Audrey’s Top Restaurant Pick: Hakkasan

Story by Anna M. Park.

Dining at Hakkasan Beverly Hills, the newest location of the esteemed Michelin-star Cantonese restaurant that opened in London in 2001, is not so much dinner as it is an event. Walk past the crowd of paparazzi, there every night, into a labyrinthine interior cloaked in sexy, moody lighting and electronic dance music. For almost every offering, two servers are required, whether it’s the Smoky Negroni cocktail with its post-pour infusion of woodsy smoke from a decanter, or the Hakka Steamed Dim Sum Platter (one dumpling with squid ink) and its variety of tasty sauces.

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On a menu helmed by the Michelin-star chef Ho Chee Boon, the Crispy Duck Salad is a must-try and a good introduction to that lesser known bird. For true duck lovers, the Black Truffle Roasted Duck is almost an embarrassment of riches with its sizable slivers of black truffle atop perfectly crisped duck skin, a thin layer of fatty goodness, and then tender, juicy meat. If you’re not a fan of poultry, try the Grilled Seabass with Chinese Honey, a succulent alternative, or the Roasted Silver Cod with Champagne, a favorite among the wait staff. Skip the noodles altogether — everything is so rich and juicy and fatty (and the portions are hardy), you don’t need any carbs; just a veggie side dish should do. In fact, a couple of Shiso Gimlets and Black Sesame Crémeux with Yuzu Ice Cream for dessert offers a much needed palate cleanser to offset all that decadence.

Details Hakkasan.com/beverlyhills/

 

This story was originally published in our Winter 2013-14 issue. Get your copy here

Hot Beverage: World’s First Sriracha-Flavored Vodka Launches (Yes, Really)

While an LA judge may have just ordered a Southern California sriracha hot sauce factory to partially halt its operations after complaints from neighbors, it seems like there is a new, and definitely interesting, way for us to get our spice-fix.

In what may be the most genius (or horrifying, however you look at it) alcoholic concoction, Phillips Distilling — the same company that has debuted other flavored vodkas like UV Cake and UV Espresso — has just released UV Sriracha Vodka.  As stated by the company’s press release, the vodka has a blend of “chilis, garlic and vegetables” that “honor(s) the traditional sriracha hot sauce.”

UV recommends putting it in a Bloody Mary or a strawberry margarita and offer recipes on their website.  Of course, you could also take a shot of it straight on like other vodkas or put it on your food like regular sriracha, but we don’t necessarily suggest that.

As unique of a concept as it is, we have to ask, would you take a sip?

Image of The Day: Totoro Cream Puffs in Miyazaki Themed Cafe

So first there was Miyazaki-themed cosplay. Then there was fashion inspired by Miyazaki. Then there were Totoro parodies.

Clearly, the Ghibli fandom is no where near finished even though Miyazaki has announced his retirement. The 72-year-old confirmed that his film The Wind Rises is his last. The film, which focuses on a fictional biography of Japan’s Zero airplane creator Jiro Horikoshi, has already become a box-office hit in Japan since its release in July.

So what’s next from Miyazaki fans? How else will they show their love for the timeless films?

Through food of course.

A city in Japan named Setagaya City holds a themed cafe called White Beard Workshop. Among the various Miyazaki sweets, a certain pastry has been catching social media attention.

The cafe sells adorable Totoro cream puffs. Each puff includes a leaf or hat to represent the flavor of the cream inside. Of course, a treat itself isn’t even the fun part. Upon purchasing one of these cuties, the puff is cut open to reveal the custard creme and give Totoro a big smile.

If you’re ever in Japan, be sure to pick up some of these. Be warned, they may be too cute to eat!

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The Ultimate Cookbook: Edward Lee’s “Smoke & Pickles”

Story by Kanara Ty.

We check out the debut cookbook of the three-time James Beard finalist (Best Chef, Southeast) — and yes, it’s a culinary classic. 

When I saw that Edward Lee, executive chef of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, Ky., opened his Southern Asian fusion cookbook with an homage to a bowl of rice (“the fundamental Zen of the Asian table”), I knew Smoke & Pickles was going to be something special. For me, a clear indicator of a good cookbook is the amount of personal stories that are juxtaposed with the recipes. This is something Lee does skillfully as he takes us on a culinary journey of personal family stories (with photos and Korean superstitions) and his own relationship with the kitchen, writing, “My relationship with food developed in three stages: (1) as a memory, (2) as a history, and (3) as an ingredient.”

Lee’s voice is rather poetic throughout the book, making the anecdotes for every chapter a pleasure to read from beginning to end. (He was an English lit major at NYU.) One of the more enjoyable stories is from the chapter “Pickles and Matrimony,” where he describes how he and his wife Dianne were accepted into each other’s families through pickled cabbage: his parents first welcomed Dianne (who’s Jewish) into the family after she ate a pound of kimchi, while Dianne’s mother blessed their courtship with six jars of her homemade sauerkraut.

As for his culinary concoctions? They’re full of hearty recipes, all made with a lot of heart. For anyone who loves fried chicken, the Adobo Fried Chicken and Waffles definitely does not disappoint. Also give the Chicken-Fried Pork Steak a try — the crust is made with dried ramen noodles! There’s a lot for the kimchi lovers out there (he dedicates quite a number of recipes to kimchi), including Red Cabbage-Bacon Kimchi and Collards and Kimchi. And Lee is quite open about his love affair with bourbon, including a number of cocktail recipes featuring the dark spirit, like my personal favorite, the Kentucky Mule.

With every single one of Lee’s recipes, you can tell that he put a lot of thought into the process, learning from experimentation with different ingredients. Another thing I love about his cookbook is his non-intimidating approach: he’s welcoming and accommodating — no doubt a reflection of his Southern hospitality. Details Hardcover, $29.95, Chefedwardlee.com.

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TIPS FROM THE CHEF

1. Cilantro stems are edible! Instead of discarding them, snip the stems as you would do with chives, and add them to your dish along with the leaves for delicate crunch and added flavor. You can keep cilantro fresh for up to a week by storing it in a glass of water in the refrigerator.

2. A pinch of salt can be the difference between a good dish and a great one. Slow-cooked meats and stews change so dramatically every few minutes that it’s important to season them right before the dish is served.

3. When shopping for asparagus, be sure the asparagus tips are tightly closed, the stems firm, and the color bright green. Excerpted from Smoke & Pickles by Edward Lee (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Grant Cornett.

 

 

 

 

This story was originally published in our Fall 2013 issue. Get your copy here

My Melody Pop-Up Cafe in Toyko

There are a number of Hello Kitty cafes worldwide, but what about the other adorable Sanrio characters? Don’t they deserve some pastries in the shape of their face too?

Apparently Japan shared our sentiments. This time around, a My Melody pop up cafe is available for a limited time in Daikanyama.

My Melody is one of Sanrio’s most popular figures after Hello Kitty herself. The rabbit, who covers her ears with a pink or red hood, was released the same year as Hello Kitty. In 2005, an anime series based on My Melody was aired in Japan and My Melody also stars in a number of video games.

Now, My Melody is featured in a popular limited-time only pop-up cafe in Tokyo. The cafe was originally set to begin on October 10th and end on October 31st, but the popularity of My Melody has forced the cafe to extend this date. If you happen to be in Tokyo, you can catch this cafe until November 5th.

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Image of The Day: Unbelievably Cute Food Art

Move over adorable rice pandas, we’ve found something even more squeal-worthy. Samantha Lee, a Malaysian mother-of-two, claims that she is not a professional chef and has not been to culinary school. Despite this, she has been able to produce some of the most impressive works of food art.

Lee began Bento making in 2008 while still pregnant with her second daughter. With a new baby on the way, she needed a method to encourage her eldest daughter to start eating independently. This is when her creativity and skilled hands took over.

Using ordinary household tools such as knives and scissors, Lee began turning her daughter’s food into adorable works of art that featured popular characters from mangas, movies, cartoons and more.

“I’m just an ordinary, regular and average mom, crazy about making mess in the kitchen.” Lee says. But thanks to this “mess,” Lee has become an international media sensation. Lee has grabbed the attention of people worldwide and is now a kids party planner.

Check out her must-see collection of food art. Trust us. After seeing these images, you’ll be positively envious of her daughters.

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Image of The Day: These Amazing Food Miniatures Are The Ultimate Tease

It’s a sad day when you see such appetizing food and there is no way for you to eat it. First of all, most of the food you see here is made out of polymer clay. While it looks lovely, we highly doubt that the clay would satisfy your taste buds. Secondly, these things are all about 1-2 inches each. What a tease, right?

The e-commerce site, Etsy, which focuses on handmade and vintage items, has been exploding with tiny polymer clay figurines. Simple enough to use, the modeling clay is shaped then simply placed in the oven to harden. Within a few minutes, your art piece is complete.

The clay is a relatively new medium for arts and crafts. Although it does not contain any actual clay minerals, the plastic can be shaped and re-shaped. Previously, polymer clay was a favorite among jewelry makers and even used for christmas ornaments.

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But now polymer clay fanatics have taken this art onto a much more serious (and cute) level. A simple scroll through Etsy will lead you to a number of minuscule figurines featuring everything from fandom characters to cute Asian food.

The amount of detail on these food pieces clearly require skilled hands and keen eyes. The attention to detail is nothing short of impressive. Sushi, steamed buns and dim sum are only a few of the Asian food items that have been skillfully created.

 

Check them out for yourself:

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Image of The Day: Japan Introduces The World’s Laziest Burger

See that? Doesn’t it look like it’s only two inverted buns with a sliver of ham between two slices of cheese? Well.. that’s because it is two inverted buns with a sliver of ham between two slices of cheese.

Next Friday, McDonald’s Japan will introduce the “McToast” to the public. From the looks of things, McDonalds has run out of ideas.

Although this sandwich looks tragically simple, it may not do so bad. The “McToast” holds quite a bit of resemblance to the French “Le Croque McDo” (picture below) which has done surprisingly well in Europe.

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“Le Croque McDo” has done well by focusing on its simplicity. The website openly states that it is merely two slices of melted Swiss cheese, a slice of ham and toasted bread. It then points out, “It does not take more to be good.”

Lets hope the simplicity, or laziness, of the “McToast” thrives just as well.

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Image of The Day: The Cutest Hello Kitty Bento Boxes

September has been quite the month for Hello Kitty fans. First, Sanrio brought fruit-flavored Hello Kitty beer to China. Then the Hello Kitty jet made its first flight to the U.S.

In honor of Hello Kitty’s rather eventful month, we decided we ought to show some fan-made Hello Kitty love. So what impressed us?

Hello Kitty bento boxes!

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Common in Japanese cuisine, bento is a single-portion meal that is usually placed in a box container. Traditionally, a lot of time and effort is put into the arrangement and preparation of bento boxes. Clearly, these Hello Kitty bento boxes are no exception.

These impressive bento boxes are quickly going viral on various social media sites and for good reason. Check them out for yourself:

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Whether It’s Food or Style, Top Chef Winner Kristen Kish Is in Control

When Kristen Kish arrives at our meeting place, the rooftop lounge of a five-story hotel just steps away from the sands of Venice Beach, she looks more rock star than chef, her lithe frame in jeans, T-shirt, boots and leather jacket, and her cropped hairdo impeccably coiffed. And despite the gusty sea breeze blowing continuously over the next 30 minutes, those short strands deflect any attempt at disarray.

Like her hair, Kish is equally unflappable.

She didn’t let being voted off stop her from winning Top Chef earlier this year. Kish became the first contestant on the Bravo cooking competition to be eliminated and then come back via the show’s version of the loser’s bracket, called Last Chance Kitchen, to claim the title.

There was one thing, however, that Kish notes as a bit of a disappointment. “In my head, I thought I would look more like a badass [than I actually looked on TV],” says Kish, with a laugh.

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But she did become only the second female named Top Chef over its 10 seasons. “Maybe why I fared well is that I didn’t look at it as a competition [against other chefs],” says Kish. “I looked at it more as a competition with myself.”

That is still some tough competition because Kish considers herself a perfectionist, someone who refuses to slack off. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed in some way,” she says.

She was also adamant about not falling for this reporter’s repetitive questions trying to probe the psychology of being adopted from Korea at the age of 4 months. “I never felt like an outsider. I always felt so included,” says Kish. “The whole perfectionist thing comes from somewhere I can’t [explain]. I wish I could figure it out. [It’s not like] it’s because I was adopted and I feel I have more to prove. But whether it’s true or not, I don’t know. I just think in cooking, I just want to make things perfect not only for me but for my guests.”

Being driven and passionate about serving others is just a part of who Kish is, she insists, a product of her personality and her upbringing by nurturing parents in Michigan.

She might find out how much of nature factored into the person she’s become in the near future, when she plans to visit and immerse herself in the country where she was born. Of course, food will play a big part. “I want to eat my way through Korea so badly,” says Kish. “I love Korean food.”

Finding her birth parents, on the other hand, won’t be a part of the trip. “I have no desire to meet [them] only because it’s not realistically an option for me; there’s no record,” says Kish. “What I want to do, though, is to go to the village where I was born, and spend X amount of days or weeks or whatever it may be in the trenches, doing what [the locals] do there. That’s going to bring me more gratification than if I were to meet my birth parents.”

She hopes to travel before the end of the year. In the meantime, her priority will be a new job: running the kitchen at Menton. Her post as chef de cuisine of the Boston restaurant was in the works before she won Top Chef. “[Menton] is fine dining; it’s beautiful, perfect service, perfect food. It’s just my style. I love that formality of dining,” says Kish. “I’m not a rustic, farm-to-table kind of girl.”

And operating a fine dining establishment of her own is what she envisions in her future, not being a celebrity chef on television. “I want to cook,” says Kish. “I want to be in a restaurant.”

And still looking every part the badass in the kitchen, no doubt, every hair firmly in place.

Story by Jimmy Lee

Photo by mercurephotography.com

Story originally published in the Fall 2013 issue of Audrey Magazine. Buy your copy here!