Breakfast at the Hoko Farm, Hennessy Road

If you’re a guest at the Ozo hotel or you need a place to have a meal or a drink off the tram line, Hoko Farm might meet your small snack needs. It’s basically a dressed up Hong Kong style Cha Chaan Teng

  
Bright interior decor with a fun feel makes this a good place to head to with kids. There’s a ramp access to the restaurant, you can wheel your stroller right in. 

image
The restaurant is quite large, you can choose to sit on the left or the right of the entrance, the right has wall-bench sofa seating which works well for children and larger groups. 

  
The menu for breakfast is quite limited but the afternoon menus seem more extensive. I went for the featured breakfast set.

    
It reminded me of a McD’s breakfast… Pancakes which were slightly stodgy, a skinny sausage that was over condimented and undercooked, a twisted up omelette which looked appetising but had a tad too much water in it. (Ok, I am fussy about my breakfasts, I admit it.)

The pancakes are served with some syrup in a small pan handle bowl which is a nice touch. When I asked for butter, it came partially melted in a similar bowl which worked great for dipping the pancake pieces. I had to ask for the sausage to be re-cooked as it came positively pink inside when cut. The staff did replace the sausage and topped up my cup of hot lemon water.

It was a mediocre breakfast but the small person enjoyed it tremendously and pretty much polished everything off. I can’t really complain very much, the service was decent and the price was equivalent to what I would pay at any other HK style cafe.

image
She also loved the mural. 

image
Ok so here’s the menu in case you’re in the neighborhood and want to give this place a try. 

imageimage
Here’s where it is:

On the ground floor near Caffe Habitu and after the 759 snack store.

  

Advertisements

An unsatisfactory ramen experience on Tai Wong East Street

On a rainy Sunday, we decided to have a late lunch at the ramen joint on Tai Wong East Street

image
The ramen menu
image
Gyoza, rice bowls all considered house specials

We ordered the gyoza for the small person and a dry ramen with a side of wagyu beef teriyaki. 

The gyoza was unfortunately quite unremarkable, it tasted like it was undercooked despite the juices running clear. 

image
The noodles were equally unremarkable and the accompaniments were mediocre. The chilli improved the taste a lot. 

The wagyu beef teriyaki turned out to be a bad choice, it was over condimented and the texture unworthy of its price and description. 

image
The only thing I enjoyed was chili bean sprouts which was supplied in a clay pot with the sauces on the table. I ate it all.

image
Overall an experience not to be repeated.

image

Wan Chai Traditional “Dragon Beard Candy” Sweet Shop moves to Sheung Wan

When my friend VL visiting from Jakarta asked me this morning by whatsapp whether I knew this traditional Hong Kong dessert:

  
I immediately responded ” is that dragon beard candy?”

She said she loved them and asked if I knew where to get them. I recalled a shop along Wan Chai Road that sold them and a quick search online showed that they are also sold at the gift shops of the Conrad and Shangri-La hotels by a company known as Dragon Rich Profits under the brand Bamboo Garden. How very Hong Kong! It goes to show how these desserts are mostly relegated to foreigners buying them as gifts. 

Buy me two boxes please, she said. I popped the small person in the pram and took her for her morning walk along Wan Chai road. Disappointingly, the entire row of shops which included a little bakery among other little shops were shuttered. Perhaps it was further along? I continued along until I reached Mallory Street, which was when I knew the shop was truly gone. I stopped at Queens Cafe Bakery to ask if they sold it or knew where might. The lady manning the store was singularly unhelpful. She told me she had no idea what it was and to go ask someone else.

I hung around outside the store for a bit wondering who else I should ask, when a guy who happened to be walking by asked if he could help. I showed him the picture and he said “Oh… Long So Tong“. Well at least he knew what it was. 

Then he said that there used to be a store on Wan Chai road but that had shut down. There were no others in the neighborhood that he knew selling these candies. His very important tip, was that the shop in Wan Chai moved to Sheung Wan

Where in Sheung Wan? I asked.

Near the Wing On departmental store. He said. Do you know where?

Yes I said

It’s in the lane right beside the store.

I thanked him profusely for his information.

After dropping the toddler off at playschool, I headed over to Sheung Wan by MTR. A few minutes were spent considering which exit I ought to emerge from. I decided to try the one that took me out to Bonham Strand where I knew there were lots of little shops.

It was a rainy day which made s search like this more awkward and difficult than usual. An umbrella to shield from rain, negotiating wet and uneven pavements without slipping… While keeping your eyes open for the right store. 

I emerged from the exit and walked west toward the Western Market. A quick peruse through it and like the game of blindfold, I knew it was cold. 

I popped the umbrella back open and headed out into the rain. This time down Wing Lok Street. Halfway down, I stopped to ask if any of the local dried seafood specialists standing on their little shop patio had any idea… Nope. All just pondered the photo, shook their heads. They were local and yet had absolutely no idea of their own traditional dessert, much less where to get it. No wonder it’s a dying trade. All just told me to keep asking someone else. 

Ok I’ve had enough of the seafood sellers, time to head back towards Wing On departmental store and walk around it, maybe it was on the perimeter although I recall the store owning the block, with walls, glass and entrances on three sides. No room for shops on its doorstep.

I cut back onto Des Veoux road and retraced my steps past the Wellcome and back to the B entrance of the MTR that I emerged from. Nearing the traffic light junction, I looked ahead and couldn’t believe my luck. There, right in front of me was a large sign for traditional desserts. My excitement was palpable. I skipped across the road and indeed this was the shop that sold the Dragon Beard Candy. 

  

Speaking with the young man running the shop, I remarked that there were only 5 packets in the display cabinet. 

No problem, how many do you want? I have more in the fridge.

I asked for 10 packets. Each packet was quite small and HKD 18 each.

As he wrapped them up for me, I asked if this was the store in Wan Chai before. 

Yes, he said. But rents went up and it was too expensive to maintain. We sell things for 10-20 dollars each, how much would we need to sell to pay the rent?

I nodded in understanding. Wan Chai’s gentrification was forcing out small businesses as landlords run their hands awaiting higher yields on rent. I hope that landlords will understand that all neighborhoods need a mix to survive. The shops in the Avenue for example, are not catering much to locals except for the upscale western cafes. 

If St. James settlement could somehow include an aspect of this in their Blue House revamp, perhaps a traditional candy store could be a feature worth preserving. Tourists and interested locals could watch the process of constructing these pastries and also buy some… Not limited to purchasing from gift shops in the five star hotels or other usual tourist traps. I see many tour groups daily coming to Wan Chai for their architectural or heritage tour, wouldn’t it be appropriate to include a food tour as well if it could be done cleanly and nearly?

I presented the 10 packets to VL later that afternoon, she was overjoyed and will be hand carrying it back to Jakarta tomorrow as a treat for the rest of the family,

If you need to satisfy your Dragon beard candy craving (or indeed any traditional cookie craving), look for the Hillier Street Exit B, turn left as you emerge and the shop is directly across the street. 

 

Hillier Street Exit B, Sheung Wan MTR
 
 
Map of Dragon beard candy shop in Sheung Wan
 

Salsa Party in Wan Chai this weekend 12th March

 Thanks to the Sassy magazine of which I’m a regular reader, I now know that there’s a salsa party happening this Saturday. The forecast is for rain so I have no idea whether there’s a wet weather plan or if it will continue regardless. 

Update: it’s being held at Hej House, more or less directly opposite Le Pain Quotidien.

  
Outside Le Pain Quotidien, there’s a big music set up going on. A bit unclear if this will be leading up to it or if it’s their own launch party. 

I’ve been waiting for LPQ to open for a while…. Teething problems must have delayed them from the planned launch in February (website recently changed opening date to March). Many disappointed customers have stood outside, shaken their heads and headed elsewhere. 

  
How can you possibly advertise breakfast yet open for business at only 11am? Quite unacceptable.

Eight Fishes Japanese Restaurant, Amoy Street, Wan Chai

I have been craving Japanese for a while. Not ramen noodles but bento box style Japanese cuisine. 

As we left home, a quick scan of my brain map showed the nearest Japanese restaurants. There’s Grand Asia right above the Stone Nullah Tavern (ok but not fantastic) and the places I’ve yet to try near Wood Road (but that entails a less pleasant walk). I remembered that there is a small Japanese sushi type bar in Amoy Street near the completed Avenue development. 

It was only 11am and after a session on the swings, the small person was happy to walk anywhere for some food. 

image
The restaurant was called 魚八 or Fish Eight. It had just opened for the day and was completely empty when we stepped in. The staff were cheerful and welcomed us in. I was trying to decide which bar seats would suit us best when one of them suggested we sit upstairs at the tables. 

image
Up a nicely decorated flight of stairs, we were offered any table we liked but the ladies responsible for service upstairs pointed us toward the corner table. Nothing like a good corner to corral an active toddler.

imageimage
Upon presentation of the menu, the staff informed me that if we paid up before 1pm, we’d get a 10% discount. Sounds like perfect timing. The lunch menu was reasonably priced and more extensive than I thought. 

imageimageimage
I decided to go with the eel rice box, small person wanted noodles, so it was the udon soup for her.

As it was a lunch set, our meals came with miso soup and a bean mochi dessert. 

image
My unaju was pretty good. Tender and a right amount of sauce. The ratio of eel to rice was also just right. The miso soup was flavourful and had a good amount of tofu, mushroom and seaweed (hate it when they skimp on that).

image
The udon soup was so-so, the soup base was quite thin but the pork slices were quite tender. She enjoyed the smooth noodles. 

image
The bean mochi was sweet and small, I liked the taste and it didn’t stick to the teeth which is a thumbs up.

image
Overall I thought the prices reasonable for a set lunch and the atmosphere better than I had expected. The waiter was extremely diligent about topping up my glass of warm water without being asked. That in itself deserves a star for service.

image
Return again soon? Yes indeed.

Note: no space for prams and strollers. No high hair for kids but they do have kid friendly cutlery.

Chinese New Year Festivities at the Blue House

The Blue House in Wan Chai is a historic site that serves the community as a place to gather weekly for an assortment of talks, view small exhibitions of Hong Kong’s past and a hodge podge of books and toys. 

image
The event space is a small area of roughly 250 square feet, furniture and randomly placed bric-a-brac reduces it to roughly 100 square feet of walkable area. Pretty small. It’s up some stairs (possibly to avoid flooding in the old days) and this is certainly an inconvenience to the disabled or those confined to a pram. 

image
The extensive renovations taking place behind this facade is estimated to continue for the rest of this year, but it looks like there’ll be some open areas and  rooms to hold yet more bric-a-brac.

image
Of the four little rooms on the ground floor, the first and second are blocked off with simple plaster board and serve as a makeshift notice board. 

image
The third is the current event space area and the fourth is often full of guys wearing white undershirts sitting around. I’m unsure of what they do in there but perhaps it’s a rest area of sorts. Maybe it’s where the mahjong table is placed. 

An open-air rectangular clear glass aquarium full of small koi and goldfish make a nice pit stop if you have kids in tow.

image
The Blue House has its own decorations for this Chinese New Year. Red lanterns hang out front, a very cute knitting of a monkey couple adorn the corner street sign. 

image
On the “notice board”, a range of announcements compete for attention. If you’re looking for something to do in Wan Chai, you might want to stop by and have a look. 

imageimage
You can volunteer to help out with the Southorn community during Chinese New Year (2016) though you’d have to speak Cantonese, or take part in the stamp making workshop later in the month on the 27th of February.

Baumhaus Playroom in Queen’s Road East

It’s been at least half a year since I last visited Baumhaus. Since then, things appear to have gotten much busier with many more mothers and children visiting the playroom. 

image
The lift attendants are now more attentive and open the door to the secure lift lobby when they see you coming. The lift buttons still don’t light up when pressed but light up only when it gets to the floor. In this case, Baumhaus is on the first floor. 

Some thoughtful renovation has been performed. The front counter and bench has been shifted to give more space to the playroom, it also created a useful reading nook beside the cafe which was otherwise a wasted corridor space that visually partitioned the cafe from the playroom. 

image
There were additional toys, a play kitchen, an aeroplane baby swing. I liked that when the playroom got really busy, they expanded the roam area by opening the collapsible doors to the classroom to create a contiguous space. 

image
The soundproofing was a critical upgrade. The walls beneath the windows are now covered with an inch thick layer of padding. It makes a huge difference to the acoustics of the playroom. Think 30 screaming children dampened to half. That’s a significant tolerable reduction.

image
The cafe is now properly equipped, so coffees, teas, hot/cold chocolate and bottled juices are now available. Served alongside if you want are a variety of biscuits, muffins and toasted bagels with cream cheese (recommended, HKD 23).

The playroom costs HKD 80 per entry, kids are welcome to play for several hours but 2 hours is usually enough for them to do all the sliding they want, and get through most of the toys. 

Digging beneath the dirt… To find the good and the gritty