Monday, March 26, 2007

Dinner with Filmmakers

It's not every day that I get to have dinner with an Academy Award-winning film director, so I was really excited when TN & FY invited me to a dinner they were hosting for their filmmaker friends in town for last week's Entertainment Expo. Filmmakers at the dinner included: Stanley Kwan, Anne Misawa, Corey Tong and Ruby Yang (still recovering from all the Oscar parties).

I arrived at Ning Po Resident's Association's restaurant pretty much at the same time as LC and SK. The thing with filmmakers is that you often know their work, but you don't really know their face. To my slight embarrassment, I actually didn't know that the guy I was sitting next to was the SK, one of Hong Kong's more respectable directors. He was talking about a project that he had been working on, but has since been passed on to Chen Kaige. He had been pushing for Tony Leung to take on the lead character, a Peking opera star, but to no avail. CT and AM are in town finalizing financing for their upcoming feature film, a triptych of love stories spanning three cities around the Pacific Rim. RY is on her celebratory PR rounds for The Blood of Yingzhou District, which won an Oscar for Best Documentary Short:

We were all extremely entertained by her photos from the Vanity Fair Oscar party. There were snaps of her with Penelope Cruz, Leonardo di Caprio (who she says only took a picture with her because she had an Oscar in hand!), Forrest Whitaker and a whole host of other Hollywood celebs. She never thought the film would get nominated, let alone win. On the night the nominations were to be announced, she even told her team to go home and not wait for the call (fortunately, they didn't listen). I tried to get her to convey how she felt at that moment at the ceremony where they announced her film as the winning film, but I suppose it's not something that can be reduced to a one-liner; all the blood, sweat and tears of so many people involved in that one ephemeral moment. When you watch the trailer for her film, indeed, the Oscar and all the glamour surrounding it all gets reduced to a mere triviality. The Blood of Yingzhou District is actually part of a larger project to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in China through PSAs produced by their organization, The China Aids Media Project.

For those in Hong Kong interested in screening the film and meeting Ruby Yang, FCC has organized a dinner this Friday, 30 March 2007 at 7:30pm. If you miss this one, there'll be a fundraising screening in May.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Eat Right; Nobu Revisited

People often start businesses out of necessity, because the market isn't addressing their own needs. Years ago, when my friend DH was still living in Hong Kong, we had talked about a nutritional food delivery service. Back then, Atkins and South Beach diets were still all the rage. But we lamented that it was hard to stick with any kind of a healthy diet when we were constatly eating out. The best solution would be for someone to work our the meal plan, cook up delicious food and deliver it straight to your home or office. We never did start the business, of course. And these types of businesses started popping up in NYC and Singapore. Hong Kong, the norm these days, is arriving late to this trend. But better late than never! Eat Right, just across the street from Pure's Kinwick gym offers exactly this service. My fitness bet friends and I were meeting up with Martin Lorentsson, who is also a trainer at Pure, at Eat Right to see what kind of menus he could concoct to help us meet our 3-month fitness targets and win our bet. There's a questionnaire about current health state, daily eating habits and a list of foods to choose from to give them an idea of the kinds of foods you like or dislike. Then you let them know how many meals you want delivered each day and they work out the rest. So far, the fitness gang has tried out the food. We're waiting for the taste factor to improve a little bit before we sign on. But it's a good service in the making!

Thanks for the pics FS (taken with her SonyEriccson phone)!

I am sort of ambivalent about Nobu's restaurants. I've had some great meals at Matsuhisa Aspen, but I also had a truly awful meal at Nobu London in Berkeley Square (we ordered the tasting menu and the cod was over-cooked and tasteless). So when FS suggested we give Nobu in Hong Kong (2/F InterContinental Hotel; T: +852 23132323) a try, I wasn't super enthusiastic. We had an 8:30pm reservation. By 9pm, there was still no table. I kicked up a bit of a fuss and by 9:15pm, they finally offered us the private room with the HK$15,000 minimum charge waived (we were 9 people and our final bill ended up not being far off from that). Fortunately, the meal was much better than the one I had in London. We had the yellow tail with jalapeno, toro tartare with caviar, seared toro salad, seared toro with yuzu miso sauce, monkfish pate, all of which were delicious. We hardly ordered any cooked dishes though, probably for the better since the London meal that I so disliked had mainly been cooked dishes. While the food was good, to be honest, the evening was really more memorable for the entertainment we created for ourselves (good thing they gave us the private room!).

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Restaurant Updates: Sydney, Melbourne and Hong Kong

I've had the good fortune of having some really great clients, clients that I really hit it off with. AF is one of those gem of a clients. She got back from her trip to Oz with her family and was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to give me a detailed update over a 2-hour breakfast chat at Starbucks (even though she doesn't drink coffee). Here's her update:

Rockpool is still great. The only other meal that ranked higher during their trip was Ezard in Melbourne. Bill's (433 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst; T: +61 2 93609631) was a great place for breakfast and Four Seasons is showing its age, although their baby amenity kit and bed-setting was a nice touch (although the mix-up in luggage was not).

Hayman Island
Service was excellent. The rooms exceeded her expectations in terms of decor and spaciousness. Food was very average and insanely expensive if ordered a la carte. Whitehaven beach was gorgeous, but the Outer Reef Experience operated by Cruise Whitsunday's was poorly operated (the so-called swimming enclosure for children was a joke).

As mentioned above, Ezard was super. Saville Park Suites was great value for money in a great location. The European was great for breakfast and The Press Club was inspiring with its Greek molecular cuisine.

Back in Hong Kong, I was in for a pleasant surprise when AP suggested going to Opia at JIA for dinner. I had been to Opia when it first opened (and incidentally heavily-marketed as having Ezard ties), but had not been impressed and hadn't gone back since. I should have really learnt by now, never to judge a restaurant within the first 3 months of its opening, but I can never resist trying a new restaurant. And I also know to trust in Chubby Hubby's evaluation to give Opia a second chance. The 6-course tasting menu was very good value for money at HK$695/head; it offers better food than some of the restaurants that currently receive top billing in this town. My favourite was the crisy skin Mulloway on top of a truffled potato cake with a drizzling Bhutanese honey. Absolute ambrosia!

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

New York City Update

The highlight of my New York trip was seeing Voyage, part one of Tom Stoppard's Coast of Utopia trilogy with Ethan Hawke playing Michael Bukanin and Billy Crudup playing Vissarion Belinsky, just two of the lead characters. Tom Stoppard is by far my favourite playwright. His plays are brilliant not just because he manages to entertain, but also because he manages to dilute the mosts complicated of subject matters to a something easily digested by the average audience member with the utmost wit and humour (a great example is Hapgood where quantum physics is made entertaining when set in the context of an entertaining spy comedy). In the Coast of Utopia, the heady subject matter is Russian literature, philosophy and politics (or rather, the people behind them) during 19th century Tsarist Russia. As with most of Stoppard's plays, the topics are presented with a light touch and trademark quirky sense of humour. Can't wait to see Shipwreck and Salvage.

Aside from the play, I also had a lovely dinner at MH's neighborhood restaurant, Daniel (the lounge is much more casual and laid-back than the main dining room with the food being just as delicious), a meeting in Philadelphia with Anthropologie's home buyer and a breakfast meeting with an editor at Knopf at Four Seasons Hotel (love their breakfasts). And here I'd like to dispel the myth that editor's don't have the time of day for mere plebes like me. SW, who is the editor for such luminaries as Joan Didion, is one of the most generous people I've met in any industry. She's been a great person to chat to and gain a deeper understanding of the publishing industry. I had a pretty packed schedule, but I still managed to squeeze in a morning yoga class at Some Like It Hot, where I ran into the soon-to-be wed JK. Had wanted to check out the new Bowery Hotel (Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson's new hotel since Maritime) and Waverly Inn (Goode and MacPherson own that this too along with Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter), but didn't have time since I was staying with MH uptown. There's always next time!

I also had a surprisingly quick and pleasant visit to dermatologist Dr Marc Grossman. I highly recommended him (actually he had been highly-recommended to me from PT's aunt). I'm one of these people who dreads seeing any kind of doctor or dentist and Dr Grossman had a manner that put me at ease from the get-go. The wait in his office actually created more anxiety than the actual examination. It took him all of 3 minutes (perhaps even less) to evaporate all my melanoma fears. The rest of the time was just spent chatting and taking my medical history since it was my first visit. I suppose I'm a bit of a hypochondriac, but with so many friends diagnosed with some form of cancer over the past couple of years, one can never be too cautious.

Well, now I'm back in Hong Kong with piles of work ahead of me, which means I'm staying put until Easter.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

London Update

Spent the weekend in London and the last few days in NYC.

In London, I ate mainly British food in Chelsea's Gastropubs (since I was staying at EH's just around the corner from Sloane Square) at The Ebury, Galvin for Sunday Brunch, Tom's Kitchen and breakfast at the very cool and recently-opened Napket (loved their slogan, "Snob Food", their selection of bread loaves of which I had a slice of the fig, rocket and cheddar loaf, as well as the iPod minis at the table with personal headsets so you can choose your own music). Saw the Gilbert & George Major Exhibition at Tate Modern, which was excellent, especially the audio guide with video clips of Gilbert & George discussing their art. It made a lot of sense to see this show in London, which places their artworks in the context in which they were created. I had a coffee at Sloane Square Hotel's Brasserie. If I hadn't been staying with EH, I might have checked out Sloane Square Hotel, which just opened last October and is in a fabulous location without London's fabulously high rates (online rates until the end of Feb 2007 started from GBP125).
All this aside, one of the things I love most about travelling is catching up with old friends and the opportunity to meet all sorts of interesting people. In London, through AL, I met the Chairman of Farlows, an old English fishing and field sports shop, and the COO of San Francisco-based brand consultancy The 2M Group. One never know where chance meetings might lead...

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