Spotting at HKIA

A few photos from yesterday afternoon at Hong Kong International Airport:

  
An Asiana Airbus A321

  
Moments after the Asiana A321 pushed back, it was replaced by the same model but from Vietnam Airlines. 

  
There were several All Nippon Airways planes preparing for flights to Japan. This is a Boeing 767-300. 

  
While the Boeing 747-400 is a rapidly vanishing type, there were several fine examples yesterday including this one from Korean Air. 

  
And this one from Carhay Pacific. They have only three passenger models still in service but several cargo models, including the one taxiing out to the runway in the background. 

  
Here is a closer look in artistic black and white! 

  
The newest jumbo jet, which some would say has taken the 747’s crown, is the massive Airbus A380. Many airlines fly these planes to HKG, including British Airways. 

  
Emirates Airlines from the UAE operates the A380 from HKG to BKK, continuing to Dubai. They also fly a nonstop A380 service to Dubai in case you don’t fancy a visit to Bangkok. 

  
The Russian airline Aeroflot has multiple flights a day to Hong Kong. This Boeing 777-300ER was about to board for a return trip to Moscow. 

  
HKG has a great diversity of carriers. This EL AL Israeli airlines Boeing 777-200 was preparing for a flight to Tel Aviv

  
Heading in the opposite direction is this Fiji Airways Airbus A330-200 heading to Nadi. 

  

Thai Airways offers several flights a day to Bangkok and Phuket. This Boeing 777-200 is being readied for the 2-hour flight to Bangkok. 

  
And, finally, the Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 that took me back to Bangkok. 

Spotting at HKG

Last August, Tawn and I took at short trip to Hong Kong to celebrate the fifth anniversary of our marriage. I realized this weekend that I never posted the photos I took the afternoon of our return flight. Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok International Airport is one of the best places for spotting: lots of large windows offering mostly distortion-free views of the many airlines from around the globe that call on HKG.

I hope you enjoy.

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Cathay pacific Airbus A330 in the OneWorld color scheme

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Qantas Airbus A380

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British Airways Boeing 777-300ER

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China Airlines (from Taiwan) Airbus A330

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Elegant Swiss Airbus A340

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Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 – the terminal in the background handles flights to/from the Mainland

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Korean Air’s Airbus A330 in a robin’s egg blue color that I find very fetching

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Looking over the top of a Cathay Pacific B777 to enjoy another Cathay B777-300 in the Spirit of Hong Kong color scheme. This picture also provides a very good sense of just how built up Lantau Island has become, adjacent to the airport.

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From the land of Hobbits, an Air New Zealand Boeing 777-200ER

P1290361Cathay has since retired the passenger versions of their Boeing 747-400, the “Queen of the Skies”

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Dragonair is another local carrier, also flying the Airbus A330. You can also see the British Airways A380 in the background.

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A pair of Airbus A340-600s, the front one belonging to Virgin Atlantic and the back one from Lufthansa.

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Something new and different, an Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner

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Singapore Airlines also operates the Boeing 777-300 into Hong Kong

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London, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong are three great cities to view the Airbus A380. This one is operated by Emirates and makes a stop in Bangkok before continuing to Dubai.

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Air France also flies the Airbus A380 to Hong Kong

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Lufthansa is one of the few carriers not to give up on the 747 passenger version. This is their newest plane, a Boeing 747-8i.

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A Hong Kong Airlines’ Airbus A330 with a surprise guest in the background: a Boeing C-17 Globemaster operated by the United States Air Force.

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Another Cathay A330, this one in their regular color scheme

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Turkish Airlines Operates the Boeing 777-300ER into Hong Kong. One of the newer members of Star Alliance, I would like to try them one of these days.

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One of the more interesting color schemes on an Airbus A330 belonging to Air Seychelles. The Seychelles are off the east coast of Africa, north of Madagascar. Don’t worry, I had to look it up, too.

 

Tea with a Stunning View: Ritz Carlton Hotel in Hong Kong

In August 2014, Tawn and I journeyed to Hong Kong for a long weekend, celebrating the fifth anniversary of our marriage. (Yes, I realize that it has taken more than two months to actually post the details of this trip.) While there, we decided to splurge on an afternoon tea at The Lounge and Bar at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

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Perched on the 102nd floor of the International Commerce Centre in Kowloon, The Lounge and Bar offers one of the more stunning views for afternoon tea and at HK$598 (about US$78) for two people, it is not unreasonably priced.

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Having indicated on my reservation the reason we were coming for tea, the hotel thoughtfully decorated our tray with a white chocolate “letter” wishing us a happy anniversary.

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The amount of food is generous – plus two full pots of tea. The savory sandwiches were a truffle egg mayonnaise on brown bread, shellfish and dill cream on white bread, and smoked salmon with lemon curd on rye bread. There were also duck foie gras pate mini puff pastries with freeze-dried passion fruit.

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The sweets included blueberry cheesecake, mango choux, and peach vanilla verrine (not pictured here).

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There was also hazelnut lemon cake and orange ginger canneles. I love canneles!

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And of course you cannot have tea without scones. Two types were served with belberry jam and clotted cream.

The teas come from Marriages Frères, the Parisian tea company that offers so many high-quality flavors to choose from. And the china is beautiful. It was a very relaxing two hours with attentive service, amazing views, and too much tasty food. For the price, it was actually quite reasonable.

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Happy anniversary honey! We should make this an annual tradition to celebrate.

Food in Hong Kong: Little Bao

The final meal we had in Hong Kong over the New Year’s holiday was the most exciting and most memorable: a visit to a hole-in-the-wall Chinese burger bar called Little Bao.

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Located at the quiet end of Staunton Street in Central, a short walk from the escalator, Little Bao occupies a tiny storefront – maybe two dozen seats – with a large neon sign on the exterior. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations so we arrived about 6:30 on a weekday and faced an estimated wait of one hour. The friendly woman taking names suggested some nearby watering holes and offered to call when our table was ready, despite the fact that my phone number was overseas.

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In about fifty minutes, my phone rang and she let us know we could finish up our drinks and head back to the restaurant. We scored four prime seats, nestled along the counter facing the kitchen. (A second counter is placed along the wall to the left.) This afforded us a great view of the action. Adam, a friendly fellow, was running the front of the house and despite the hectic operation, had time to walk us through the menu and answer questions.

Little Bao has a short wine list with excellent selections from the Pacific Northwest. Thanks to there being no duties on wine imports in Hong Kong, these were good values and complemented the food very well.

The menu is divided into two sections. The first features baos – steamed buns filled hamburger-style with different ingredients – that are not intended for sharing. They have a strict “no cutting” policy although we did share our baos, each taking a bite and passing them unhygienically amongst our friends. The other part of the menu are dishes designed for sharing. With four people, we ordered one of nearly everything on the menu.

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The first dish to arrive was the orange chicken – fried chicken with salty egg yolk, a honey glaze, and orange zest. The salty egg yolk, a common but sometimes overpowering ingredient in Chinese cuisine, elevated the fried chicken to another level. You had a nice balance of sweet, salty, and savory with the citrus zest cutting through to unite the flavors.

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These short-rib pan fried dumplings (essentially gyoza) were filled with slow-braised beef short rib that was tender and rich, and served on a bed of celeriac coleslaw. It was like a pleasant collision of a plate of barbecue beef brisket and coleslaw with a Chinese take-out container filled with potstickers.

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The next dish was clams with bacon and potato, served in a white pepper miso broth with toasted miso-butter baos. The clams were tender and sweet and the broth was an interesting study in complementary flavors: the umami that comes from the miso and the subtle heat of white pepper.

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As they had been recommended by many reviewers, we also ordered the LB fries, served with a side of roasted tomato sambal and kewpie mayo. There’s a spray of lime on the fries but there must be something else – cocaine, perhaps? – that makes these batons of fried potatoes so very addictive.

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Directly in front of us was the bao preparation station. There are only four bao on the menu plus one special. We ordered all of them except for the regular chicken bao. Each bao was about four to five bites – about the size of a modest (but very vertical) hamburger. I can understand why they have a no-cutting policy: ingredients would fall out and you would lose out on the flavor gestalt of the experience.

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If I’m not mistaken, from left to right the bao pictures are the fish tempura (with tamarind palm sugar glaze and pickled lemongrass fennel salad), the pork belly (slow braised with leek and shiso red onion salad, sesame dressing, and hoisin ketchup), the Sloppy Chan (Taiwanese braised shitake tempeh, truffle mayo, sweet pickled daikon, and fried shallot), the pork belly again, and the special of the day, a spicy fried chicken bao.

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In the interest of giving you a closer look, here is the special, the spicy fried chicken with garlic black bean mayo and scallion coleslaw. All of the baos were tasty and they all succeed for the same reason: there aren’t too many ingredients, but enough to make the dish interesting. There are different textures and flavors and the soft but toasted bao bun absorbs some of the sauce so it isn’t just a neutral carrier for the ingredients but very much a part of the dish.

The food, which is excellent, is only a part of what makes Little Bao such a pleasant dining experience. There is a really good energy to the place. Part of this is because it is small and crowded, but in a way that feels intimate instead of cramped. Part of it is because there is great music, but at a volume low enough that you can still hear conversations with fellow diners. But the biggest part of the good energy is that you can tell that the staff seems to really love what they are doing and they enjoy working with each other.

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From what I’ve read, credit for that goes to the chef May Chow (pictured above). With a Canadian and Hong Kong background by way of the United States, she has built a team that is chosen for attitude rather than experience, treated well, and motivated based on their own interests. (Read more about that here.) I had a chance to chat with her for a few minutes and was very impressed with the way she thinks about food and running a restaurant. Thanks to a quick response to one of my Instagram photos, I also discovered that we have a common chef friend here in Bangkok: Jess Barnes of Opposite Mess Hall. In-depth profile of May at SassyHongKong.com here.

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Just as we were reaching that point of satiation, dessert arrived. There is only one dessert on the menu and that’s okay because that one dessert is so perfect, there is no need for anything else! It is an ice cream sandwich made with deep-fried bao, green tea ice cream, and a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk. When I write that it is “so perfect,” I mean that it achieves a spectacular balance of flavors and textures that is satisfying and made for the ideal end to this meal.

You can probably tell that I enjoyed the meal, huh?

Anyhow, if you are in Hong Kong, I would strongly recommend a visit to Little Bao. Come with one or two other people so you can share but not with a large group otherwise you will never get seated. Come prepared to wait a bit – bring a book or go to one of the nearby bars for a drink. Most importantly, come with an appetite, because you’ll need it.

Food in Hong Kong: Peking Garden

The New Year’s trip to Hong Kong included a return visit to Peking Garden, one of the nice restaurants that are part of the Maxim Group. I’ve enjoyed dining there many times over the years and was glad to see that everything is still up to the standards I remembered. As an added bonus, we were joined by an ex-Xangan and his partner, who were still in town.

P.S. – I’m not still in Hong Kong; just takes me a while to get all the pictures posted and entries written!

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We enjoyed a set lunch for six that worked out to about US$40 per person, if memory serves. May sound expensive for a lunch but as you will see, it was quite a lunch. Plus, the setting and service are very nice. As we arrived, pickled vegetables and tofu were set out for us to munch on as we ordered.

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The first dish of the set was jellyfish, a traditional Chinese delicacy. For some reason, the menu’s English description of this was “sea blubber,” which of course is as inaccurate as it is unappetizing! If you haven’t had it, the dish is served cold and the texture is slightly crunchy with a pleasant, slightly salty taste. An unusual texture if you haven’t had it but very agreeable.

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The next dish featured pork spareribs, braised and served in a rich gravy. These were nice and tender so eating them with chopsticks was easy.

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The next dish was a sweet and spicy prawn dish. You can’t tell the scale from this picture, but these were very generously sized prawns, very fresh and of excellent quality. Normally, prawns in many restaurants are basically just large shrimp. These were genuine prawns and such a pleasure to eat.

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The star of the meal (and a dish for which the restaurant is famous) was the Peking Duck. It was presented at the table for photos and then taken to a nearby cart where a waiter expertly whittled off the skin into slices. Unlike some restaurants, Peking Garden also includes a layer of meat with the skin, which I very much like.

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At many restaurants, the meat would be served on a platter along with a stack of pancakes (crepes) and garnishes. Instead, the servers at Peking Garden prepare the pancakes for you, each with some hoisin sauce, cucumbers, green onions, and a piece of the crispy-juicy-fatty duck skin. Little packets of heaven! Notice the gorgeous tableware, too.

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The final main dish was fried white fish in a sweet and sour sauce. The fish was also very fresh and of good quality. Just a pleasant was to wind down the meal.

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Some stir-fried greens provided some needed roughage!

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And dessert was a simple plate of fresh fruit. In general, Chinese meals don’t tend to have a lot of dessert. If not fruit, it is a simple dish that is usually not super sweet. Big chocolate lava cake would be out of place. Something that I really appreciate about Chinese food is its ability to achieve such nice balance.

Overall, the meal was a success on all levels: food, service, decor, company, etc. Peking Garden will remain on my to-visit list.

Food in Hong Kong: Shanghai Min

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While in Hong Kong, we took a break from Cantonese food to have some Shanghainese cuisine, dining at Shanghai Min on the 11th floor of Times Square.

P1280488This beautiful restaurant has a swanky interior with tastefully embroidered tablecloths and elegant decorative touches.

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Our meal began with the “signature pan-fried crispy pork soup buns” or sheng jiang bao. These were good but not quite as good as the ones we had in Shanghai back in November 2012. This version felt like they had been made a bit before and sat for a while – the inside of the dough was a little gummy from the moisture of the filling.

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Next arrived a crispy scallion sesame cake, a carb fest that was much less heavy than you might imagine.

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Another classic was the spicy tofu with minced pork. This is almost more of a Hunan style dish, to my mind. It was tasty, though, spicy but not unbearably so.

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The standout was the “straw-tied pork belly” with Chinese steamed buns. Not only was the pork belly exceedingly tender but the neatly cut squares wrapped with straw (not edible) was pleasing to look at.

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So nice that it deserves a second shot. If only I had wiped that drip of sauce off the plate before taking the picture!

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Final dish was an interesting stir fry of small disks made from rice cake (like Japanese mochi) called chao nian gao. It is braised with scallions and pork in a savory sauce.

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Braised Shanghai cabbage (bok choy, I think) with shredded bean curd sheets and mushrooms. The sheets have the texture of very thin, fresh pasta. A nice clean finish to the meal.

Overall, I was very pleased with Shanghai Min. I first ate there several years ago and it is still every bit as enjoyable. If you are looking for a break from Cantonese cuisine, this is a worthwhile place to visit.

Tim Ho Wan at Olympian 2

One of my regular stops in Hong Kong is dim sum at Tim Ho Wan. The Michelin star recognized restaurant has opened several branches in the past few years and the original hole-in-the-wall Mongkok branch closed last year due to rent increases. On the most recent visit, we dined at the newest Tim Ho Wan branch at the Olympian 2 complex in Kowloon.

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The new location is a bit of a challenge to find, as it is an exterior restaurant and so you enter the interior of the mall from the MTR system and then have to find your way outside and around the building. Not too difficult, though.

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The interior of this branch is larger and brighter than any of the others, which means that the wait (which can be an hour or more at some locations like the Airport Express station at IFC) is much more reasonable. The four of us were seated in about fifteen minutes. The other benefit of the bright lighting is that pictures can much more easily be taken!

Speaking of which…

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On the left are steamed pork spareribs with black bean sauce. On the right are steamed beancurd skin rolls filled with meat and vegetables.

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On the left is steamed rice with chicken and Chinese sausage. On the right are pan-fried daikon radish cakes.

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On the left are the famous baked buns with barbecue pork – these I could eat several orders of. On the right are deep fried glutinous rice dumplings filled with minced meat. Hard to tell from the outside but both were filled with lots of delicious food.

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On the left is an interesting dish: quail eggs in dumpling wrappers! On the right is glutinous rice wrapped in a typical “bao” bread and steamed.

I didn’t take pictures of everything because dim sum just doesn’t photograph all that well. But we found the food to still be of a very high quality both in terms of ingredients and preparation. Dishes arrived quickly and service was efficient, if not particularly friendly.

In the future, this is the location I’ll return to for great dim sum while in Hong Kong.