' Shop, and would beg my friends to drive all that way for a banana cream pie that we'd have to buy and gorge down in the car, as there was no sit down area in the small cake shops. Was disappointed when the IFC concession within CitySuper made way for a Japanese brand, but am more than delighted with the opening of this small hidden cafe on Hysan Avenue.



There are only five tables (tip: don't sit near the window, it's freezing cold with the direct hit from the air-con) and a large display of Zoe's gorgeous cakes... "dainty" just about describe the whole place.

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