Silk Road Feast at The Westin Taipei

May 7, 2015 in Food, Reviews

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A very kind friend gave us a couple of paid-for coupons to the Silk Road Feast buffet at the Westin hotel in Taipei. Despite buffet restaurants upping the ante every year, Silk Road is still known as one of the most deluxe buffets around with its extensive variety and the overall quality of the food. This is no cheap stuff. Silk Road has fresh seafood, made-to-order pasta and omelettes, sashimi, Thai, Chinese dim sums, and freshly made Indian naan and so forth, and of course the usual salads, desserts and hot dishes. Even if you just take one bite of everything they have on offer you’ll still end up stuffed.

The biggest attraction at Silk Road, however, is that in addition to the buffet, each guest also receives a main course — a Choice-grade US steak, grilled in a hot plate deliver straight to your table with roasted garlic.

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A steak main course comes with every buffet entry

If you don’t like steak, they can replace it with half an Australian golden lobster.

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The lobster alternative

Each table comes with a few plastic tokens with your table number on it. You can take the token to some of the made-to-order counters and just drop it into a box. When the chef is done they will take it to your table so you don’t have to stand around and wait.

There is also a bar with plenty of fresh juices and other beverages they can make for you on the spot. If you want tea or coffee you can just ask the waiter and they will bring it to your table.

Anyway, let me give you a brief tour of the facilities.

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This is the fresh sashimi section, where the chef will slice up an assortment of fresh fish to your liking. There’s also some rice there if you want to make chirashi.

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This is the fresh seafood isle and cold section, with fresh shrimp, squid, and pre-made salads.

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A little further down is the cold cuts and fresh DIY salad section.

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Head around the corner and you’ll enter the Indian section, with a bunch of flavoursome curries on offer.

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An authentic Indian chef makes authentic Indian naaan (or is that chapati?).

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Back around the front, there’s this fresh seafood section I completely missed until I was too full. You pick what you want and they cook if for you.

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In this section you choose the type of pasta you want, the kinds of meat you want, and the type of sauce you want. And the chef will make it for you, fresh.

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This is the hot food section. Mainly Chinese stir-fries.

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I think this is the Thai section. Meatballs and curries with Thai rice and rice cakes.

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A little further down and you get to the roasted meats section. The place to be if hams and sausages are your thing.

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And then there’s a dim sum section with chicken feet and shumais.

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This is the bar area with juice jugs and beverage dispensers.

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Bread paradise. I missed taking a photo of the omelette section, which is right next to this.

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Fruit to finish off the meal. Those tiny white bowls in the photo are buts and candies like M&Ms. The cheese and crackers section is next to that.

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Cakes!

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And last, but not least, the gelato. You can get it in a cup or cone.

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No comment.

In all, a super stuffing meal with amazing variety. The steak was obviously not the best I’ve had, but it tops a lot of steak restaurants I’ve been to before. Cooked medium, with roasted garlic…mmm…you don’t even need to add any additional flavour. I liked the lobster as well, though it didn’t have quite as much flesh as I would have liked.

As a buffet, there will be some hits and some misses, but each section at Silk Road manages to hit a certain level of quality. You might not love everything, but there will be very few things that will disappoint, if any. The service is also outstanding and there are enough waiters in each seating area to make sure you are well attended to.

On the whole, a quality experience. I’m not sure trying everything is a good idea for your health or your palette, but if you can manage, good for you. My favourites were the salmon sashimi (extremely fresh), the Thai section, the Indian naan, and of course, the desserts. No chocolate flavoured gelato, which is probably my only complaint of this visit.

9.5/10

Details

Silk Road Feast at The Westin Taipei

Website: http://www.westin-taipei.com/01_text.asp?ln=1&sn=27

Address: 133 Nanjing East Rd. Sec.3, Taipei, Taiwan

Phone: Tel : +886-2-8770-6565    (booking hotline: +886-2-3518-3078)

Hours and Prices:

Breakfast 06:30 -10:00 / NT$750+10% per person; NT$375+10% per child (5-12)

Lunch 11:30 -14:00 / NT$1,380+10% per person; NT$375+10% per child (5-12)

Afternoon Tea 15:00 -17:00 / NT$990+10% per person (no main course) or

NT$1,380+10% per person (with main course) or NT$350 +10% A la carte;

NT$495+10% per child (5-12) (no main course) or NT$885+10% per child (with main course)

Dinner 18:00 – 21:30 / NT$1,380+10% / per person ; NT$690+10% per child (5-12)

Snack -A la carte 21:00-22:30

*No main course for children unless specified otherwise

Welkin Hot Pot (天鼎) (Taipei)

March 10, 2015 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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So we’ve been hearing rave reviews about this place called Welkin, a relatively new hotpot place, which has two stores in Taipei and one in Kaohsiung. The group also has a Hokkaido BBQ restaurant called Duomo, also in Taipei.

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The first thing I will say about the place is that it is very nice. Swanky. Very different to your typical cheap and dirty hotpot place in Taipei. Despite how it looks, however, Welkin is still all-you-can-eat, which is what Taiwanese people love because they think they’re getting great value for money.

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The branch we went to on Anhe road recent just completed renovations and expanded their store two twice its previous size. Business must be good, even though I heard the restaurant was embroiled in that embarrassing oil scandal last year. I’m sure they sorted that mess out and their suppliers are qualified now.

To be honest, I’m not 100% sure how the menu works at Welkin. There are menus and all, but you’re better off getting a waiter to explain it to you. In short, they offer two set courses, each coming with a regular hotpot and a steam pot, which is supposed to be quite healthy as you steam all the food and allow the fat and oils to drip down below.

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There are two types of sets, a NT$798/person set, which comes with crab and an assortment of all-you-can-eat meats (beef, pork, chicken, etc) and processed hotpot products, plus a salad bar where you can get extra stuff as well as salads and fruit. The NT$998 is basically the same except there is an additional seafood platter. Of course, there is the customary 10% service charge on top. Children under 100cm are free, and it’s half price between 100cm-140cm. Anything above that is full price.

All sets come with unlimited soft drinks and beer, as well as a large handmade dessert to share. From what I understand, if you have four people or more in your group you can upgrade your crab to lobster for free, which is what we did.

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Before you start eating anything, they bring up this bowl of lettuce leaves for you to wrap the meats, a cool sugar cane drink that is very light and only a little sweet, great for cleansing the palette. Everyone also gets three sauces in a little tray. From left to right: a wine-based sweet sauce, a tangy lemony sauce and a thick sesame sauce. They each go well with different things, but my favourite had to be the sesame. I can’t get enough of that stuff.

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First up, a light seafood soup. Not a lot of flavour but it gently preps your belly for what’s to come.

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Here’s the lobster we upgraded to. As you can see, fresh lobster, some prawns and plenty of fresh vegetables. The white dish on top is a creamy sauce that goes well with the lobster.

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The meats are also presented well. Here’s the beef, which came with a kiwi sauce we picked (you get a choice of three). Sublime.

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A hand roll with fish roe and pork floss.

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Pork slices (yet to be cooked) with soy and butter.

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And here it is cooked.

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Seafood platter, with fish, prawns and scallop (uncooked)

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Cooked.

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The rest of the steamed meats (pre-cooked).

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After that we got the hotpot rolling, and you can throw in whatever you want.

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Some of the stuff we got from the all-you-can-eat salad bar. Apart from the seafood platter stuff and the lobster/crab you can also get as much extra meat or prawns, etc as you want as well. Just have to tell the waiters. I heard that the waiters might be deliberately slow in bringing out the food so you can’t eat as much, but on this Friday night they were packed out as usual (the newly renovated section was completed but not yet open to the public) and I found the service to be quite fast.

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Lastly, when all is done, they bring on the dessert. I don’t know if it changes, but on this night we got an awesome honey toast. Marshmallows, ice cream, chocolate sauce, fruit and wafers — doesn’t get much better than that!

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Strangely, even though it was all-you-can-eat, I didn’t feel that stuffed after the meal. Neither did other members of my family. I think it had something to do with the steaming of the food, which made it a lot lighter than hotpots and BBQs. The price was decent — NT$1098 (including surcharge) per person for the deluxe meal — but you can save a lot of money if you buy a book of 13 vouchers for NT$10,000. That works out to be NT$769 per person (no need to pay surcharge).

Nice ambiance, good service. The quality of the food is better than expected consider it is all-you-can-eat, and there’s quite a good variety to choose from. Not the type of place I’d go back to regularly, but definitely a good experience if you are celebrating a special occasion.

8.5/10

Details

Welkin (天鼎)

Address: Level B1, No. 191, Sec 2, Anhe Road, Da’an district, Taipei (nearest MRT Liuzhangli)

Phone: (02)2733-7000

Website: http://www.dadido.com.tw/index.html (Chinese only)

Hours: 11:30am-10pm

Bakery 49 (New Taipei)

April 25, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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My wife told me we should try this new cafe called Bakery 49 that looked fairly decent on the second floor of the Global Mall at Banqiao train station. As it turned out, it dawned on her after we sat down that she completely forgot she had been there before without me, which just means the place was not very memorable.

Nonetheless, the place was clean, new, and had a big TV against the wall. It’s apparently very popular for its all you can eat specials available only during dinner, but we were there for lunch. The cuisine is supposedly “San Franciscan” and known for the sourdough and clam chowder.

The menu, as you can see below, is quite simple. A couple of soups, a few salads, a handful of pastas, risottos, main courses and sandwiches. We were recommended the clam chowder, their specialty, but we didn’t go for the “bread bowl” because it looked a bit too much.

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The other recommendations we went with was the Shrimp with Lemon Mascarpone Risotto (which we turned into a set meal with soup of the day, a salad and dessert), and the Bakery 49 Ginger Roasted Chicken. Anything that has the restaurant’s name in it must be their best dish, right?

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Clam chowder

First up, the clam chowder. Can I just say I was it was kinda disappointing. It was their most marketed dish and it was just average. Too thick and too salty.

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Tomato basil soup

Next, the soup of the day, a tomato basil soup that was actually better than the clam chowder! It wasn’t spectacular, but it was pretty good, tangy and tomato-y, the way it’s meant to be.

 

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Set meal salad

This salad was OK, but it was extremely no frills. Just a few pieces of vegetables and a light oil dressing. Meh.

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Shrimp with Lemon Mascarpone Risotto

The first main, the Shrimp with Lemon Mascarpone Risotto, sounded really good, but it was more or less what I expected. A sour, lemony, creamy risotto with a couple of prawns. Not my style, but I suppose if you like lemon risottos this might be your thing.

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Bakery 49 Ginger Roasted Chicken

The second main, the Bakery 49 Ginger Roasted Chicken, was…sigh. As you can see in the photo, it’s pretty much a salad, and I doubt there was really half a chicken as advertised because I could hardly find any. And the pieces I did find were not exactly succulent. The little side of mash potato was good though.

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Chocolate brownie

Lastly, the dessert, a chocolate brownie with walnut and chocolate sauce. It was somewhat hard, but the flavour was excellent, so I had no complaints.

Overall, not the best experience, and not helped by the young waitress who had a face that said “I don’t want to be here.” Now, I was only there for the lunch, which has a different menu to the dinner, weekend brunch and afternoon tea, so I can’t say if it would have been different had I gone at another time. And I was tempted to try their Kobe Burger which sounded, at least on the menu, to be rather enticing. But I can’t see myself going back there again.

6/10

Details

Bakery 49

Website: http://www.bakery49.com/index.asp?AR=PROD&PK=6&CK=12 (all menus available)

Address: Level 2, Global Mall, Banqiao Station, No. 7, Section 2, Xianmin Blvd, New Taipei City

Phone: (02) 8969-2049

Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-10pm; Fri-Sun 11am-10:30pm

All you can eat dim sums at Taipei’s Chao Ping Ji (潮品集)!

February 23, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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There are plenty of mediocre dim sum/yum cha joints in Taipei, some decent ones, and a handful of very good ones. One of the best, in my opinion, is Chao Ping Ji (潮品集), which offers all-you-can-eat dim sums of the highest quality.

There are two Chao Ping Ji restaurants in Taipei. One is at the San Want Hotel in the busy Zhongxiao Dunhua district, and the other (which we’ve been to multiple times) is near Q Square near Taipei Main Station. It is actually a high quality award-winning Chinese restaurant that serves traditional Chaozhou fare, but they have more recently become popular because of their all-you-can-eat yum cha.

How good is it? Take a look at the menu, a single two-sided two-pager packed with goodies.

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As you can see, there are three all-you-can-eat sessions daily: 11:30-14:30, 14:30-16:30 and 17:30-21:30. It’s NT$549 for adults and NT$299 for children for weekday lunch and afternoon tea, and NT$599 for adults and NT$329 for children at all other times. All prices are subject to a 10% service charge.

The good thing about this place is that they don’t have waiters carts running all over the place to see if you would like a certain dish. Instead, you just order from the menu, as little or as much as you want, whatever you want, and they just keep bringing it over to you. Most of the portions are reasonably small, but even then it was too much for me at times, so I would tell them to give me even smaller portions so I can try more dishes.

The front page of the menu is all roasted platters and specialty dishes, while the back page contains the dim sums, rice and noodles, soups and desserts. Some of the dishes are traditional stuff, but some of the other dishes are not ones you’d commonly find. The variety is amazing, but so is the quality of the food. You really need to pace yourself or else you won’t get to try nearly as many dishes.

Here are just some of the ones we got on the day.

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Chilled jellyfish and marinated chicken

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Shu mai, prawn dumplings and chicken feet

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Minced preserved egg and pork congee

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Steamed shrimp rice roll

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Deep fried pork ribs with garlic

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Sauteed turnip cake with XO sauce

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Sweet and sour pork with pineapple

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Steamed loofah with garlic and steamed pork ribs with black bean sauce

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Fried rice

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Stir-fried vegies

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Fried spring rolls with garoupa

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Panna cotta, red bean soup, sago

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Egg yolk custard bun

Comfortable setting, great service, wonderful variety and delicious food. Best overall dim sum joint in Taipei I’ve been to, and it’s not very close.

10/10

Details

Chao Ping Ji (潮品集)

Website: http://www.sanwant.com/Traditional/3-0.htm (San Want Hotel, in Chinese only)

Address/Phone:

San Want Hotel store — Level 2&3, No. 172, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Taipei (nearest MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua); (02) 2772 2687-9

Q-Square store — No. 17-1, Section 1, Chengde Road, Taipei (nearest MRT Taipei Main Station); (02) 2558 5128

Hours: 11:30-14:30 (lunch), 14:30-16:30 (afternoon tea), 17:30-21:30 (dinner)

Aqua’s Infinity Brunch (Hong Kong)

September 18, 2013 in Best Of, Food, Hong Kong, Reviews, Travel

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The spectacular views of Hong Kong harbour from Aqua

Truth be told, we kind of scheduled our latest trip to Hong Kong around a visit to Aqua, part of the restaurant group (of the same name) specializing in fine dining in Hong Kong, Beijing and London. The reason we just had to go is because we kept hearing rave reviews about Aqua’s Infinity Brunch (really a lunch because it’s from 12pm-3pm), available only on weekends and offers unlimited servings of exquisite Italian and Japanese cuisine.

Located on levels 29 and 30 at One Peking Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Aqua offers amazing views over Hong Kong and is the perfect place for a late and lazy weekend brunch. Great for couples and families.

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The interesting thing about this Infinity Brunch is that it is not a buffet — they actually have a menu and several courses which they serve one at a time (Italian and Japanese, side by side), and if you want more of a particular dish you just ask for it. Check out the phenomenal menu here (also available on the official website)

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As you can see, the price is fairly reasonable for the quality of food you are getting. It’s HK$398+10% service charge, excluding beverages (you can pay another HK$100 per head for unlimited soft drinks) or HK$598+10% for those who want free flow alcohol. Children between 3 and 11 cost HK$198+10% and children below 3 are free.

Anyway, check out the wonderful food photos.

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We started off with some fresh bread with a yoghurty, cheesy dip that really hit the spot. I particularly liked the squarish honey lemon bread and was almost tempted into asking for more but resisted because I knew there was a long road ahead for my belly.

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Next up, a couple of starters. The Italian one was an antipasto platter with salty ham, rocket, buffalo mozzarella and rock melon, whole the Japanese one had an assortment of sushi and sashimi. Both were excellent — simple but tasty. The fish was incredibly fresh, with the kingfish especially worthy of a repeat order. We ended up getting a little more of the sushi and sashimi, which was probably a mistake because there was so much more coming.

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Next, some edamame to chew on before the pastas and noodles.

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The menu only has two types of pastas but we got three. The first photo is of a ravioli filled with sweet carrot puree and tangy balsamic, which balanced each other out perfectly. The second is of the paccheri pasta with duck ragu, and the third photo is also a ravioli but with a lightly spicy but incredibly tangy tomato sauce. I loved all three of them and they were probably my favorite dishes of the meal.

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On the Japanese side we only got one dish, which was plenty — a cold udon with cooked bean curd and tempura crust. It was refreshing and the udon was perfectly chewy.

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Next up, the Italian mains, of which there are three. (You can actually tell the waiter the specific main courses you would like, but of course everyone asks for all of them. There are also a couple of additional mains you can get such as wagyu steak for an additional surcharge but I thought it was unnecessary because there was already so much great good.)

The roasted free range chicken with sauteed spinach was OK, probably one of the weaker dishes because the chicken was free range and hence a little on the tough side, though the flavour itself was fine. The salmon was good but salmon is salmon and to be honest they all generally taste the same to me. The best one of the three was the Masala beef cheek, which has that melt-in-your-mouth texture I enjoy so much. The mashed potato was also fantastic.

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The Japanese main courses were not quite as strong as the Italian ones, but still marvellous. I’m not a big fan of the grilled mackerel, though the prawn tempura was some of the best I’ve had — anywhere. If I wasn’t so full already I probably would have gotten more. The ginger pork was also fairly good but is too common to be a memorable dish.

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Lastly, the dessert platter. We got five items, a coffee creme brulee, a vanilla bean ice cream, a tiramisu, a grapefruit cocktail (which had a bit of champagne, I believe) and a chocolate lava cake. They were all delicious, but the lava cake along with the vanilla ice cream was by far the best. I couldn’t get enough of it. It was just insanely scrumptious.

Overall, Aqua is one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had in Hong Kong. Or anywhere, for that matter. Elegant atmosphere, tremendous variety (the Japanese and Italian cuisine mixed surprisingly well together) and delicious, high quality food.

10/10

Details

Aqua

Website: http://www.aqua.com.hk/#/eng/global/hongKong/aqua/concept

Address: 29 & 30 Floors, One Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Phone: +852 3427 2288

Brunch: Weekends 12-3 (reservations recommended)