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TastemakersT.Dining’s Food Writers On Their Best Culinary Moments Of 2018

T.Dining’s Food Writers On Their Best Culinary Moments Of 2018

T.Dining’s Food Writers On Their Best Culinary Moments Of 2018
By Hong Kong Tatler
December 27, 2018
Our team of reviewers and food experts ate their way through 2018—here are their highlights

Indisputably, T.Dining's network of roving food critics dine out more than the average person—and over the last 12 months, they've experienced their fair share of culinary highs and lows. As 2018 draws to a close, we asked them to spotlight their most memorable food experience of the year as well as a food-related resolution to stick to in 2019. 

Charmaine Mok

Rakuichi's soba master Tatsuru Rai (Photo: Charmaine Mok)
Rakuichi's soba master Tatsuru Rai (Photo: Charmaine Mok)

Best food moment

2018 has been my year of appreciating noodles in all shapes and forms (#nonoodlesnolife) and one of the most memorable moments this year came during a snowboarding trip to Niseko. Rakuichi is one of Japan’s most well known soba-ya, located at the base of Annupuri mountain, and we had chosen to work up an appetite by traversing across to reach it. Arriving at the quaint wooden hut, we were lucky enough to snag seats for all five of us because of one oversight—they had momentarily forgotten to put out the sign saying they were full for lunch (they only do 20 places), but the husband-and-wife team being ultra Japanese they graciously allowed us to be their final batch of customers anyway. The feeling of watching the soba master meticulously preparing our noodles while we slowly defrosted and sipped sake, then finally slurping up the toothsome, buckwheat-rich soba in an umami-rich duck broth, was the perfect antidote to the tiring morning on the slopes.

Food resolution

KonMari the kitchen and cook more for and with my family.

Charmaine is the Editorial Director of Food & Wine at Edipresse Media Asia, publishers of T.Dining. Follow her on @supercharz

Wilson Fok

Golden coin chicken (left) matches chicken livers with candied pork fat on crispy bun. Rainbow pig's stomach (right) is a Chinese version of haggis, where a pig's stomach is stuffed with salted egg, century eggs, and beef tendons (Photo: Wilson Fok)
Golden coin chicken (left) matches chicken livers with candied pork fat on crispy bun. Rainbow pig's stomach (right) is a Chinese version of haggis, where a pig's stomach is stuffed with salted egg, century eggs, and beef tendons (Photo: Wilson Fok)

Best food moment

2018 was the year of my quest to rediscover the joy of Cantonese food. The highlight of my journey came in March, when The Chairman featured its first guest chef collaboration with Foshan’s 102 House. While 102 House’s restaurant manager Jimmy Yip and chef Xu Jing-ye are in their early 30s, they displayed a wealth of knowledge in the traditions and practices of Guangdong province’s culinary treasures. The meticulous details they took in recreating dishes such as rainbow pig’s stomach, revamping the golden coin chicken, or creating an incredible sweet and sour pork, inspired my curiosity for learning more about the food we grew up eating.

Read more: Are They Going To Save Cantonese Cuisine?


Food resolution

In the new year, I wish to explore the relationship between time and food, embracing the efforts placed to cultivate the food on our table. By learning to appreciate the processes it takes for what we eat, how it comes about and how it gets here, we will understand more about the food we consume.

Wilson is the Dining Editor of T.Dining Hong Kong. Follow him on @happyquince

Cathy Chon

Johnny cake is a sweet and savory treat made from cornmeal (Photo: Cathy Chon)
Johnny cake is a sweet and savory treat made from cornmeal (Photo: Cathy Chon)

Best food moment

Ever heard of “johnny cake,” Babycakes? Well, I never did until I met this fluffy cornmeal pancake slathered in honey butter and topped with a dollop of sturgeon caviar. It was so mind shatteringly good that it had me queuing up at Neptune restaurant in Boston for two days in a row. Johnnycake is unleavened cornmeal found in the cuisines of New England and the American South. Just like pancakes, it’s cooked on a griddle and topped with a hot mess of combos and can also be served in place of potatoes when paired with meat. All this time I thought I had a grip on my grits and grains but I clearly have a lot to learn and discover.

Food resolution

Eat slower. As in, chew my food more and take the time to savour the flavour. I’m always in a rush that eating can sometimes feel like a chore.

Cathy Chon is the founder and managing director of CatchOn, a brand communications and PR consultancy specialising in hospitality. Follow her on @catchonco

Esther Wong

Delicate Parmesan egg custard tarts by Nobu pastry chef Joanna Yuen (Photo: Esther Wong)
Delicate Parmesan egg custard tarts by Nobu pastry chef Joanna Yuen (Photo: Esther Wong)

Best food moment

I'm usually not very big on egg tarts, but I was pleasantly surprised by a Parmesan egg custard tart with white truffle created by pastry chef Joanna Yuen of Nobu. Presented during T.Dining's "Hong Kong Memories" event series in November 2018, it was a delicate balance between a Hong Kong egg tart and Japanese baked cheese tart—I could've easily inhaled a half dozen on my own.


Food resolution

Be more mindful of what foods I fuel my body with, but looking more towards portioning. I don't like to deprive myself of foods, but there is a difference between eating one or two pieces of fried chicken and having an entire basket. This also ties in with my on-going fitness goals, so it'd be a win-win.

Esther is the former assistant editor of T.Dining Best Restaurants. Follow her on @estherwo

Janice Leung Hayes

Even a seemingly basic plate of fried rice is done with intelligence at 102 House (Photo: Janice Leung Hayes)
Even a seemingly basic plate of fried rice is done with intelligence at 102 House (Photo: Janice Leung Hayes)

Best food moment

My food "moment" this year is actually comprised of many moments—it's the meals I've had at 102 House during different seasons throughout the past year. I've been able to taste the change in seasons, which is a true revelation that has made me rethink Cantonese food. There's nothing quite like it in Hong Kong, or anywhere else for that matter.

See also: How Foshan's 102 House Is Reframing Cantonese Cuisine

Food resolution

My food resolution next year is to cut out industrial meat. Whether you look at it from an environmental, health, ethical, or even taste perspective, there are no upsides—it's simply a habit we need to wean ourselves off.

Janice is the founder of Tong Chong Street Market, Honestly Green and Capsule 48. Follow her on @e_ting

Joanne Liu

A scene from the 100th Annual Tajima Cattle Livestock Competition in Kobe (Photo: Joanne Liu)
A scene from the 100th Annual Tajima Cattle Livestock Competition in Kobe (Photo: Joanne Liu)

Best food moment

2018 counted too many memorable food moments; most of them involved cooking at home for my almost 2-year old daughter and watching her experience different flavours and textures for the first time. However, the single most extreme moment that will top all experiences was at the 100th Annual Tajima Cattle Livestock Competition, where I attended with Wagyumafia this fall in Kobe.  The prestigious annual event rounded up top Tajima and Kobe beef farmers in Japan to showcase their 'Best in Show'.  As part of the gathering, farmers and producers set up tents to barbecue and celebrate as a community.  One of the producers had generously served what seemed like a free-flow of grilled Kobe beef thick-cut fillet. Standing around the grill with beer, cheering with the generosity of the farmers defined my year in eating.   

Food resolution

I'm guilty of packing away restaurant leftovers in single-use takeout containers and using too much plastic in general! I will make more of an effort to bring my own shopping bags, lunch boxes, coffee cups, etc. when I'm out.  Every little effort counts. 

Joanne is a F&B communications and strategy consultant currently working with Wagyumafia. Follow her on @10x

See also: 11 Eco-Essentials For A Plastic-Free Life

Johannes Pong

Vegetarian sushi course at Fūan, Okinawa (Photo: Johannes Pong)
Vegetarian sushi course at Fūan, Okinawa (Photo: Johannes Pong)

Best food moment

On my second trip as an adult to Okinawa last month of 2018, I was floored by the Mediterranean inspired fine dining at both Ardor and Trattoria Lamp using local Okinawan ingredients. But Fūan, serving modern Okinawan on all Ōmine Jissei ceramics in a traditional Ryukyuan house, was a further epiphany. The whole menu was written in the Okinawan language (not Japanese) and the enthusiastic proprietor Kinjō Dan explained the cultural backstories of each dish served. If you’re one of those who believe it’s better to have sushi in Hokkaido or kaiseki in Kyoto, please go look at a map. Okinawa is geographically closer to Taiwan than Tokyo, and the Ryukyu kingdom’s culinary pedigree is distinctly different from Japan’s. The vegetarian sushi course at Fūan featuring shimayasai (island vegetables) was a revelation—from the pickled Okinawan spinach and fresh daylily flowers to a cool, sweet slab of aloe vera on a salted shiso leaf. Traditional Okinawan chefs must be botanists as well, as they have a staggering variety of legumes, fruits and flowers to play with. 

See also: A Food Lover's Guide To Okinawa

Food resolution

I resolve to eat more consciously and chew my food properly into liquid before swallowing in 2019.

Johannes is a jet-setting travel and food writer. Follow him on @johannespong

Kee Foong

Pastry chef Fabrizio Fiorani prepares his signature panettone in Tokyo (Photo: Kee Foong)
Pastry chef Fabrizio Fiorani prepares his signature panettone in Tokyo (Photo: Kee Foong)

Best food moment

It may seem odd to travel to Tokyo for Italian food but I had an exceptional meal at Il Ristorante - Luca Fantin, where chef Luca works with ingredients sourced from Japan, including porcini mushroom and olive oil. The greatest revelation however, was pastry chef Fabrizio Fiorani’s panettone. I’ve always thought panettone a horrid waste of calories until I tried Fabrizio’s, which is made with Valrhona chocolate, orange, Belgium waffle sugar, almonds, and a heap of butter. Slightly dense and spongy but utterly delicious, I’ve never had anything like it and you probably haven’t, either. The catch? It’s only available in the Bulgari Ginza flagship store in December.

Food resolution

Mindfulness has been one of the buzzwords of the last couple of years and I hope to apply it more to my dining choices in 2019. As much as I love good food, it’s no longer enough on its own. I want to support businesses that take a more considered approach to customer service and the impact they have on the planet. Serving things like sharks fin are obvious no-gos, but things like being wantonly wasteful with food, using excessive plastic or providing filtered water and forcing people to drink imported bottled water aren’t cool, too.

Kee is the former editor of LUXE City Guides and Cathay Pacific's Discovery magazine. Follow him on @keepicks

Lynn Fung

A dish of cabbage and butter at L'Arpege, Paris (Photo: Lynn Fung)
A dish of cabbage and butter at L'Arpege, Paris (Photo: Lynn Fung)

Best food moment

Being a lifelong carnivore, the most memorable food moment of 2018 was when I was in Paris this summer and went to L'Arpege: because this was the moment I truly thought it was possible to become a vegetarian. Although I still went for the "Earth and Sea" menu—meaning there were a few fish and meat dishes—what really blew me away was how the most delicious dish by far was a simple plate of cabbage and butter. Next time I go back, I'm definitely committing to the full Vegetable Tasting menu.

Food resolution

While I have been pretty good at getting rid of most plastic in my life, I can't help but notice that one area where I consistently fail is when grocery-shopping. I bring my own reusable cloth bags for bigger items; the amazing silicone baggies from Plasticfree.com for smaller things like bunches of herbs or even a whole steak; but there is just not getting away from the fact that a lot of things are still encased in plastic. I think every little decision matters: for example, now I always choose eggs in cardboard boxes over the Japanese ones in plastic cartons. This year, I'm going to be even more strict and really try to stop buying anything that comes in plastic at all: so if anyone finds a place where they can buy blueberries in cardboard boxes, please let me know. I'll miss eating them until then!

Lynn is a former editor of Hong Kong Tatler's Best Restaurants Guide. Follow her on @lynn_852

Rachel Duffell

A typical spread at #MiddleFeastern (Photo: Charmaine Mok)
A typical spread at #MiddleFeastern (Photo: Charmaine Mok)

Best food moment

This year has been mostly about exploring different food cultures and these experiences are always a highlight, whether it’s through the Middle Feastern supper club I host, or, through travel. This year I was lucky enough to travel widely and particularly enjoyed exploring Greek food in Athens and Pakistani cuisine across the nation.

Food resolution

For me, 2019 is about waste and sustainability. Not only do I want to keep up my Meatless Mondays and generally cut down on the amount of meat I eat, but I’m also keen to reduce waste, whether that’s through buying food that uses less packaging, or making an effort to use food scraps in innovative ways, to compost, and to use that compost to help fertilise my way to a small balcony farm.

Rachel is a freelance writer and editor and the founder of #MiddleFeastern. Follow her on @rachelduffell

Rachel Read

A superlative chocolate chip cookie at Disneyland Resort, California (Photo: Rachel Read)
A superlative chocolate chip cookie at Disneyland Resort, California (Photo: Rachel Read)

Best food moment

Eating a cookie the size of my face in Disneyland Resort, California. It was huge, warm, chewy, rich, liberally filled with gorgeous gooey melty chocolate chunks, named Jack Jack Cookie Num Num in honour of my favourite character from The Incredibles 2, and utterly incredibly delicious. Similarly, the ice cream at Salt & Straw in LA was out of this world; from its consistently perfectly creamy texture to the clever, creative and totally scrumptious range of flavours (almond brittle with salted ganache and honey lavender were particular favourites), it was some of the best ice cream I’ve tasted in a long time… and it makes me very sad that I live so far away from my next fix! Closer to home, Eric Raty’s freshly-baked madeleines at Arbor are pure perfection.

See also: A Food Lover's Guide To Los Angeles

Food resolution

To buy as many Magnums in Hong Kong as possible so they never ever pull out of distributing in the city again.

Rachel is a freelance writer and editor with a penchant for desserts. Follow her on @rachttlg

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